Travel and transportation companies have always had to respond to rapid changes. Winter storms can slow delivery trucks or ground planes; passengers may change their meeting times or decide to extend their vacations. But consumers’ demand for digital engagement has grown dramatically, as have their expectations for seamless experiences. It’s now more important than ever for travel and transportation organizations to address these changes in “hyper-real-time” to keep freight moving efficiently and give passengers a well-integrated journey.
Edge technologies — such as advanced analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and internet of things (IoT) — put processing power closest to the devices that collect real-time data and present fascinating new options for travel and transportation companies to respond to change. Read on for five ways that edge technologies are enabling operational efficiencies and enhancing the overall customer experience across travel and transportation.
Track and trace freight and travel conditions. Devices at the edge of a wireless network give organizations and consumers real-time data and context for seeing minute-by-minute changes along the journey for freight. These devices can include sensors that track packages, equipment and baggage.
Using track-and-trace technologies, organizations can manage their entire operation, monitoring shipments, distribution and estimated times of arrival. Applying cloud-based location analytics drives more intelligent decision-making about scheduling, workforce management and inventory planning and does so more accurately than ever before.
Combining edge-data analytics with IoT sensors and geolocation gives dispatchers, dock foremen, customer service reps or network operations center technicians a business intelligence dashboard with real-time information on fleet truck locations and freight. Add weather or traffic data to this, and these capabilities enable real-time route optimization.
Anticipate ‘roadblocks’ along the journey. In travel and transportation, AI-driven analytics allow organizations to better monitor external data streams to identify disruptions that might affect the delivery time of a package or a customer’s ability to make a flight connection. AI can also be applied to streams of enterprise data and can learn to forecast passenger demand, operations performance and route performance. This helps companies predict roadblocks, handle them early on and minimize disruption. For example, imagine that a local delivery company gets notification that a high-priority package requiring special handling is arriving soon at an airport. The company could dispatch a pickup early to account for heavy traffic conditions, thus avoiding late fees and possibly compromising package contents.
Similarly, AI can learn to predict vehicle failures and vastly improve fleet maintenance. With predictive maintenance, organizations can anticipate failure and spend time on assets that are expected to need service.
Protecting customers’ cargo. Today’s sensors can not only tell you where your package is, but also what condition it is in, anywhere in the world, in real time. Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) readers and tags can include embedded sensors that monitor temperature, motion, light and pressure. The readers can share data via cellular connectivity and can even act as a relay with other devices to create a mesh network. The tags have multiple functions, work for years on a single coin cell battery and are compatible with any mobile device supporting the BLE standard. Both readers and tags can be hardened for durability and include encryption to protect the data, onboard memory storage and other features.
In other words, sensors in a refrigerated freight car that sense a rise in temperature could trigger a maintenance request to repair a problem or move perishable cargo to another car before the cargo spoils.
Boosting traveler loyalty. AI is helping the travel and transportation industry take customer experience to the next level by enabling companies to anticipate their customers’ needs. Using Bluetooth readers that track cellular connectivity, airlines can create intimacy through personalized greetings and offers via customer loyalty targeted marketing. These devices also provide information about the length of queues to help ensure that ticket counters are staffed appropriately.
Edge technologies also enable real-time supply-and-demand matching, pricing and routing. Whether it’s rebooking tickets or making sure products reach customers, AI and other technologies can help companies deliver a richer, more satisfying travel experience.
Creating smarter shipping contracts with blockchain. Blockchain is another edge technology that is transforming the transportation industry, providing a mechanism to create “smart” contracts. Shipping contracts built on top of blockchain technology are immutable and enable companies to digitally, and automatically, impose contract provisions.
Automating the settlement process among the hundreds of parties that are often involved in shipping a package internationally allows the contract to be settled faster and with a much higher degree of accuracy.
By distributing intelligence closer to devices that gather data at the edge of a network, travel and transportation companies can gain an unprecedented level of responsiveness. Those that are able to apply this technology to anticipate change, drive new efficiencies and, most importantly, create a much more satisfying experience will earn customer loyalty.
Subroto Mukerji is vice president and general manager for Travel, Transportation and Hospitality for the Americas, DXC Technology.