Traveling home for Christmas: the smart way

By | 3 minute read | December 15, 2016

Smart travel

Travel and transportation companies are looking to the Internet of Things and cognitive computing to transform every aspect of their businesses, from marketing and purchasing to the provisioning of services and post-travel engagement. Exploiting the insights locked away in big data challenges will bring travel providers closer to their customers and transform complex operations in the process.

In a recent IBM study, 43% of travel executives said that they can identify a cognitive project at their company that would transform their company. As we all gear up for holiday travel, how will everyday travelers experience these projects and investments? Here are three ways.

1. Transportation will work better

Regardless of how you travel home this December, IoT should make your trip a bit more reliable. With recent advancements in maintenance for trains and planes, it’s possible to improve the reliability of even the oldest equipment. For example, trains have become device-laden, with sensors on critical parts such as brakes, wheels and engines. By understanding the condition of equipment, and then using analytics to predict maintenance issues, travel companies can ensure they fix equipment before it breaks and ruins your trip home.

In addition, transportation is getting more efficient. By tracking trains across networks using geolocation and processing this data using analytics, trains can operate more efficiently. Some operators are also using IoT to measure people flow — such as passengers waiting at stations, passengers in each train car, and more. Analytics can then provide operators with guidance on how to optimize schedules to rider demand such as deploying a second train to an overcrowded station, how to improve the comfort of rides and much more.

Weather data plays a big part in transportation as well. Not only can weather have a significant impact on the condition of planes and trains, but it can also severely impact operations as anyone stuck in an airport during a snowstorm knows. Incorporating predictive weather modeling into transportation operations prevents service interruptions.

2. Your trip will be personalized

Travel executives also plan to use IoT and cognitive computing to improve traveler personalization. Companies hope that by investing in personalization, they can differentiate their services in these highly competitive markets and improve loyalty, pricing, and profitability.

One example of this involves a large, global airline that is testing a conversational commerce system that collects traveler preferences and helps book travel via natural language interactions. This helps the airline bypass traditional search engines and travel aggregators – where price is the primary differentiator – and yields better traveler satisfaction as recommendations are more customized.

Similarly, many transportation providers are using a combination of loyalty programs, mobile devices, and sensors to know each individual passenger. For example, imagine how a train company could provide services differently if they understood how far and frequently each passenger rides the train, similarly to how retailers profile buyers?

3. You’ll interact with robots

In the travel industry, most investments in cognitive computing have been applied to chat bots and robots. This makes sense because these investments simultaneously reduce labor costs and improve passenger experience. These investments have been technologically basic until recently. For example, KLM is using robots to scan passenger boarding passes, understand airport conditions and give advice on how airport amenities. Similarly, chat bots are now able to process natural language to conduct complicated searches and return personalized results based on knowing the passenger.

To see what the future holds, watch this video of how IBM and Hilton are partnering to provide a unique guest experience.  We can expect to see this same technology appearing in our travels in the near future:


To learn more about how companies will deliver on the cognitive promise of travel, read this white paper from IBM’s Institute for Business Values.  We wish everyone happy holidays and safe, efficient, and tech-enabled travels.