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Despite the pandemic-induced reduction in air travel, the IATA Forecast Predicts 8.2 billion Air Travelers in 2037. To handle this exponential growth in the number of passengers in the coming years, airports and airlines will require the powerful capabilities of Airport 4.0 or Airport Digitalization.
Thanks to airport IoT solutions and connectivity revolutions like 5G, the aviation industry will be able to adopt more agile and scalable IT and digital solutions to improve its operational efficiency and revenue streams. Airport IoT solutions are leading the way for efficient operations, visualized safety, and hyper-personalized customer experiences. They aren’t creating the most differentiated airports but the most revolutionary ones.
Traditional airports, which often drew flak for frustrating delays and annoying security checks, have been massively transformed into giant hubs of urban facilities that include everything from hospitality, and private retail, to live concerts. In addition, the influx of new-age customer technologies is further automating various aspects of passenger journeys and personalizing experiences, much to passengers' delight.
One such technology that’s poised to open up a world of proactive experiences is the Internet of Things (IoT), a breakthrough force gearing up to fundamentally change airport operations through smart sensors, connected devices, and analytics.
This blog discusses the rise of IoT solutions and their impact on airport experiences, which are now becoming swift, engaging, ultra-personalized, and end-to-end compelling.
IoT solutions for airports: The possibilities unravel
The latest release of IDC’s Worldwide Semiannual Internet of Things Spending Guide indicates a gradual growth of the IoT market in Asia-Pacific across the forecasted years (2021-2025) and is expected to reach $437 Billion by 2025. The demand for IoT solutions is likely to be fueled by increased adoption of location tracking, facial recognition, remote working, cold chain logistics & tracking of vaccines, video-centric applications, and deployment of 5G in the region. Therefore, every industry will likely benefit from IoT adoption, including aviation.
Today over 96 percent of passengers carry smartphones while visiting airports. Increased smartphone usage and IoT innovation present a strategic opportunity wherein airports can drill into user behaviors and use insights to engage customers better.
Well, don’t raise the brows yet. The IoT adoption across airports, however, in bits and pieces, is mitigating the age-old hassles, such as frustrating delays, waiting times in the queues, and annoying security checks.
Airports pumping investments in IoT are able to improve traffic regulations and help passengers with indoor navigation using Wi-Fi beacon-lined maps. They are also using electronic tags and sensors to track and trace baggage, thereby reducing the number of lost bags. In addition, facial recognition technology is streamlining security checks and slashing queues. These advancements drive significant cost and efficiency benefits while holistically transforming the customer experience.
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The possibilities of implementing IoT in airports are endless and gradually unfolding.
If there’s one thing that’s damaging the aviation landscape, it’s the airport experiences that are passé. Below, we have discussed a few areas (use cases) where IoT can provide intelligence to airports and herald a new age of hyper-efficient aviation.
Let’s dive right in!
1. Passenger Tracking
IoT is a powerful force in airports that can sort out the complexities of passenger management. The use of biometric systems, laced with in-built tracking mechanisms, streamline passenger tracking and help airports monitor real-time passenger footfall. Moreover, IoT can be used to develop systems that can spot passengers through their gait.
2. Baggage Tracking
The IoT solutions in smart airports help overcome the problem of lost baggage that has always been a major area of dissatisfaction amongst the flying public. With IoT beacon technology and its ongoing connectivity, finding lost baggage is incredibly easy. These beacons integrate with the airport’s cellular network and monitor baggage location in real-time across all touchpoints. This allows passengers to track their belongings, right from check-in to cargo-hold, which is instrumental in reducing lost baggage counts.
Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) has smartened up its baggage handling system through RFID technology. It is the first airport in the world to do so.
3. IoT-enabled Asset Tracking
Airports in every part of the world require a variety of assets to ensure smooth operations and an enhanced passenger experience. Along with biometric technology, AI, and big data, airport authorities can incorporate modern airport IoT solutions to further streamline and strengthen their asset tracking.
IoT-enabled asset tracking solutions can be applied across the entire ecosystem of modern airports and in every step of the passenger journey, from the time the passenger steps into the airport until the time they arrive at their destination.
These IoT-driven innovations will ensure that aviation industry authorities have complete visibility, and thus control over their assets and resources thereby creating value which lead to the benefits of a smart airport.
4. Driverless Technology Adoption (Driverless Shuttles)
Powered by an ecosystem of sensors, cameras, and edge and cloud computing, IoT is all set to redefine transportation in aviation. The Heathrow Airport in London is already making headlines for using self-driven battery-powered electric pods, available on demand. Similar autonomous shuttle buses can also be seen running at the Brussels Airport, which is the 24th busiest airport in Europe.
Driverless shuttles or transport technology is still in its early stages. But as the Internet of Things for Airport solutions gain prominence across the aviation industry, we’ll see a dramatic increase in the visibility and usage of driverless shuttles and transport in airports worldwide.
Automaton, combined with IoT, revolutionizes online check-ins and bag-drop processes. For example, JetBlue, a US-based airliner, has provided ‘auto check-in’ functionality to passengers, automatically issuing a ticket and seat assignment 24 hours before their flight. Their seats are chosen after carefully analyzing their booking patterns and behaviors.
Flight delays are a nagging problem and result in massive losses, but with IoT in airports, authorities can effectively monitor weather conditions and avert flight delays. How? By connecting weather monitoring beacons across runways to keep tabs on weather updates and share insights with the back-end systems. This can help improve flight management and save costs. Besides this, connected surveillance can further keep passengers updated on delays and stoppages, saving them a lot of time and hassle.
Since most airports stretch across a vast land mass, it’s puzzling to find the right entry and exit points, especially when a passenger is late for a flight that’s about to take off. Digital IoT Beacons can make a big difference when it comes to helping passengers navigate across airports and reach the right boarding zones in the shortest time possible.
In addition, they can send out real-time texts via Bluetooth-enabled digital beacon-linked maps, thereby updating passengers on every aspect of their airport journey—from parking and shuttle services to table availability in restaurants. Finland’s Helsinki Airport, Miami Airport (with a network of 400 beacons), and Birmingham Airport are already using IoT-led beacon technology to offer location-based services to shorten queues and dwell times and eliminate other systemic bottlenecks.
7. Airline Staff
Diversifying IoT implementation across airports can drive real business value for enterprises in terms of speed, performance, and experience. Enabling device-to-device connectivity through a robust IoT cellular network can allow airports to collect data and derive insights into multiple workflows. This can help identify patterns that have occurred or are about to happen for real-time and predictive maintenance of airport operations.
Internet of Things in airports can revolutionize the global aviation industry. It’s opening a new dimension of door-to-gate experiences and transforming the dynamics of customer service in a big way.
While passengers are already accessing and customizing a host of services at their fingertips, the time beckons when IoT success will be fundamentally embedded into the aviation sector’s growth, boosting commercial operations and enhancing overall passenger satisfaction.
However, it’s essential to pay heed to existing impediments, including legacy systems and security regulations and requirements.