Intelligent airports to touch the sky

Russell Goodenough
By , - Reshaping BusinessTransport

Airports are busier than ever. In 2015, almost 75m passengers travelled through Heathrow airport – a new record for UK’s biggest (and most congested) airport. But as the number of passengers each year increase, how can airports cope, and maintain the best service possible?

In today’s world everything is now connected, and as a result, it’s changing the way we live, travel and do business. The growing number of devices also makes it even easier to connect and collaborate with each other. Digital transformation has to play an increasing role.

A survey by YouGov, found that the average household now owns 7.4 internet-enabled devices. Technology has never been more advanced and airports have an opportunity now to take advantage of the multitude of devices and become truly intelligent.

Through intelligent mobility, airports can harness the digital age to overhaul the industry through creating one integrated intelligent system which is driven by a more user-centred travel experience.

This is not only will improve services, but will help understand and manage customer behaviour, as well as movement throughout the terminals. Wi-Fi analytics and beacon technology in mobile devices can enable airports to find out where a passenger is standing within a terminal. This information can then be used in various ways.

For instance it can monitor and improve the user experience for passengers arriving and departing the terminal. Queue Management and minimising waiting times is one application, or else information can be used to identify crowded areas and increase staffing if needed. On top of this, the information can be fed into digital screens which is relevant to the passenger based on recent movements.

Digital technology is revolutionising the transportation experience creating a huge opportunity to improve both usage and satisfaction – and at the same time it can help alleviate short-term capacity challenges.

Intelligent mobility can help transform the airport industry by improving the passenger experience; using digital services to understand and deal with the growing number of passengers’ year-on-year. And not just that, it can reduce costs across the airport; analyse the perimeter and improve border security. At a higher level, you could also argue this will improve sustainability of both emissions and UK jobs.

What’s next?

Looking further ahead, we can expect the physical airport environment to shift more towards an airside-dominated, retail-centric landscape. Disruptive new service offerings will remove the need for a large portion of the current land-side infrastructure.

If you really wanted to future-gaze, you can imagine passenger baggage being collected from homes by a courier prior to the journey starting. Passengers will then not see their luggage again until they arrive to find their bags waiting for them in their hotel room.  This will open new opportunities for airports to reclaim real-estate that is presently designated for expensive baggage systems, and repurpose it into revenue-generating retail space.

Now is the time for airports to take advantage of digital to help improve these areas. However, whether it is noise sensors, minimising noise for residents, or implementing technology to increase revenue streams, customer experience is the top priority. By managing passengers through location-based technologies, airport managers can guarantee a smooth travelling experience for all passengers and create a personalised experience for consumers throughout the airport.

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