Airport Show
13 - 15 May 2025

Not Relying on Data-Driven Technologies? You Are Missing Out! 

Airports use digitalization to cope with the increasing number of passengers and their growing expectations, reduce their environmental footprint, maintain business continuity, and other challenges.

Digital technologies have helped airports achieve efficiency, but they have struggled to harness the full power of data as a key resource of the digital age.

In most cases, data remains unused or is only available in an unstructured form. The benefits of data-driven technologies are sometimes so unclear that investment boards brush off the idea. And stakeholders fear losing commercial control over data.

Sharing data, tearing down data silos, and forming an open innovation ecosystem that supports collaboration between stakeholders and processes will unlock the full power of data.  

In this article

How data-driven technologies boost airport operations 

Accommodates Passenger Growth

Global air traffic is on the rise, especially now that COVID-19 restrictions are easing. In 2022, the total global air traffic rose by 64.4% compared to the previous year. Data-driven technologies can be used to manage this growth.

One good example is Dubai Airports’ smart tunnel. The smart walkthrough tunnels allow the use of facial recognition technology, which eliminates the need for passengers to show their passport or Emirates ID. The overall process takes about 10 seconds.

Data-driven technologies can also be used for passenger flow management. Frankfurt Airport developed an airport passenger flow management system. It is utilised 300 times per day and generates at least 15 GB of data. The goal of the system’s simulation is to meet accuracy demands and achieve high-performance passenger flow forecasts.

User-centric mobile applications provide passengers with real-time transparency throughout their journey. This source of data notifies them about delays, gate changes, or wait times. This can also be connected with local mobility providers to help with home-to-airport journey planning. London Gatwick app incorporates these features.

Expands Service Offerings

Leveraging data from mobile apps has become a valuable tool for direct consumer interfaces. In addition to mobile apps, airports are able to gather data from website usage, online passenger feedback, pre-bookings for parking spaces, social media, and Wi-Fi analysis.

Airports are developing various services using this data, such as offering location-based promotions and personal shopping services that will increase sales and the online sale of priority boarding and lounge access to gain more revenue.

London Heathrow is proposing a comprehensive online shopping experience for their passengers. Travellers can buy and pay for goods online and then pick them up directly at the airport, where they can also receive loyalty rewards.

Improves Environmental Performance

One of airports’ agendas is to achieve a greener economy. Energy comprises as much as 10-15% of an average airport’s operating expenses. Data-driven technologies can help airports achieve their environmental targets.

Smart grid technology integrates carbon-free and conventional energy sources. It also utilises batteries and energy storage systems that automate and manage responses quickly to deliver the demand for electricity.

Another way to reduce traditional and alternative fuel consumption is through the use of automated ground support equipment scheduling systems. This also drives down operating costs.

Lyon Airport installed sensors into its ground vehicle fleet and corresponding movement spaces to track vehicles and send the data to a display for the operator. The sensors receive instructions that translate into different actions, like reducing speed, which results in lower energy consumption.

Ensures Business Continuity in Crisis Situations

Airports are vulnerable to sudden interruptions. That is why business continuity management ranks high on airports’ agendas. With the right data-driven technologies, airport operators can guarantee system uptime in terminal infrastructure.

For example, London Heathrow uses the Siemens cloud-based MindSphere platform, which is an open operating system for the Internet of Things. It helps with the baggage handling system of the airport, where sensors were installed to measure data and indicate potential problems if there are any.

At Manchester Airport, a drone detection radar is being used to identify low-flying objects within the runway's surroundings. Their exact position is displayed in real time in the control tower to warn airplanes and disable drones. This technology prevents collisions and aircraft incidents, which reduces average delay times.

Dubai Airport also uses a modular data centre complex that hosts critical data that helps prevent delays and costs arising from IT system breakdowns. The modular data centre complex also informs employees if a system deviates from normal operation. It reduces energy consumption by almost 30% and ensures a data availability level of 99.98%.

An Airport Ecosystem Should Implement Data Analytics 

While airports have already taken steps towards digitalization, airport ecosystems still fall short of realising the full potential of leveraging data. The challenge is for decision-makers to know what they want and understand how the power of data can deliver solutions to specific problems.

Data can help us gain new insights and act on them. Using regression analysis, data can also be used to discover correlations between and/or the reason behind specific observations.

One great method to organise and analyse data is to create digital twins, which bring all airport-related data streams together to create a unified, overall view of airport operations.

Airport digital twins offer dashboard views of real-time information on everything going on in the airport. This allows authorities to make informative decisions quickly. It also has tools for advanced prediction and simulation of future airport developments.

Digital twins in airports can indeed unlock the full potential of how data can help airport operations.

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