Smart airports are concerned with reducing the time and increasing the convenience of passengers. In a flight journey, a passenger has to go through various steps like check-in, security, dwell time, boarding, arrivals, and claiming the luggage. Smart airport uses advanced technology to reduce the time and increase the efficiency in different steps involved. Airport industry is going through a drastic change due to the shift of customer towards convenience in every step of their journey. The recent trends in the airports of the developed countries are the application of a biometric system for check-in and boarding. Furthermore, each airport is making its own smartphone application so as to centralize all the functions and steps involved from boarding to arrival. Airports are now installing a vending machine from where you can get the magazine, buy a movie, and download it, and you can generate lounge passes. Airports are no longer just a venue of waiting and passing through to board the flight, but they provide passengers the feel of being in the city, with areas allotted to entertainment, gathering, and information portals. From past to recent days, airports have been evolving and becoming more responsive, owing to the changing needs of airline passengers, surging airline competition and increasing air traffic.
Adding to this, the increasing revenue contribution from non-aeronautical transactions, which include refreshments, recreational activities, and retail shopping, is substantially boosting the growth of the market. The airports are witnessing a business shift from B2B to B2C, by taking advantage of emerging and maturing technologies to its full extent. Technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), automation, big data, robots, AI, and virtual reality are becoming part of the aerospace ecosystem, along with combined data collection and better real-time communications channels. Along with the rapid advancements in technology and high penetration of IoT, a major challenge which is being faced by the airport authorities is analyzing the preferences and requirement of the passengers, regarding their ease of complete airport procedure, i.e. from booking the tickets to checking out. Moreover redefining, collecting, and collaborating the overall data in accordance with the upgraded system is itself a hectic and complicated task which is also a challenge for the market.
The upcoming trends in the smart airport market include:
In 2017, several US carriers – including Delta and JetBlue (as well as government agencies like the TSA and CBP) – invested in trials of fingerprint and facial recognition technology. Moreover, Hamad International Airport revealed plans to implement a system in which “your face becomes your passport”. Additionally, Heathrow airport boarding gates of Terminal 5 installed 36 biometric-enabled self-service. Likewise, Changi Airport Group opened the new Terminal 4, which includes biometric technology at all the key passenger touch-points and finally, