The Internet of Things at Cruising Altitude: Airlines and the IoT
What are your thoughts when you step onto an airplane?
"Where’s my seat?" "Is this a Wi-Fi flight?" "I hope I make my connection."
Unless you suffer aerophobia, you probably don’t give much thought to the actual plane and how it works.
Lots of Moving Parts
Not surprisingly, though, the airplane is an incredibly complicated machine with almost 400,000 individual parts, an equal number of nuts and bolts to hold them together and 36 miles of electrical wire. Because there are so many things that can go wrong, maintenance is of the utmost importance.
Until recently, the scheduling of that maintenance was based on only one of two things: the number of flying miles or malfunction. After a certain number of flying miles, all planes have routine maintenance performed. And, obviously, if something isn’t performing, as it should, a maintenance team is called to come out and run tests then determine needed repairs. And while that sounds like a logical plan, it’s not an exact science. Routine maintenance misses anomalies in performance. And when a team arrives to the site of a non-performing plane, they have no idea what’s going to be required until they actually start examining the plane.
The Internet of Things and intelligent systems is in the process of changing all of that. Remember all of those plane parts we talked about? Well now, manufactures are embedding sensors into many of the components that come together to create engines, brake systems and power units. These sensors deliver a constant stream of data to the airlines while the plane is in the air or on the ground. That means maintenance can now be tailored to each, individual plane based on the wear of specific parts.
And if something malfunctions, the maintenance crew will receive that data while the plane is still in the air. They’ll know the source of the problem before they even arrive on the scene, eliminating time on the ground, getting the aircraft back in the sky and making both passengers and the airline happier.
On The Ground
The Internet of Things is influencing air travel beyond the confines of the airplanes, too. Beacon technology is an advancement that has made indoor positioning possible. Beacons are small devices placed in venues like airports that constantly emit a signal. That signal is detected by your smartphone and therefore allows the airport, the TSA or the airline to communicate with you in real-time.
For example, you could receive an alert letting you know the length of the line at security. Or the coffee shop you’re going to pass on your way to your gate can send you an offer for a discount. Or you can use the way finding function to navigate your way to baggage claim.
And that’s just the traveler-facing benefits.
Airports can see real-time heat maps of foot traffic allowing them to adjust staffing schedules or identify security risks. An archive of that foot traffic data can be analyzed and used to determine where to place new businesses and checkpoints or how to best staff for certain days and times.
Up, Up and Away
Thanks to air travel, we’ve truly learned that it is a small world after all. And with more players coming into the industry, the market is poised to continue to grow. The Internet of Things and intelligent systems will no doubt make things easier and safer for everyone involved.
Written By: Gina Haraway
Gina Haraway is Avnet Embedded's Director of Supplier Business Development, Microsoft Global. With over 20 years of experience in the technology industry and 6 years at Avnet, Gina has held several positions and has extensive knowledge and experience in inside & field sales, account development and supplier business development.