Overview of Wearables as the Next Frontier in the Travel Industry



How wearables are swiftly changing the way we travel, for business and leisure

In the age of digital disruption, technology has made its mark in the fashion industry too. One of these novel innovations was an IoT device called wearable. After the launch of Google Glass in 2013 and Apple Watch in 2015, the wearables industry saw an inflection in its market demand and created a new wave of popularity among the consumers. Since then, there have been several improvements in the wearables technology, so much so that currently experts predict wearables are going to become mainstream in the travel industry.

Wearables or wearable technology is a field of portable smart devices that are worn on the body. They use Bluetooth based sensors (sometimes Wi-Fi enabled) to keep track of your health, achieve goals such as staying fit and active and many more. The wearables market is expected to reach from US$19,633 million in 2015 to US$57,653 million in 2022, growing at a CAGR of 16.2 percent. According to a Travel Weekly article, wearables are “poised to invade the industry, both from a consumer perspective and behind the scenes at airports, hotels, theme parks, and cruise ships.” Despite early challenges like slow adoption, technical limitations, and higher prices, now wearables are set to transform the travel industry landscape.

In 2017, Memphis International Airport (MEM) had teamed up with technology company Aira to ease the airport experience for blind and low vision travelers using Aira smart glasses. Last year, MAS Holdings’s Twinery and SriLankan Airlines partnered to introduce Spryng, with a mission to enhance the business class passenger experience for transiting passengers. Spryng is a wearable, wireless, active pneumatic compression wrap that mimics natural muscle contractions in the calves and helps relieve muscle soreness by stimulating blood circulation and increasing cellular oxygen supply. All business class passengers flying the national carrier can enjoy the complimentary service at the airline’s Serendib Lounge at Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA).

Hamad International Airport (HIA) started using the Smart Screening Helmet to optimize passenger and employee safety in preparation for post-COVID-19 travel. This is a wearable intelligent helmet, which is portable, safe, and effective, and enables contactless temperature measurement. The helmet uses infrared thermal imaging, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Augmented Reality (AR) display, and also allows the implementation of mobile deployment-based control scenarios.

Wearables can be used as a ticket for easy check-in and boarding flights. Some years back, the SITA lab was experimenting with the use of Epson Moverio to check-in passengers. In 2014, Virgin Atlantic’s staff were made to sport Google Glass, in the Upper-Class Wing section. They were able to notify passengers with the latest flight information, weather at their destination, and any local events that might be happening there.

Currently, wearables have found their use in hotels, theme parks, and cruise ships too. Carnival Corp.’s Royal Princess Cruise ship uses Ocean Medallion’s Token (a tiny 50g disc) that can be worn on a wristband, chain, or carried in a pocket or purse. The token can be used wearer to get all kinds of unique benefits on a cruise ship, like a ticket for the trip, streamline the boarding process, used as the door key to a cabin and even to pay for everything on board; all of these could make a trip go much more smoothly. The Ocean Medallion is based on the MagicBand wearables found at some of Disney’s theme parks.

Since in international travel places, the human body can experience some stresses, and frequent business travel has even been associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, KLM Airlines ‘FlightBeat’ wearable technology is a savior indeed. Through FlightBeat seats, flight attendants can monitor passenger heart rates, dehydration levels, tiredness, and temperature so that attendants can provide a hyper-personalized service to their passengers. There are other travel health use-cases of wearables too. For instance, leading skincare major, L’Oreal had launched a wearable called My UV Patch, which is a stretchable skin sensor that can monitor UV exposure levels and educate users about the harmful effects of heavy sun exposure.