The Connected World - IoT Data for Travel and Transportation

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I should have expected it! The end of January/beginning of February always seems to bring some kind of major snow event in the East.  Here in Cary, NC we experienced only a couple of inches of snow, but that snow covered a solid inch of ice underneath. Several hundred miles north, my daughter walked through almost two feet of snow at her college campus in Philadelphia. And it got me thinking…

Data is like snow; or better, data is like any kind of precipitation.  Small amounts of data can cause headaches and, in our case, muscle aches, as we tried to crack through the inch of ice under our snow in Cary to clear our driveway. But when a lot of data comes at you fast and furiously, like the snow falling during the recent blizzard, you have to deal with both the volume and the velocity of the data. The Washington Post reported an average of more than 20 inches of snow in 2-3 days across 68 square miles equaling almost 3.5 billion cubic feet of snow.

In our increasingly connected world, the data available for travel and hospitality companies can be blizzard-like, with volumes of big data arriving every sub-second.  Or, it can be smaller and slower, but still difficult to understand, as if you have to crack through the ice to get a clear path.  Today’s post builds on previous discussions about issues in the connected world; specifically, what does the Internet of Things (IoT) mean for travel companies in terms of the available data. In future discussions, we will explore the analytics which are necessary to transform this IoT data into Intelligence for the Connected World.

The advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) provides the ability to collect numerous kinds of data, different than previously collected, with a frequency of collection which has never been seen, leading to a volume of data that, without proper stewardship, will cover us like a January snowstorm in Washington, D.C. Sensors and beacons are now installed everywhere – in hotels and airports, in train stations and train compartments, in aircraft, on your key chain, and, of course, in your phone; these sensors can track movement, purchases, and, especially customer behavior. Bluetooth and wireless technology enables this sensor data to travel to gateways for collection and, more important, analysis; because what use is there in collecting this data without analyzing it?

A primary source of this sensor data will come from user smartphones. When the majority of your customers are carrying a smartphone, it’s time to use the capabilities and data provided by that smartphone; as a starting place, realize that smartphones have sensors to detect the device’s motion and location, and they have sensors to detect light and noise as well.  Additionally, installed smartphone apps collect user input and transform that into data. All of this data can be collected, aggregated – and don’t forget, enriched with other data – and finally analyzed to provide insight into actual behaviors, providing more insight than data that is self-reported. I’m reminded here in this election year why both pre-election polling and even exit polls can be far off.  People might say one thing, but it’s their actual behavior that counts!

Let’s switch gears from customer-related data to asset and equipment data for a minute.  Here, too, an abundance of sensor-related data has emerged.  Not only are these sensors measuring everything from temperature, pressure, speed, emissions and hundreds of other elements within a plane or train or car (the “asset”), but they are now smart sensors, monitoring the quality of the measurements and performing advanced calculations as they are transmitting this data to a central server for further analysis.  The Internet of Things means that these smart sensors can be empowered to control the larger asset in which it sits, increasing the efficiency of the asset in near real time.  And, data across all of these sensors can be used holistically to improve operations by predicting part failure and scheduling maintenance to avoid failures.  Oh, but now I’m verging into the analytics. But really, it’s virtually impossible to discuss the available IoT data without considering the analytics that are integral to effective use of the data.

I’ve mentioned a plethora of data and data sources that arise from the installation and application of sensor data in travel and transportation companies.  Natalie will build on this initial discussion and discuss how these data are being utilized in hospitality companies.  As you build your IoT strategy and develop the use cases for applying this data to address business issues in your company, what additional data sources have you encountered? Where are there opportunities for new data from new sensors or from collecting IoT data to use in your environment?  Let us know and we can start 2016 with a lively discussion on the IoT in travel, transportation, hospitality and gaming.

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About Author

Lee Ann Dietz

Sr Industry Consultant

Lee Ann Dietz is an analytics evangelist for transportation and smart cities at SAS. She is currently a Principal Industry Consultant in the Global Government Industry Practice at SAS, and has almost 25 years supporting customers with analytical solutions. Prior to joining SAS in 2012, Lee Ann held various positions with Railinc, DZone, Inc., and SAS. Lee Ann began her career with American Airlines and SABRE, after earning her MBA from the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia and BA (Economics) degrees from Stanford University.

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