Yogi Berra once said, “It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future.”  While as a general rule the inimitable wisdom of Yogi is unassailable, the aviation business is doing its best to prove him wrong, and they are deploying an array of predictive technology – from Big Data to the Internet of Things to Artificial Intelligence – to do it.

A new report from the air transport technology specialists at SITA entitled, predictably enough, The Future Is Predictable explores the multiple causes of disruption and the ways in which technology can mitigate the effects or even avoid the consequences altogether.  

As the report puts it, “A defining factor in the air transport industry is the high level of anomalous disruptive events that require special management, thereby increasing the likelihood of things not running to plan.”  In other words, in a complex system like aviation, Murphy’s Law applies, and when it strikes it’s in everyone’s interests to fix it – fast.

The SITA report outlines work that is already underway at airports, among airlines and with aircraft manufacturers to make the system more responsive, more efficient and for passengers less anxiety-prone.  And such initiatives can’t come a moment too soon.  According to projections from the International Air Transport Association, the aviation industry is set to nearly double its passenger traffic in the next 20 years, from 3.8 billion air trips in 2016 to some 7.2 billion trips in 2035.


Keep It Simple
One such future concept is a program IATA calls “Simplifying the Business,” an initiative which takes a look at the passenger experience from end-to-end. The StB perspective spans all the processes surrounding air travel, from shopping and booking, to navigating the airport, to arrival at the final destination. The focus is on how each of these factors can be transformed so that aviation can successfully accommodate the rising tide of traffic in the coming decades.

Elements of IATA’s Simplifying the Business program include:
• Smart Security, a joint effort with Airports Council International to make airport security checkpoints more efficient and less intrusive. The initiative is making progress in Europe, and the first US airport, Hartsfield Atlanta International, just joined the program.
• One Identity would allow an air traveler to offer their identification documents just once, eliminating repetitive ID checks at security, border control and the gate.
• New Distribution Capability is a standard that IATA has been working on for some time, which will give consumers wider access to products and services currently available only directly from the airlines due to technology limitations.
• ONE Order will build on NDC standards to streamline booking and ticketing records into a single and flexible order record, eliminating multiple reference numbers and documents across the trip.
• Real-Time Interaction provides customers with accurate real-time information from all travel service providers throughout their journey.
“My dream journey through the airport would offer security processes that are both effective and convenient, constant communication that makes me aware of changes to my journey or opportunities nearby, and a more efficient way of identifying myself to the airline, security staff and border management,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO, speaking at the World Passenger Symposium in Dubai in October.

De Juniac called for air transport stakeholders to work together and embrace speed and innovation to meet the challenges of growth and rising passenger expectations.

Getting a Handle on Baggage
One such initiative that’s coming sooner than you think to a baggage carousel near you is radio frequency identification technology, or RFID.  The technology, already familiar in many other applications, can accurately track bags in real time across key points in the journey.  

According to a business case presented by global IT provider SITA and IATA at the Dubai symposium, initial deployments of RFID by carriers such as Delta Air Lines show a 99 percent success rate for tracking bags. As a result, RFID technology could happily reduce the number of mishandled bags by up to 25 percent and save the industry more than $3 billion over the next seven years.

One of the key areas that RFID promises to address is mishandling baggage during transfer from one flight to another.  With the technology, airports, airlines and ground handlers will be able to keep track of bags at every step of the journey and ensure the right bag is loaded onto the right flight.

RFID is one solution that’s being offered to meet IATA’s Resolution 753, a requirement that airlines must meet by 2018 to keep track of every item of baggage from start to finish.
“The airline industry is at the brink of a revolution in baggage tracking,” maintains Jim Peters, chief technology officer at SITA. “Deploying RFID globally will increase accuracy and reduce mishandling rates. This is a win-win situation – passengers will be happier, operations will run smoother and airlines will save billions of dollars.”

Interestingly, the improvements in handling rates don’t cost a lot. The SITA report finds that RFID capabilities can be deployed for as little as a penny per passenger on average while saving more than two cents per passenger.  Now a penny a passenger may not sound like much, but when that could add up to 7.2 billion pennies, pretty soon you’re talking some serious money.
Baggage tracking is one of the research programs being conducted by SITA in the airline industry. Others include passenger identity management of the future, an industry-wide disruption warning system and enhanced cybersecurity for airlines and airports.


JetBlue’s Entire Fleet Offers Free Gate-to-Gate WiFi
JetBlue has completed installation of WiFi connectivity on its entire fleet of 227 Airbus A320s, A321s and Embraer 190s, becoming the first US carrier to offer free gate-to-gate Internet connectivity on every aircraft on flights in the continental United States.

The service, which JetBlue calls Fly-Fi, allows customers to connect to the Internet on their personal devices. Gate-to-gate connectivity eliminates the need to wait until reaching cruising altitude to get connected.

