Smart airport technology is changing the airport experience as we know it - from cumbersome and complicated to enjoyable and simple. Long lines, delayed status updates, and confusing directional signs will soon become a thing of the past.

A smart airport is an airport that uses IoT technology to enhance efficiencies, resources, and the customer experience. With smart airports, check-in queues are shorter, security procedures are more streamlined, wayfinding is easier, and personalized, real-time updates are sent to every passenger’s smart device. It’s easy to see why smart airports are on the rise.

Market Trends for Smart Airports

Nearly every service is connected to a network of sensors, cameras, and other data collection devices in a smart airport. The “Amazon effect” means that customers are looking for exceptional service in every interaction, as modern airports need to be both competitive and customer-focused.

Here are some of the ways smart airports are changing the way we travel:

Personalized Wayfinding

More and more airports are using beacons and sensors to help customers locate terminals, food options, restrooms, and other important locations right from a traveler’s mobile device.

Wayfinding in smart airports will even have the capabilities for patrons to use their mobile devices or smart-wearable devices to see local information and wayfinding paths overlayed on the airport using augmented reality (AR). Instead of following a path on a 2D map, customers can follow a path laid directly over the floor in front of them - all while reading useful information about places they pass on the way.

Smartphone Notifications

With smart airport technology in place, patrons can receive direct messages with important information (even before they arrive at the airport). At home, they can opt-in to notifications about flight delays and updates to help judge how early to arrive. As they approach the airport, they can receive parking information, such as the closest parking lots with available spaces.

Once in the airport, customers can be alerted to gate changes, boarding status, baggage claim information and more. As they walk past airport vendors, they can be alerted to special offers.

Shorter Wait Times

Cameras and sensors monitoring foot traffic around the airport can feed data to a central processing server. For example, this data could be used to alert staff to long lines and/or activate digital signage to let customers know which lines are the shortest or moving the quickest. This type of real-time data feedback helps to avoid bottlenecks and long wait times.

Enhanced Security

As far back as 2014, London’s Heathrow Airport began testing the use of facial recognition software to speed patrons through security screenings. Pairing facial recognition with today’s beacon, sensor, and camera technology, airport personnel can now track suspicious movement of individuals throughout smart airports to offer travelers better safety.

How Smart Airports Use IoT Data to Improve Service

Large volumes of data come through the network of sensors, beacons, and cameras in a smart airport. This data can be analyzed to increase resource efficiency, find operational weaknesses, and create a unique customer experience. Miami International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Heathrow Airport, and Hong Kong International Airport are all examples of smart airports using IoT data to enhance the traveler experience.

  • Analyze flow patterns: Tracking foot traffic, luggage, parking availability, airport vehicles, flight schedules, and a host of other data points provides airport administration with opportunities to improve efficiency like never before.
  • Decrease response time: Airports can use sensors and GPS trackers linked to AI and predictive algorithms to better allocate key resources. By tracking vehicles and personnel, issues can be resolved faster by alerting staff so the nearest available resources can respond.
  • Increase staffing efficiency: Staffing can be adjusted to optimal levels using real-time data about where employees are over and underutilized and where wait times are particularly long.
  • Provide strategic differentiation: Differentiation from competitors and other modes of travel is important for airports in an increasingly competitive market. Airport administrators can use data derived from a host of smart sensors to satisfy their customers’ needs.
  • Offer personalized experiences: Patrons can receive customized, detailed information on their smart devices, such as flight information, indoor navigation, gate walk times, vendor coupons and more.
  • Boost resource efficiency: The indoor environment, such as temperature, lighting, and more, can be controlled through sensors, so staff can focus on other things, such as the customer experience. Even more, digital twins allow a smart airport to capture and visualize important data to optimize performance, predict failures, and simulate future scenarios.
  • Better resource usage: Heat map visualization can be used to overlay complex airport usage data on a simulated 3D model of the airport. This provides a faster, more thorough understanding of how systems are functioning. Overutilized areas might appear as red hot while underutilized areas might appear in cooler hues. This data can be used to spot trends and problem areas, and then reassign staff or other resources as needed.

Smart Airports Are the Future

Airport customer expectations are on the rise, but so are the costs and the level of competition. It’s more important than ever for airports to distinguish themselves and find novel ways to drive operational efficiency and improve the customer experience. Smart airports are the solution.

Contact WRLD to get started with your smart airport today!