5 ways in which technology is shaping the smart airport

While the efficiency, security, ambience and overall quality of airports varies greatly across the world, even in different airport across the same country, the aura of dread felt by millions of global passengers preparing to get to their flight may be dispelled sooner than you might think. This is because, thanks to the rapid advancement and innovative utilisation of pivotal technologies, airports are getting smarter.

From blockchain to biometrics, from automation to Artificial Intelligence, the technologies that are revolutionising every major global industry are also paving the path to the evolution of the smart airport.

1. Smarter security reduces waiting times, without compromising on safety

While passengers accept the need for stringent checks at airports to deter and prevent all manner of threats, the long waiting times to pass through security can test the patience of even the most Zen-like traveller. Fortunately, the advent of biometric technologies and continual improvement of scanning equipment means that security checks are fast becoming a breeze for smart airport customers.

Smart airport example: Edinburgh International

The beginning of 2019 saw Edinburgh upgrade the equipment of its security hall by installing three new R&S QPS201 scanner units from Rohde & Schwarz. Each unit is capable of completing a full scan-and-analyse cycle of the passenger in merely 3.8 seconds, or 2.5 seconds for the enhanced version. This is a short enough time window to ensure that the scan won’t be disrupted thanks to passenger movement, helping maintain high accuracy rates as well as a very low frequency of false alarms. Already, the upgraded technology has improved passenger throughput rates, a critical factor in supporting overall customer satisfaction at any airport.

Smith’s Detection new HI-SCAN 6040 CTiX checkpoint scanner

Smiths Detection is shaping the future of aviation security with pioneering solutions. Throughout the show, the stand will feature demonstrations of the exciting new HI-SCAN 6040 CTiX checkpoint scanner. EDS CB C3 approved and TSA AT-2 certified, it eliminates the need to remove electronic devices and liquids from hand luggage. This means handling fewer trays which can significantly increase throughput - the impressive 0.2m/s belt speed and low false alarm rate also speed up the process. The HI-SCAN 6040 CTiX delivers the highest levels of security demanded by the new regulations, whilst optimising checkpoint performance through improved productivity, a better passenger experience and lower operational costs.

Committed to the creation of next-generation digital solutions, Smiths Detection will also feature a selection of products using AI and machine learning to deliver operational efficiencies, effective resource planning and the highest levels of threat detection.  The company’s digital portfolio includes, for example, smart and adaptable algorithms for the automatic detection of dangerous, prohibited and contraband goods and substances. Plus intelligent platforms designed to transform the way security is managed; enable fast, informed decision-making; support risk-based screening; and introduce a preventive approach to service and maintenance.

2. Improved logistical solutions offer faster processing

As annual passenger numbers continue to climb at successful travel hub airport across the world, the attendant pressure on their logistical capabilities inevitably increases as well. From dropping, storing, conveying, sorting and reclaiming baggage, to processing passengers and ensuring that all of their needs are met, the logistical might of the next generation of airports is being boosted through improved automation and increasingly sophisticated engineering.

Smart airport example: London Gatwick Airport

As part of a £187 million investment programme to improve its logistical capacity, Gatwick Airport has undergone a significant expansion of its luggage transportation systems in order to accommodate the baggage of its passengers – currently over 48 million per year. Numerous improvements in recent years have vastly improved its baggage handling capabilities, such as the installation of an Early Bag Store (EBS) and baggage handling system, allowing for 100% traceability and advance check-in of baggage up to 18 hours before departure. This built on earlier system improvements at Gatwick, delivered by Sew Eurodrive, whose mechatronic drive systems helped deliver energy efficiency savings of between 30-50%.

3. Artificial Intelligence will be the hallmark of truly smart airports

The incremental improvement of existing technologies utilised in most major airports represents important progress, but perhaps the most exciting innovations involve the leveraging of AI. In 2018, we saw a number of breakthrough solutions powered by Artificial Intelligence being actively deployed in some of the world’s biggest and most successful airports, and 2019 is poised to see more of the same. From smarter ways to move through immigration and security, to AI-enhanced shopping, entertainment, wellbeing and flight preparation, Artificial Intelligence is integral to the future of technologically-empowered airport services.

Smart airport example: Dubai International Airport

Late 2018 saw Dubai International launch its highly anticipated ‘Smart Corridor’ project – a literal corridor bristling with self-learning, AI-powered technology capable of allowing passengers to clear immigration literally in seconds. Developed by emaratech, the Smart Corridor’s 80 cameras simply capture the required biometric data of the passengers as they walk through it – no presentation of travel documents, no immigration officer’s stamp required, just a short walk and you’re through!

4. The Internet of Things aids all elements of the airport industry

What’s true for practically every major industry also applies to airports: interconnectivity and effective management of data are vital for improving operations. Managing the daily business of running the world’s airports is a vast and unceasing undertaking, of which passengers only witness a small fraction. By 2025, an estimated 34,000 planes will make up the global carrier fleet, while passenger numbers are expected to surpass 8 billon by 2037. Keeping everything moving will be an exponential challenge, but one that technology will equip airports to handle.

Providers of IoT-based solutions ensure that people, planes and cargoes keep moving at all times by utilising every tool, asset and employee the airport has at its disposal in the most effective manner possible. Fortunately, as the number of flights and passengers rises, so will the number of connected devices – up from 17 billion globally today to 22 billion by 2025. IoT will not only help airports to process passengers and their luggage more efficiently, it will also allow them to aid airlines with improved GSE (Ground Support Equipment) services for faster and less costly maintenance and repair works. Providers like ServiceMax use cutting-edge IoT solutions to increase asset uptime and technician productivity while decreasing the frequency of safety-related incidents.

5. Blockchain allows the entire aviation industry to act as one entity

While Bitcoin continues to suffer crises of confidence, the blockchain technology that powers it is being eyed by an ever-increasing range of investors and supporters across myriad industries, including aviation.

The recently released SITA 2018 Air Transport IT Insights report notes that more than a third of airports worldwide are already experimenting with blockchain, with 34% planning to deliver research and development projects by 2021. According to the report, blockchain has the potential to revolutionise airport operations by eliminating siloed processes held across the many stakeholders involved. Thanks to its universality and the fact that its public ledger-based transactions are nearly impossible to tamper with, blockchain may usher in a new era of airport management where all stakeholders can act view, manage, authorise and oversee operations in a unified and cohesive manner.

Smart airport example: Changi International

As well as improving flights and passenger processing operations, blockchain is already being utilised to overhaul the often complex and dissatisfying process of utilising airline frequent flyer rewards. Changi is one of the early adopters of the trend to allow passengers to spend their air miles with retail partners at the airport, as Singapore Airlines launched a loyalty digital wallet based on blockchain in 2018. By tokenising loyalty rewards and allowing them to be spent at airports as well as online, smart airports are coming closer to realising the seamless traveller experience they wish to embody.

The Smart Airport is inbound

These changes represent only some of the most influential ways in which technology is changing the way we fly forever. While security, safety and speed of service will always be top priorities for passengers, wherever they’re headed, the introduction of new technology will allow smart airports to offer a seamless and genuinely enjoyable travelling experience. Rather than simply being something that must be endured, the airport will become a positive part of the journey.

Don’t miss the opportunity to see the likes of Rohde & Schwarz, Sew Eurodrive, Smiths Detection and ServiceMax presenting their cutting-edge solutions this April.

Sources:

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