For countless travelers, the term “smart airport” is an oxymoron. For these individuals, massive crowds, endless delays and a rash of other headaches hardly add up to an intelligent environment. One exponential technology—a technology that is growing at an exponential rate—that’s helping to create smarter, more efficient airports is the Internet of Things (IoT).
Getting Better, but With Ample Opportunity
The technology failures that caused the widely publicized shutdowns of both Southwest and Delta Airlines in 2016 underscored the very real need to update aging IT infrastructure.
But, in many ways, those incidents were outliers. Thanks to new technology, many other aspects of airline travel have definitely improved. For instance, with regard to airport services themselves, compare your recent experiences with what you may have encountered as recently as 10 years ago. There’s little doubt that tools such as large interactive displays, electronic check-ins, kiosks and improved baggage tracking systems have provided a much smoother and more pleasant travel experience.
The tools that we ourselves carry have also improved airline travel. Smartphones provide real-time updates on changing travel conditions, and airline apps are finally getting useful, allowing you to select another flight if yours is delayed or cancelled or to see where your bag is at any time. Apple fans can even carry their boarding pass on their Apple watch, not to mention forgoing the need to carry and print envelopes of travel documentation.
All these useful tools also highlight the opportunity afforded by taking steps to further link them together in a comprehensive, powerful network. We are beginning to connect more and more machines and sensors to each other so that they can perform functions and provide actionable information in real time, saving us time and money. That’s the promise of IoT.
Internet of Things Example: London City Airport
One telling example is London City Airport, which received an 800,000 euro grant in 2013 to conduct a 12-month research project into the potential impact of IoT. As this article outlines, the overall project was subdivided into three primary areas of focus:
- Measuring passenger journeys—Monitoring passenger movement throughout the airport terminal to gauge both speed of movement and density.
- Asset tracking—Using GPS, Wi-Fi and other technology to follow airport equipment used to service both inbound and outgoing flights.
- Location-based services—Offering an app to provide passengers with information specific to their flight as well as to their location within the airport. The app also allowed passengers to pre-order food, beverages and other goods available for in-person pickup or via “at seat” delivery.
The results were telling. In one respect, on-time arrival and departure performance was enhanced as Wi-Fi tracking helped to improve aircraft turnaround times. On the passenger side of the equation, travelers enjoyed the greater convenience afforded by systems such as the pre-order app. So, too, did airport planners benefit from data covering varied aspects of traveler movement through the airport. That included time spent checking in, waiting times in security lines and even how long it took passengers to walk to a gate. Thanks to this and other airports testing different IoT applications and getting positive results, many of the benefits are being implemented at other airports around the world, including using an iPad to order your meal and having it delivered at your table.
Security Concerns Addressed
Although data collected under the auspices of the research project was completely anonymous, airport officials acknowledge that a widespread public launch of tools such as more intelligent passenger apps would mandate careful security measures. To that end, the airport proactively invested in its infrastructure to help ensure availability of the most current and comprehensive data security and policy measures.
But security issues—long a focal point of concern regarding IoT—haven’t dulled London City Airport’s overall enthusiasm for the potential and opportunity that the research project highlighted. To that end, the airport’s CEO publicly announced the goal of becoming the “fastest airport,” with a targeted maximum of 20 minutes’ walking time between the time a passenger steps into the terminal and when he or she arrives at a departure gate.
The next time you’re stuck in an airport line doing little more than growing older, give some thought to how a smarter, better-connected airport could break up those kinds of frustrating logjams.
Daniel Burrus has been trusted by leaders from Fortune 500 Companies, the Pentagon and Heads of State to deliver a message that accurately predicts future trends and identifies game chaning opportunities before the competition. Click here to see some of Daniel Burrus’ Sample Keynote Topics