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How Connected Spaces Will Affect Tourism

A look inside the four spaces of connected tourism: airport, hotel, travel and attraction.

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Some people have dubbed the Internet of Things (IoT) as ‘great with things, bad with people’. When you think about how connected spaces will affect tourism, this is a big cause for concern. The very nature of tourism is about people. More importantly, it’s about experience.

IoT has huge potential to vastly improve how we travel, where we stay and what we do there. In this article we look through four key connected spaces in tourism and how IoT will affect, disrupt and redesign them. 

The Airport Connected Space

Perhaps the most obvious candidate for a connected space makeover is the airport. Airports have been trying hard to entice us in for years and are often a major beneficiary in new ‘connected’ innovations. 

Think about an airport connected space as a series of touchpoints. The smarter these touchpoints are, the easier the entire space becomes to navigate. Automatic check ins are becoming more widespread but only for certain passengers and the process is still bulky. What would be truly useful is a badge, smartphone or ticket that is presented on check-in, that connects with a whole bunch of smart objects throughout the space.

This would allow you to auto-calculate journey time between terminals, shops, or check-in desks, helping to save unnecessary delays. It could pick up lost passengers, remove the need for check-in staff as you board the plane and allow parents or spouses to check whether their family member has boarded or disembarked a plane. 

The benefit of connected devices is that everything updates as one, whether it’s the check-in boards in the retail area, the front desks or the screens communicating to the baggage handlers. 

Even within airport bathrooms, objects could pick up on number of passengers, any passengers who have been stationary past a certain length of time and even the bacteria level on surfaces or taps. 

The reality of connected airport spaces is not that far away. In Miami airport, a mobile app called MIA Airport Official is used to feed off of a connected network of 400 beacons. The beacons themselves are small and easy to deploy. Their primary function is to help passengers to navigate specific stores or services, to find luggage carousels and receive live check in information. On the other side, the airport receives refined metrics on who did what and when. 

Unlike most retail apps and beacon services, the Miami airport app is truly useful because it makes what is usually a stressful experience easier. 

Other experiences associated with airports such as lost baggage and even lost pets, could be reduced with smart luggage and tags that track location in real time. A kickstarter campaign in 2015 raised $900,000 to create a smart suitcase ‘Space Case’ that comes with GPS, fingerprint locks and speakers. This could make the location of lost luggage apparent in seconds, rather than months or as is sometimes the case, never at all. 

The Travelling Connected Space

How we travel will also become a connected space in the future. Travel means such as trains and planes will become equipped with a series of beacons, sensors and smart objects that control, pick-up and feedback data.

This will automate several considerations, such as light, sound and heating, based on passenger preference, number of passengers, weather outside and more. This removes the need for manual system overrides and will make everything more efficient, reducing costs and saving energy. 

Outside of the direct customer experience, the Airbus A380 has components fitted with sensors to monitor wear and tear in real time. This level of data leads to more efficient status reports, replacements and safety checking. 

The Hotel Connected Space

An IoT-led hotel environment will provide everything passengers are looking for; convenience, speed, mobility and adaptability. A long time ago, you had one standard hotel room, maybe a small or large if you were luckily. Now you not only have a ton of variety in where you stay, from choosing a view, to upgrading your bathroom, but the places we stay in are about to become much smarter.

Hotels such as the Hilton and Starwood have already introduced smartphone apps which unlock specific rooms and guest-only areas. This not only reduces staff cost and heightens security but it also gives guests an exclusive pass, making them a member of the space they inhabit, if only for a while.

Smart objects such as thermostats, cameras, mirrors, coffee bars and even smart lightbulbs work together as one connected system, creating a space that’s more efficient and more comfortable. 

Smarter environments also allow objects and sensors to react to a guest’s personal preferences and the contributing factors from weather, travel details and world events. Digital signage screens that are smart can turn themselves on in the event of an emergency. Coffee bars can begin warming up at the same time as the guest’s requested wake up call. 

Lighting and thermostats can begin adjusting to daylight and weather conditions outside. 

NFC beacons can allow guests to tap into different services on offer, ask questions, locate facilities and provide feedback. 

The data from such a large network of devices creates a unique digital identity for each guest. This allows hotels a deep insight into the behavior of their patrons and zero excuses when it comes to fixing faults or creating a more customized experience on the guest’s next stay. 

The Tourist Attraction Connected Space

It looks likely that tourists will have a highly-aware journey and hotel space in the near future. But what about the highly-coveted attractions when they arrive? Tourist destinations, landmarks and museums are not that far behind. 

Most adults entering museums and other destinations have smartphones. This offers beacon-led initiatives a chance to not only sell and advertize but to truly inform and entertain. The strain that comes with navigating unfamiliar territory (and even languages) is removed and a streamlined entrance is created.

Tickets can be purchased from self-serving kiosks and languages can be changed with the touch of a button on digital signage screens. Smart robots can direct visitors and provide information, as can smart information points.

Unlike some technologies, these sensors don’t have to be indoor-only. Beacons are easily deployed in bus stops, gardens, parks and outdoor attractions. Night tours can be navigated individually rather than just by group. The benefit of a connected tourist-scape is the ability to serve information and offers that are truly relevant at each part of the journey.

Connected devices are able to depict what the visitor did the day before and therefore, what they might want to do next. Adverts and offers can be served by location. Help and support can be given by time-of-day, language, activity and location.


Despite still being within its infancy, IoT leads the potential for how our hotels, transport methods, tourism hotspots and airports could become smarter, more connected spaces. Interoperability is a concern and security complications are always front and centre of mind, but with the right application and planning, it could open an entirely new, connected, fluid world of tourism. 

 SC Gradient

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