The Future of Airport and Emerging Technologies
By Space Coast Daily // June 17, 2022
Technology has revolutionized different aspects of our lives and the airport is no exception. The modus operandi of airport management ten years ago is a lot different than the methodology employed today and this is sure to change in a few years to come and more in the future.
How would the airport look in the future? How far could technology transform it?
Airport as a near-walkthrough digital experience
The COVID-19 pandemic changed customers’ experiences and expectations when it comes to airport service.
“Passengers have told us they want an easy travel experience that uses technology – such as their smartphones – to facilitate each step of the journey,” Benoit Verbaere, Director of Business Development, Travel and Transportation said in an interview with SITA, a technology company providing IT and telecommunication services to the air transport industry.
In 2016, about 3.8 billion air travellers were recorded across the globe and this is expected to double to about 7.2 billion passengers by 2035 based on a prediction by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
As these many people expect drastic change and ease of travel, below are some of the technology that may change their experience in the next decade.
The need for Artificial Intelligence (AI) is gaining popularity in the aviation industry.
One of the applications being tested at airports is computer vision, which assesses data from cameras and combines it with a machine-learning algorithm to monitor activities in real-time and alert when there is any breach.
It may also be designed to alert necessary management personnel when a rendered service is taking longer than usual.
There have also been reports of a pilot trial in which AI screens and manages baggage. This kind of trial which has wide media coverage has a camera located in the baggage system which takes pictures of a suitcase when loaded and compares with previously uploaded pictures to ascertain which bags have been offloaded and others that haven’t. This is aimed at helping passengers track their baggage.
The Heathrow Airport has also been using cleaning robots at its terminals and lounges. These robots disinfect airport areas using ultraviolet (UV) light.
In a similar development, British Airways is experimenting with the usage of AI robots to attend to customers. In a press release, Ricardo Vidal, British Airways’ Head of Innovation claimed the robots called ‘Bill’ will be able to interact with multiple different languages using the latest translation technology to answer thousands of questions, including real-time flight information.
They also have geo-location technology installed in them to facilitate the ability to move around the terminal and walk customers to requested areas such as the Special Assistance desk.
Smartphone applications are not new in the aviation industry but more sophisticated and efficient ones are expected in the future.
For instance, the ability to navigate the large site of Gatwick airport in the United Kingdom (UK) using your smartphone is the cutting edge feature of the Gatwick passenger app which won the Mobile Innovation of the year award at the National Technology awards and Mobile App of the Year award at Real IT awards.
The New York Port Authority has disclosed plans to upgrade its passenger app to improve fliers experience.
“Fliers will be able to see the security wait times at each checkpoint and taxi wait times,” says Rick Cotton, the executive director of The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. “You’re also going to be able to order food and retail through the app and have it delivered to your gate.”
Future apps in the industry will be able to incorporate all travelling processes such that fliers can check the cost of a flight, weather forecast, airport navigation, and the best airport parking service such as for a Detroit airport shuttle, among other necessities.
Verification of passengers is an integral part of airport operation. Different airlines across the world have already started testing biometrics technologies to reduce the time spent and also make it seamless for fliers.
64% of airports are aiming to roll out self-boarding gates using biometric & ID documentation by 2023. This is estimated to be three times more than the record in 2020.
The growing interest in biometrics is also fostered by the tightened regulation required by the European Entry-Exit System (EES).
This requirement which is expected to be mandatory in 2022 demands not just matching traveler face images with ePassport chip data but also capturing high-quality facial images and fingerprint scans for storage in a central EU database.
This is majorly targeted at Third-Country Nationals (TCNs).