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As we enter 2020, we head into a promising new decade of continued industry transformation, driven by new and emerging technologies and the inexorable trend towards ‘digitization’. The air transport industry will be no exception. We’re poised to see some exciting changes during this ‘next digital decade’.

A first for an airline

At the start of every year, new decade or not, it’s always exciting to begin with a look at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) where tech providers and startups alike unveil the latest in consumer technologies.

One of the highlights of this year’s show wasn’t about the gadgets. It was a keynote session featuring our industry’s own Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines. This represents a first for CES and for our industry: no major airline has previously given a keynote speech or exhibited at the conference.

Creating personalized, high-value passenger experiences

Delta has been at the forefront of technology for many years. It was inspiring to listen to Bastian’s discussion of the airline’s service-oriented culture, which incorporates technology carefully combined with a human-centered approach to innovation.

This combination allows Delta to create personalized, high-value traveler experiences that make a real difference in its customers’ journey. Bastian was also quick to emphasize the importance of considering Delta’s staff as well as empowering its teams with the right tools and technology to provide customers with the best experience and timely access to information.

Top tech trends and predictions for the years ahead

The turn of any year also sees many industry players citing the major tech trends and predictions that they believe the industry will adopt in the years ahead. In aviation, we’ve witnessed several predictions in the media.

SITA’s own 10 predictions for the next decade consider the airport of the future, as we heard in a recent blog by SITA’s Benoit Verbaere. We envisage game-changing evolutions in security; digital identities; new generation connectivity and data sharing (thanks to SDN and 5G); airports that think for themselves; trust frameworks, and more.

Future Travel Experience (FTE) also recently published its 12 technology trends for the air industry in 2020. I’m delighted to say there’s a focus on areas where many of SITA’s own developments and innovations are centered. They include Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), robotics and autonomous vehicles.

These, as well as mobile and digital technologies, will continue to help transform airlines, airports and passenger experiences. We’re proud to see SITA’s innovations featured in two of FTE’s referenced projects and we look forward to sharing results from more exciting projects through SITA Lab as we move forward.

Remember: technology is an enabler

Now, as we collectively consider how we’ll approach our endeavors in the next decade, it’s important to remember that “technology is not the scarce resource”, as Liliana Petrova, of The Petrova Experience, rightly reminds us.

Technology should be an enabler for the business. Success in the widespread adoption of new technologies is predicated on the ability to inspire people, enhance processes, and develop a culture that creates a shared commitment to mobilizing change and transformation.

A ‘hammer looking for a nail’?

New technology is exciting as we think about the opportunities it creates to bring innovative solutions to our industry’s most critical challenges. Alas, it’s often the figurative hammer looking for a nail: we see cases that, when a new technology emerges, people rush to learn about it.

The challenge becomes the quest to find a use case so that we can justify its implementation. As a result, adoption by customers and the business is often lacking and there’s little return on investment.

Think about this: what’s in it for the traveler?

The better approach is the human-centered approach: to first consider the problem we’re trying to solve and for whom. Next, spend time trying to create or define the solution, whether it’s low-tech or high-tech.

Understand the impact that the new solution or technology will have on existing systems, processes, regulation and people. Once you understand the impact, think about how you’ll try to excite interest or address the areas of impact.

Ask questions like: what’s in it for them? Why would they want to accept this new approach? By taking a more human-centered approach, we can find real solutions to real problems, ensuring a much better chance of success.

We need to apply this thinking to travel. In 2020 and onwards, we need to continue to emphasize how we’ll serve the connected traveler. Data provides the ability to gain intelligence that allows us to better meet customer needs and personalize their travel experience.

As we bring these disparate sources of information together we can create actions that are part of a cohesive strategy for creating the seamless travel journey, with a truly traveler-centric approach.

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