Why Is IoT the Next Big Thing for Airlines?April 23, 2021
The air travel industry faces several major challenges — including a growing customer base, increased demand for flights, and planes that are more complex than ever. At the same time, airlines are facing growing scrutiny over flight security and safety.
New technology may be the answer for airlines looking to streamline onboarding and better manage airplane safety. Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, already popular in heavy industries, are one major option for airlines wanting to transform their operations.
IoT technology would enable airlines to create and connect a vast network of sensors to enable strategies already popular in the industry, like predictive maintenance, and help airlines deliver a more frictionless flight experience.
While still experimental, airline IoT is already seeing use in the air travel industry. Within the next few years, it may be on track to transform how major airlines are run.
How IoT in Aviation Creates a Real-Time Picture of Airline Operations
With the right combination of IoT sensors, it’s possible to capture a massive amount of heterogeneous data on airline operations. For example, some airlines are already beginning to experiment with IoT-based smart airplane monitoring.
Operational sensors could track essential flight info, helping to provide extra information to pilots, flight attendants, and airline officials on the ground. These sensors could also track non-critical performance data, to provide extra information to airlines on how different planes across their fleet are performing.
Sensors could also be used to track issues with plane performance that could signal damage or misconfigured parts.
In practice, this approach could be similar to the predictive maintenance strategies already used in heavy industry and manufacturing.
With this approach, operational sensors track the performance of different parts — in a plane, there may be several sensors each for engines, wing flaps, and similar components.
When a part begins to perform outside expected parameters, it can signal early maintenance is necessary, potentially allowing technicians to catch issues early as possible, ahead of regular maintenance checks. The strategy can help reduce maintenance costs and prevent the need for more serious or significant repairs.
Streamlining Air Travel With IoT on Planes
In the future, IoT sensors could also be used to improve air travel in other ways. For example, temperature sensors placed strategically throughout a plane’s cabin could gather information about onboard environmental conditions.
This information could be fed into a central climate control system that automatically adjusts temperature and humidity throughout the plane, providing the most comfortable experience possible.
One pair of businesses, an IoT developer and a manufacturer of avionics solutions, is already at work developing an IoT-based air quality monitoring system to provide a real-time picture of a cabin’s air, and also gather valuable information on air quality over time. Analyzing this data could reveal patterns in smoke and fume incidents that could help airlines prevent those incidents or divert them more effectively if they occur.
Insights from the analysis of this data could help airlines develop more effective maintenance plans or revamp how they approach airline training, which often covers how to respond in the event of a fire or fume incident. Better info on how fumes spread through a plane could allow airlines to develop more effective training materials and best practices.
IoT sensors may also be able to help passengers who have already disembarked. Around 85% of all Americans have a smartphone of some kind, up from 35% in 2011, and even more are expected to adopt them in the future.
This means most customers are typically connected to the web in one way or another even while they’re traveling — providing a valuable channel airlines can take advantage of to smooth out air travel.
In the airport, for example, IoT sensors could help to streamline the baggage claim process. RFID labels, for example, embedded in baggage claim tags, could be tracked by IoT sensors around an airport.
This information could be provided to customers via a smartphone app or digital airport kiosk, offering them a real-time view of where their baggage is and helping them find their baggage upon landing.
How the Internet of Things May Transform Air Travel
IoT technology may soon have a significant impact on how airlines manage their operations. Real-time monitoring and predictive maintenance, popular in heavy industries and manufacturing, may enable airlines to develop highly advanced approaches to airplane maintenance.
Aggregated data from airplane monitoring could also help airlines better respond to emergencies and develop new best practices for flight and plane management.
At the same time, IoT technology may also help make flying much more enjoyable for consumers — with applications such as IoT-powered air quality monitoring and smart baggage tracking.
About the Author
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, where she covers industrial, engineering, and science topics.