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wearables

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APEX Insight: From Snapchat spectacles to fitness trackers, the gadgets passengers board with could provide smart ways for airlines to connect with customers.

Not a lot of people are running around wearing Google Glass these days, but less obtrusive wearables have seen phenomenal public adoption. Chances are you know someone who uses a Fitbit or similar biometric device to measure their fitness, and chances are just as great they bring these gadgets when they travel.

“Undoubtedly, we will slowly see the release of a number of very useful devices for a range of uses. However, this will happen over a mid- to long-term period,” says Joshua Flood, senior research consultant at Valour Consultancy. Airlines are already leveraging passengers’ devices to provide fine-tuned in-flight entertainment (IFE) experiences. “A good example is Monarch Airlines’ Apple Watch app, unveiled in June 2015 and developed in tandem with the airline, which frees passengers to use different parts of the wireless IFE system,” Flood says. The added device integration lets passengers order food, for example, without having to pause a film. 

“How much information our passengers choose to give up will depend on their level of control and what they’re getting in return.” – Katri Harra-Salonen, Finnair

Beyond enriching IFE engagement, for a digitally savvy airline, new connected devices can mean new passenger data – if done right. “How much information our passengers choose to give up will depend on their level of control and what they’re getting in return,” said Katri Harra-Salonen, Finnair’s chief digital officer, at APEX TECH this year. Passengers must be incentivized to share their data with an airline, and must also feel that the data they share is used wisely and stored safely. The payoffs for hitting that sweet spot come in the forms of loyalty and higher spending.

Flood suggests that airlines interact more with customers through their personal smart devices, using well-timed incentives such as free connectivity or coupons to sweeten the deal. “As personalized content advances, it could be that relevant offers are pushed to phones and tablets in-flight – or before and after – with notifications received via a fitness tracker or smartwatch,” he says. Fitness-focused offers to those wearing Fitbits or tech-friendly offers to smartwatch owners are likely to be received more favorably than generic or out-of-place offers, for example. “The way in which airline companies deal with data will be a differentiator in the years ahead,” Harra-Salonen notes.

“Tailored for Wearables” was originally published in the 6.5 December/January issue of APEX Experience magazine.

Jordan juggles deadlines across various time zones as he writes about travel, culture, entertainment, and technology.