In this era of globalization, every business big or small; is revolving around consumer demand. Introduction of smart airports is a testament to the fact that aviation industry is no different. With continuous research and development activities to make advancement in technologies for every sector, consumer needs are also growing. There is significant rise in business travel. Improving affordability of air travel due to handsome expendable income and cost-effective flight services add to the trend. To cater to the rising demand, every business is bound to have a right business model designed to cover maximum requirements.
Ten years ago, buses and trains were some of the most common modes of transportation for long distance traveling were either busses or trains. At that time, number of commuters travelling via airplane was quite less owing to expensive tickets and limited number of airports. Whereas now; priorities of the travelers opting for long distance travel have completely. Number of passengers opting for air travel over trains and road is increasing exceptionally with every passing day. All credit goes to airport authorities, who are deeply focusing on frequently changing consumer demand and timely upgrading airport services accordingly.
Ultra-modern Smart Airport Technologies
There are numerous examples of technologies, which are enough to convert any airport into smart airport and offer high-end services to travelers.
Across the globe, technologies such as radio frequency identification and Bluetooth beacons are being utilized in airports, sports stadiums, museums, and even retail stores. Such technologies can allow users to locate themselves and get directions to reach a particular section inside that venue. This radio frequency identificationworks on the basis of wireless transmission of data in electromagnetic fields to locate tags that are stringed to various objects. For instance, Dubai International Airport is using this technology to track luggage for different airlines. It can help airlines to track luggage for their passengers from check-in until landing. Use of this smart technology at airports can notably reduce number of complaints related to lost luggage.
• IP-enabled Security Cameras
Always packed with passengers traveling from different corners of the world, security is one of the major concerns at any airport. To maintain high airport security level in all aspects, it is essential that airports are equipped with all sorts of smart gadgets available. One of those gadgets is IP-enabled security cameras. Such cameras are connected wired or wirelessly to internet and for delivering real-time surveillance to anywhere across the globe using internet compatible smart devices such as mobile phones and TV screens. Real time surveillance facility can support security staff at airport to identify suspects behind terrorist activities and maintain peace. IP cameras equipped with smart technologies such as facial recognition software and video analytics can use algorithms and facial recognition to spot illegal activity and record it. Almost every smart airport is using latest technology cameras for security purposes owing to cost-effectiveness and scalability.
Another sheer example of smart technologies being implemented at airports to expedite operations is biometrics. This technology uses bodily features such as fingerprint scanning, facial recognition, voice recognition, and IRIS scanning for quick identification of travelers while boarding and de-boarding at airports. That’s how it can reduce checking process for passengers by eliminating long queues and identify criminal suspects if any. Biometric machines use pre-loaded databases of well-known criminals around the world and match it with biometric details of every passenger being scrutinized to define any irregularities. For instance, Air Asia recently launched biometric boarding system at Senai International Airport to screen its passengers for to and fro flight from Macau and Bangkok. Travelers need to place their passports at an automated desk, which can scan their faces to create profiles. From there, passengers can accelerate their boarding via facial scans.
• Web Check-In
As the name suggests, passengers travelling via airplane can opt for web check-in facility to avoid long check-in queues at airports. This smart service is best for those traveling with hand luggage only as they can directly head towards security check-in and save time. However, passengers carrying checking bags can go straight to luggage drop off point before moving towards security check. In addition, travelers can even mark their presence on flight and print their boarding passes with selected seats. Moreover, one can also mention details regarding meals and luggage quantity.
• Wi-Fi internet
Knowing the fact that internet is one of the major requirements of any smart phone user, most airports are providing Wi-Fi facility to travelers. The presence of strong jammers at airports owing to security reasons, travelers have to face network issues. Due to which, many passengers find it difficult to communicate on phone and use their laptops without internet for work purposes. To resolve this issue, majority of airports around the world are providing Wi-Fi facility.
• Shuttle Service
At international airports having more than one terminal, it sometimes gets tough for passengers to travel within the airport. To resolve this problem, most airports are providing shuttle services at nominal price to passengers who want to travel from one terminal to another. It can help passengers in saving both time and energy. For example, Delhi International Airport provides shuttle service across terminal 1 and terminal 3 for passengers in need. The service is likely to be free for passengers having connecting flights. All they need to do is show their ticket to shuttle conductor for their next flight and travel free. Others may need to pay nominal charges to avail the service.
• Multi-level Parking
For frequent and local travelers, parking their vehicle at airports is a big concern owing to increasing number of travelers. Thanks to multi-level parking facility, which is being adopted by airports facing rush, consumers can easily find spots for their vehicles. Enter barriers to parking are equipped with radars which can identify your vehicle and rise automatically on authentication. For instance, Manchester airport offers a multi-storey parking for travelers to park their vehicles before catching their flights. Parking is so user-friendly that travelers can simply park their vehicles, unload their luggage, and head towards check-in.
For travelers who are tried enough to walk across the airport and those who are physically disabled to walk freely, walkways is the best option. It is a horizontally moving belt across the airport area to help passengers reach their boarding gate with ease. Though, it was firstly installed at Dallas Love Field terminal back in 1958, many companies have come up with upgraded version of walkways since then. For instance, Thyssenkrupp recently developed a high capacity and high speed walkway named ACCEL based on maglev technology. It can begin at normal walking speed and then accelerate up to 7.5 mph once it senses a passenger on it. The movement that passenger gets to the other side of this walkway, it again deaccelerates to its normal speed.
Smart Airport Market: What Future Holds?
The over population at airports and the increasing number of flights have created the need for innovative technology to tackle these obstacles. As mentioned above, such technology based smart devices are supporting passengers traveling by reducing complexity in boarding process and making it convenient.
High demand for real-time airport information owing to increasing burden on airport workforce is anticipated to impel smart airports market. Growing establishment of new airport owing to development in commercial aviation can fuel growth of the market. Increasing adoption of artificial intelligence across airports coupled with continuous technological development in smart gadgets is likely to stimulate market growth.
Integration of smart technologies at all sorts of airports could be tough for airport staff and can hinder market growth. High installation cost of such technologies coupled with lack of awareness among passengers can obstruct growth of the market.
Some of the leading companies offering smart airports systems and services are Honeywell International Inc.; Amadeus IT Group S.A.; IBM; Cisco Systems, Inc.; and Siemens AG. Each of these companies frequently invests in research and development activities to offer advanced products based on innovative technologies for consumer use. (Give a few examples of innovations and product developments)