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2 Do’s and 2 Don’ts when using smartwatches to visualize airline operations KPIs

Smartwatches are continuously becoming an essential part of many people’s life. As mobiles did 15 years ago, we are currently witnessing the advent of smartwatches. And this will have an impact on airline operations KPIs too.

With a market size of $9 billion back in 2017, the current forecast estimate a volume of more than $30 billion in 2025 (Allied Market Research). In other words, the market size is expected to grow by 15% — annually.

Airlines are starting to realize the potential of smartwatches

Although many airlines are still trying to incorporate smartphones into their operations KPI framework, the frequency of discussions I’m having with airliners about smartwatches is steadily increasing.

Those discussions are often led by a certain degree of uncertainty about if and how to integrate smartwatches into an airline’s operations KPI framework. The first question is easier than easy: Yes, it does make sense to utilize smartwatches as KPI displays. However, smartwatches are special. Very little space for visualization. No keyboard. Basic and simplified interaction possibilities.

Due to that, it needs some tailored strategies to bring KPIs to smartwatches. Here are the 2 most important do’s and don’ts when bringing airline operations KPIs to smartwatches.

Smartwatches for Airline Operations: Don’t try to re-build your mobile app

Apps on smartwatches are extraordinary. They work for specific use cases only. That’s why even many big brands (Twitter, Slack, Amazon) stopped providing a native smartwatch (in this case, AppleWatch) app. The biggest mistake is trying to re-develop or re-engineer your mobile app. That won’t work — promised.

The reason why is quite simple: People use smartwatches completely differently than smartphones. Again because of the limitations mentioned above (space, keyboard, etc.). That’s why you should think about tailored approaches to how to bring your Airline Operations KPI information to smartwatches.

From my point of view, you don’t even need a native app (see Do 1).

Smartwatches for Airline Operations: Don’t Do Details

Limit the amount of information you provide on smartwatches. In other words: Don’t offer too many details. This can be tricky. For each kind of information, for each visualization, you have to ask yourself:

  • Is this required?
  • How can we reduce the content?
    It’s a tough exercise and so important.

Do Alerts & Updates

From my point of view, the perfect use case for smartwatches (and actually how we are using aWall information on the AppleWatch). Since the usage of smartwatches is different, you should think about not bringing the entire information onto the smartwatch.

Instead, you provide alerts and updates. The charming aspect: You don’t need to develop a native smartwatch app. How could that look? I give you an example: Instead of trying to visualize the real-time on-time performance KPI on smartwatches, you send out alerts whenever this KPI changes significantly.

For example, the OTP drops by 3% compared to the last hour; you can send out an alert directly to the smartwatches of all involved colleagues. You can also use this for important updates. Let’s say the number of passengers is 5% above the daily average of the last month —> provide this information to all relevant stakeholders as an update on their smartwatch.

I think you’re getting the point. And actually, the number of use cases is limitless. This approach reflects a tailored smartwatch approach. Making benefit of everything the smartwatch brings with it.

Do Summaries

Another strategy you can realize without building a native smartwatch app — and I think this isn’t necessary.

Send out daily notifications — for example, one in the morning and one in the evening. Those summaries contain the most critical KPIs and information — extremely condensed.

For example, take the 2 or 3 most important KPIs and provide the corresponding values. Additionally, you can provide 2 or 3 super-important information. That’s it.

In conclusion: I think utilizing smartwatches and integrating them into an Airline Operations KPI framework can be achieved without developing a native smartwatch app.

Moreover, you should think about setting-up specific use cases for smartwatches — which probably do not provide detailed KPIs but essential updates, alerts, and summaries.

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Benjamin Walther

CEO, Frankfurt

Benjamin is Information Design's CEO and a proven content-maniac. Besides running a successful business and developing pioneering ideas, he's dedicated to writing blog posts and creating content.

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