5G connectivity will shape the ways airports, aircrafts, hotels, transportation, and other elements of the travel journey can deliver better guest experiences and more seamlessly operate behind the scenes. A Verizon executive spoke to SkiftX about what they expect the transformation could look like.
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5G mobile technology has officially begun rolling out across the globe, offering users upgraded speed, greater bandwidth, lower latency, and real-time connectivity. It also has the potential to transform the way devices seamlessly interact with each other, share data, and power insights — also known as the internet of things.
How will 5G transform the travel experience, both from the side of the traveler and from the way the industry operates? SkiftX spoke with Jerri Traflet, managing partner, retail, travel, distribution domain, at Verizon, about the new solutions, capabilities, and customer experiences that 5G could bring to the sector — and how travel companies can get ready for the 5G era ahead.
SkiftX: 5G is being touted as a revolutionary springboard into new traveler experiences and operational efficiencies for companies. Tell us about your overarching vision for 5G in general.
Jerri Traflet: 5G ushers in a new way of accessing information and delivering business value. It’s expected to offer organizations a wireless network that transforms the way people and machines use data. Unlike previous cellular network generations, 5G is now being seen as not just a consumer platform, but a primary communications platform that can also provide cloud connectivity and edge processing that can offer real-time business insights and automated responses, and eventually integrate the billions of internet of things devices and data that are available.
The anticipated benefits of 5G go well beyond speed. This new standard is expected to deliver flexible bandwidth allocation and high capacity and low latency communications that rival current fixed high-speed broadband networks. Such capabilities make 5G networks particularly well suited for the latest innovations in augmented and virtual reality, the internet of things, high-resolution video streaming, and robotic applications.
SkiftX: What are some of the biggest transformations that we’ll likely see from 5G in the travel and hospitality space?
Traflet: Improved operational execution can be garnered from a combination of robotics, sensors, intelligent video, and artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks such as check-in and concierge services, maintenance and cleaning, or lighting and energy controls. 5G deployments could also deliver immersive experiences that are expected to transform interactions for both employees and guests. The lower latency and increased wireless bandwidth and flexibility of 5G should enable travel providers to deploy bandwidth intensive applications such as video content streaming for employee training and guest-facing augmented reality apps for wayfinding services and immersive experiences.
As travel companies have transformed their operations with new digital systems, their focus has moved from the technology itself to the improved business outcomes and enhanced guest and passenger experiences driven by the technology. 5G’s capabilities can support that change.
SkiftX: Enhanced guest and passenger engagement seems to be the name of the game with 5G. How will travelers be afforded new opportunities to interact with brands over the coming decade and beyond?
Traflet: With enhanced connectivity speeds and low latency, guests can opt in to share their personal data to receive custom recommendations from travel companies in real time that should provide meaningful experiences and drive customer loyalty.
Immersive destination experiences could also enable guests to interact with brands they love as they plan and embark on their trips. For example, guests can virtually view rooms and hotel amenities, or preview local attractions.
SkiftX: What’s the most exciting aspect of the 5G transformation in your opinion when it comes to travel and hospitality?
Traflet: Travel is going to be more convenient and contactless through 5G and mobile edge computing. For example, guests could check in to a hotel, unlock their guest room, control room amenities such as temperature, lights, shades, and TV, and check out all from their smartphone. During air travel, they could use their mobile devices to check in, drop off baggage, access mobile boarding passes, receive flight status updates, and navigate through airports.
SkiftX: What do you expect to be the biggest improvements in travel operations with 5G?
Traflet: From an operations perspective, 5G is expected to provide hotels with greater ability to monitor room temperatures and lighting throughout the hotel, enabling efficient and sustainable energy consumption. In aviation, 5G could bring new asset tracking capabilities that will allow operators to easily locate equipment, luggage racks, and cleaning carts. And robots — unified through a speedy 5G network — could be implemented for routine tasks such as cleaning common areas, security, delivery services, and guiding guests.
SkiftX: What do travel and hospitality companies need to do to prepare to roll out new technology like 5G?
Traflet: Travel companies should ensure they have a thorough understanding of their guests’ expectations on what makes an optimal travel experience. Once they have that, they should define ways to adapt their processes and services to exceed their expectations. Using guest expectations to guide technology capabilities roadmaps is essential to prioritize technology investments.
An assessment of current technology platforms and future applications roadmaps is also necessary to understand technology requirements and gaps. Many companies are moving to cloud-based apps and an as-a-service technology strategy to create an agile IT environment that enables nimble operational transformations.
SkiftX: What 5G-powered customer experience advancements are you most looking forward to?
Traflet: Augmented reality will likely change the face of hotel entertainment and amenities with 5G, providing next-level experiences that guests will take with them and tell others about. Through the use of sensors and video analytics, guests should be able to use augmented wayfinding to navigate large hotel properties prior to booking the stay and while they’re checked in. Think seamless TV experiences, including on-demand, live, and mobile screen-casting; enhanced gaming speeds to deliver near-real-time virtual experiences; and virtual exercise classes that can come close to the real thing.
5G heralds a dynamic acceleration in our world of connectivity, offering operational synergy unlike anything the travel and hospitality sectors have experienced before.
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