Business Operations Challenges

Executive Summary

As mega airports open in the Middle East and Asia, existing airports continue to see record numbers of travelers. A great deal of business press coverage is focused on these developments, considering implications to security and efficiency, or the grandeur of new architecture. The press is also looking at ever-evolving digital transformation and are Airports the Next Smart Cities, which is disrupting airports and the technology they use. It is clear from airport industry news that over the course of the last year airports are beginning to follow the smart city model and change the definition of destination airports.

“Airport urbanism” is an approach that takes these concepts to another level. How does the airport impact nearby cities and expand its connections and services outside and into the surrounding cities? It allows an airport to be seen as an important destination in itself and economic driver for its region.

In this whitepaper we will consider how video intelligence, artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT) can be used to create “smart spaces,” which help make smart airports and airport urbanism possible. It is important from the beginning to note the importance of maintaining the privacy of the individuals within the airport at all times. That should be the expectation from any technology used to support these concepts. Innovations in technology are allowing for protection of privacy or intelligence without surveillance.

Business Operations Challenges

Airports need to drive revenue and growth, just like any other business. Although airports are challenged by regulation and security, they still need to think like a business and be customer centric to accomplish these goals. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the number of air passengers could increase to 8.2 billion yearly in 20372. This is an amazing opportunity to address a captive audience with new services to improve the travel experience and build new revenue streams. Additionally, a study by airline industry IT and telecommunications provider SITA found that an extra 10 minutes in the security line will reduce airport retail spending by 30%3. This reinforces the linkage between efficiency in the security process and the opportunity to drive retail revenues.

The same SITA study predicts annual airport retail spending at $22 billion, which leads us to the second consideration: How can retail spending be increased in airports? Just as the technology does in shopping malls and stores, the use of video intelligence can help retail establishments better understand how passengers are moving through their establishments. It can uncover information as to where retail traffic is coming from or going to, how long people spend in the shops, and which areas they spend the most time in. The more information an airport can provide to their retail partners, the smarter they can be in providing and marketing their products to potential customers passing by their shops, increasing conversion rates and business efficiency.

There’s also an opportunity within airports to establish stronger partnerships between airports and airlines. For example, airline lounges are part of the overall customer experience. By analyzing the movement of passengers, the airlines can ensure that their lounges are adequately staffed and stocked with food and beverages. The amount of carry-on baggage being transported through the airline lounges can also help predict a possible overhead bin shortage on the aircraft. Data that helps to understand where passengers spend their time in the lounges, such as the work area, TV area, buffet and bar, shower and spa facilities, can help plan for future functionality that will provide a better airline lounge experience. Attracting visitors to the landside public areas of airports is another way to increase retail revenue, which doesn’t need to be limited to passengers who are flying. Families dropping off or picking up loved ones might take the opportunity to shop. And, depending on the location of the airport, it could even be a destination location for local residents who don’t even enter the airline terminal, but just visit to use the landside facilities.

The Airport as a Smart City

Airports globally are recognized as being similar to smart cities, as they focus on delivering improvements to operations, sustainability, experience and business vitality. Let’s consider four such airports that represent major geographic regions of the world: America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East4.  For any airport looking to improve operations and passenger experience, these case studies should fuel some ideas for how an airport might approach this goal.

North America – San Diego International Airport


San Diego International Airport launched three programs to reduce greenhouse emissions, counterbalance carbon emissions, and stop the food waste going into the landfills. The first initiative focused on transportation to and from the airport.  To reduce carbon emissions, partnerships and marketing efforts were developed to support ridesharing mobility. This is an example of an airport impacting landside operations to aid in the overall customer experience and reduce carbon emissions, which they successfully did by 30%.

How smart spaces could help: In conjunction with existing IoT sensors, video and 3D lidar could gather intelligence regarding the number of passengers arriving and departing in such mobility services to help plan further partnerships and marketing. In terms of curbside management, the type of vehicle – taxi, ride share or personal – could be identified to facilitate such planning.

To read full download the whitepaper:
Are Airports the Next Smart Cities?


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