Sponsored by Passenger Technology Solutions.
Technology has been promising to make travel easier for a long time, yet for some reason it doesn’t feel like we’re there yet. Anyone who has been on a trip recently will know what a juggling act the passenger journey still is, in spite of the many tools and technologies that have been developed to assist us.
Apps and away
I leave my house and use Google Maps to plan my route to the airport. On arrival, I have to bring up the parking app that I had to download to reserve and pay for my space. When I arrive at the terminal, I’m prompted to download the airport app to navigate the retail spaces and restaurants on offer, before zapping through departures with the QR code on a separate airline app (that’s if I’ve downloaded the app for that airline in advance and remembered to check-in online in time).
Once on the plane, I can only access my own work documents and content by balancing my iPad on the fold-down table along with my drink and my meal. Or I can plug into a generic seatback inflight entertainment system that doesn’t know my preferences or viewing habits. The cabin crew don’t have a record of my details either, so they offer me products I’m not interested in and food that doesn’t match my dietary needs. When I get to my destination, I have to rely on TripAdvisor or specific city apps to plan my onward journey and activities.
Aside from the storage space all these apps are taking up on my phone, and the stress of making sure I have them all primed and ready to go, this constant switching between platforms is clumsy, and not one platform or person has access to all the information needed to ‘join the dots’ and make smart suggestions to improve the journey. As an early adopter, I’m always extolling the benefits of technology, but are all these apps really any use if they don’t know how to speak to each other?
The time has come to zoom out and focus on the bigger picture.
We need to stop thinking about a series of separate needs and occasions, and instead build ambitious, elegant systems that can guide people seamlessly through the journey in a personalised and intelligent way. Data is the glue here: we need ways to capture and share passenger data securely, so that people only have to share their information once to receive a tailor-made experience. Clearly mobile is the ideal platform to deliver this experience – but we need to think beyond a whole stack of different apps to make mobile genuinely easier than paper boarding cards and old-fashioned luggage labels.
Already some passengers are beginning to appreciate the benefits of data-driven and intelligent systems. Newly refurbished Changi airport has introduced its FAST system based on facial recognition to fuel a more seamless experience for passengers. Basic chatbots are being developed into fully intelligent systems capable of learning and fine-tuning customer service to meet individual needs. Smart baggage, integration of personal devices with IFE systems and tools to fuel more personalised interaction between cabin crew and passengers are already making a difference.
As these technologies mature and become capable of integrating with others, we can start to imagine a future where a single, virtual assistant plans and coordinates my entire trip, from door-to-door, and instead of passports, tickets and even mobile-based boarding passes, a simple biometric scan will check my identity at every stage of the journey. At the moment, all the ingredients for this seamless experience exist: the challenge now is to take a step back and imagine ingenious ways that all of them can be combined.
Abraham Lincoln once said, 'the best way to predict the future is to create it,' and to create it, we have to be able to imagine it. Next week, we are launching a brand-new show called Passenger Technology Solutions that will provide an opportunity to do just that. Throughout a three-day programme of exhibitions, seminars and networking, we will help some of the most innovative companies in travel to share ideas and inspire each other to create a truly seamless passenger experience.
For more information about attending Passenger Technology Solutions, please visit: www.passengertechnologysolutions.com.
This article is written by Archana Sharma, exhibition director for Passenger Technology Solutions. It appears as part of the tnooz sponsored content initiative.