Giants come together to make data work for airlines and passengers

Giants come together to make data work for airlines and passengers

The role of technology in improving the passenger experience should get a boost thanks to new partnerships announced at Aircraft Interiors Expo and the co-located Passenger Technology Solutions Expo.

Panasonic Avionics announced advances to its NEXT end-to-end digital retail solution which will give airlines new retailing and loyalty options at the same time that they enhance services like in-flight entertainment and connectivity.

To enhance the offerings and inventory management of NEXT Marketplace—with dynamic retailing and promotions—Panasonic partnered with catering giant Gategroup and data analytics partner Black Swan.

David Bartlett, CTO of Panasonic Avionics says of the new collaboration:

“There is a vast, untapped opportunity for inflight retail and revenue generation, that will be enabled by our NEXT Marketplace solution.

“Backed by our new NEXT Cloud architecture, and in association with our strategic launch partner Gategroup, NEXT Marketplace will set a new standard for dynamic, easy-to-use, and easy-to-manage, inflight shopping and sales.”

Data sharing

Before the panel discussion at Passenger Technology Solutions discussing Big Data, AI, machine learning and automation, moderated by tnooz, we spoke with Black Swan Data’s chief innovation officer, Gary Townsend to discuss the growing importance of data in passenger services and airline operations.

He explains that the flood of data now available on all aspects of airline operations makes working with integrated partners much more valuable.

“The exciting thing is that we’re starting to look at vertical solutions..[when] they build their own stack, what you loose is tighter integration and you have those data in different silos.”

“What we’ve been doing is looking for partnerships with Gategroup and also Panasonic to find ways that we can bring an end-to-end solution for airlines. What they get is a more robust experience, not only for the passengers and consumers, but also for the back-end analytics.

“So they can start finding efficiencies to reduce food waste, to ensure the right product is online, to look at the proper way to price stuff so that they are competitive in that retail sector.

“When we come in with a vertical end-to-end solution it gives a lot more capability of delivering that experience to the passenger.”

Townsend believes that, in order to get the greatest benefit from the data they gather, travel companies will need to be more comfortable sharing it beyond the organization.

“Think about sharing that data for the greater possibility for all. I think that would be the biggest advice. The data your are collecting today doesn’t have the impact or the value as if you would share that data with other airlines..or other providers.”

He acknowledges that there is value in data, but tells Tnooz that there are business models which could ensure that companies recover that value when sharing it with partners, ether in operational efficiencies, improved loyalty, or other revenue generating applications. One example might be airlines sharing data more effectively with airline partners in the same alliance, in order to improve the value of their joint loyalty programs.

Another might be sharing data with loyalty hotel partners to improve the value of those programs. Airlines can also share data with vendors, and vendors can share data with airlines, to support cost-saving and revenue generating programs like power-by-the-hour equipment leases.

A key consideration will be ensuring that all partners have sound protections in place for their data stores, and of course that consumers consent to any personal data shared between organizations.

Data guardianship

Townsend also discussed sound data management practices to balance between knowing customers well enough to make effectively targeted offers without edging on “creepy” or running afoul of data protection and privacy demands.

“It’s how you handle data, especially if there is any personal information that is associated with the data. Generally, we look at it as an individual, for personalization. But there is a lot that you can do just understanding the persona and the behavior of the travelers. I would say it is very important that we handle the data properly, when it comes to consolidating it. It’s something that services on the ground have been actively doing for quite some time.

“A good example is Netflix being able to understand your behavior; and the different types of shopping applications, like Amazon, that collect information over time about your behavior. They don’t need to know anything personally about you—only how you interact with the system—to build up that portfolio.

“I think we’re looking at something similar to that in the travel industry. Computers can find patterns or behaviors based on individuals and how they use the system, without understanding the exact demographics of that individual.

“Especially, since it’s a new industry that hasn’t really used personalization very much, and is rolling out personalized services, personalized capabilities in travel should be done easily and smoothly in transition. When you look at the traveling consumer and you start using personalization you need to do it in a way that is non-threatening.

“I’ve been to a few meetings with executives of airlines who say I want this and this and this on my planes and that’s what we’re going to have. From our experiences at Black Swan, being able to look on social media forums, blogs, digital content where consumers are voicing their own opinions—with artificial intelligence, especially natural language processing—you can train computers to read and understand what the voice of the consumers are and we can roll that up to say, this is what your consumers want. So I would say listen to consumers.”

Panasonic and AWS

During the EXPO, Panasonic also announced the founding of a new office in Silicon Valley which will focus on IoT advances and data analytics capabilities of its NEXT inflight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) platform. Panasonic also partnered with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to supply the infrastructure required to support its Avionics Specific Data Lake, which will store data gathered securely and enable machine learning and deep learning applications for improved insights on passenger activities onboard and aircraft operations.

Panasonic’s Bartlett says:

“The establishment of our Silicon Valley operation represents a major step forward in the cloud and data-based solutions we are able to offer our airline partners. More than ever before, it enables Panasonic to connect the business and pleasure of flying, enhancing the passenger experience through the connected aircraft.

“The convergence of enabling technologies has set the stage for transformational data analytics, giving Panasonic the ability to provide airlines with invaluable passenger and operational insights, which in turn allows them to build brand loyalty and increase efficiency.”

Main image via Panasonic Avionics.

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