Fly-Fi is not available on flights operating outside of the continental US. For flights originating outside of the continental US, Fly-Fi will be available once the aircraft returns to the coverage area.

Ctrip Completes Skyscanner Acquisition
Ctrip.com International, a travel service provider of accommodation reservation, transportation ticketing, packaged tours and corporate travel management in China, has completed its acquisition of Skyscanner Holdings Limited. Skyscanner is a global travel search site headquartered in Edinburgh.

After the acquisition, the current management team of Skyscanner will continue to manage its operations independently as part of the Ctrip group.

Hilton Joins TripAdvisor Instant Booking
Hilton and TripAdvisor have partnered to make Hilton’s portfolio of 13 brands accessible in the TripAdvisor instant booking marketplace. Beginning in early 2017, travelers will be able to make a reservation at any Hilton property without leaving the TripAdvisor site or mobile app.

Users can tap or click “Book Now” to initiate an instant booking. During the process, TripAdvisor features text and branding to let the user know that Hilton will handle the transaction and customer service. The partnership expands TripAdvisor’s instant booking inventory, adding Hilton’s 789,000 rooms across 104 countries and territories.

Health Tech at Work Could Improve Employee Fitness
According to new research of British workers from AXA PPP, one of the UK’s largest health insurance providers, over half (57 percent) of the workers surveyed said they would be willing to wear a fitness band or similar device during working hours to help monitor their health, if it was supplied to them free of charge by their employer. Unsurprisingly the number rose to nearly two-thirds (63 percent) if employers offered both the device and a financial bonus for wearing it at work.

However, only 5 percent of survey respondents say their employer currently provides health technology to workers.

Mobile Payments Market Set to Reach $3.3 Billion
Increased penetration of smartphones is leading to a boom in mobile commerce and the need for quick and hassle-free transactions. As a result, the global mobile payments market is likely to reach $3.3 billion in the next five years, increasing at a compound annual growth rate of 33.4 percent from 2016 to 2022, according to a new report from Allied Market Research.

In order to expand their market share, global players such as MasterCard, Apple and Samsung have launched new mobile payment apps and mobile wallets that allow customers to make payments with their smartphones. As of 2015, SMS messaging accounted for over half (54 percent) of the mobile payments market revenue. However, the report finds that the delivery of more smartphones with near field communications capabilities and increased presence of NFC technology at point of sale terminals would fuel a 36 percent jump in this segment by 2022.

Lufthansa and Austrian Go Online on Shorter Flights
Customers aboard Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines flights will soon be able to go online during shorter journeys, as they have been able to do for a number of years on long haul flights.

In the first quarter of 2017, the number of Lufthansa aircraft outfitted with Internet access will increase to approximately 20 and the entire Lufthansa A320 fleet will be equipped by mid-2018. The re-fitting of the Austrian Airlines fleet is set to be completed before the end of April. Eurowings also has plans to install the Internet service on 69 Eurowings aircraft by the summer of 2017.
Customers will be able to choose between three different service packages - FlyNet Message for €3, FlyNet Surf for €7 and FlyNet Stream for €12 per flight. The WiFi packages can be paid for by credit card or via online payment services such as PayPal.

Ride Sharing Revenues Could See 10X Growth
The riding share apps, led by Uber and Lyft, are making serious inroads into the $650 billion annual logistics and mobility market. In the next decade these businesses could experience 10-times revenue growth and potentially disrupt several industries, according to a new research report from SharesPost, a private market investment advisory and brokerage firm.

The report found that growth in ride sharing penetration has doubled in the past year and is likely to continue. Two-thirds of American smartphone users have still not used ride-sharing apps. Uber, the clear market leader with 76 percent market share, stands to benefit most, according to the report.

Biometrics Are Driving Change In the Automotive Industry
Biometrics technology will radically transform the driving experience, health wellness and wellbeing, and security of vehicles by 2025, according to an analysis by Frost & Sullivan. The report finds that automotive manufacturers and suppliers are investing in advanced biometrics based on human-machine interaction such as natural language and body language gesture recognition.
Some of the technology that will soon be showing up in new car showrooms include fingerprint recognition, iris recognition, voice recognition, gesture recognition, heart beat monitoring, brain wave monitoring, stress detection, fatigue monitoring, eyelid monitoring, facial monitoring, and pulse detection.

Among the emerging innovators in the automotive biometrics space cited in the report:
• Empatica – for its watch to monitor the vitals of drivers with history of epilepsy and predict an attack before it happens.
• Gestigon – for a software system to interpret a multitude of driver movements and draw actionable insights.
• Optalert – for eye glasses which use infrared rays to monitor the eyes of the driver to detect the onset of drowsiness
• Sober Steering – for sensors which can be embedded in the steering wheel to check if the driver is drunk and whether the alcohol level is within permissible limits.
• Vigo – for smart headsets which can monitor head movements to monitor driver distraction, slouching posture and drowsiness.