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The next big (scary) thing

It’s that time of the year again, when we take stock of things. For me, that means thinking about the tech trends that have been cemented over the past year and what might be big for the air transport industry in 2015, and beyond. Predicting the next big thing is always a bit risky and I’ll be the first to say I don’t always get it right, no-one ever does. But we have to look ahead and explore possibilities, and 2015 is shaping up to be a year full of possibilities.

Mobile payments at last?
Something we have been talking about a lot with airlines and airports over the last number of years is how we can adopt mobile payments. 2014 was a good year as we saw Apple Pay come on stream, but where will this go? It is still unclear if it will take off or if mobile payments will continue to flail. Will the major stakeholders, including retailers, telcos, smartphone producers, and credit card companies, continue to try and go their own way, leaving a fragmented and poorly adopted set of options in the market? For us in the air transport industry we can only really wait and see. If Apple Pay takes off it is likely that we’ll see the use of NFC for payments and boarding. We even have the potential to do passenger verification using biometrics with smartphones or other devices such as using iPhone’s thumbprint reader. SITA Lab’s work in this area has already laid the foundations – if NFC is widely adopted we are ready with standards set that will work across the whole industry.

Artificial gets real
This will be the year that advances in cognitive computing will start appearing behind new services and products. IBM's Watson will be widely used as it is made accessible via their Bluemix platform. Even more advanced artificial intelligence based on the human brain from companies like Numenta, Vicarious, and Google's Deepmind will blow away what people thought computers are capable of doing, to the point that it may get downright scary. Elon Musk has described building these intelligent machines as “mankind’s biggest threat.” At an event at MIT he likened the advances in artificial intelligence to summoning the demon.

Sensors, sensors everywhere
2015 will also see the world get massively "sensor-ized" as pretty much everything gets an IP address and an ability to send and/or receive data and the Internet of Things (IoT) will become a reality. At a personal level, this will be focused around "Health and Home" and at the enterprise level about managing all the physical stuff, everywhere. If we look at the airport environment, sensors, which can be built into beacons, can help control the assets and environment in a way that was just not practical before.

Getting scary
Of course when you look into the future and combine this sensor world with the artificial intelligence world of cognitive computing it gets even scarier!

And to top it all, I believe we are going to see increasing use of autonomous robots – think drones, cars, manufacturing machinery – and all of these will build on both cognitive computing and the IoT environment. If you think a smart laptop will freak you out, wait till you see a smart self-propelling robot at an airport near you.

 

14 January 2015

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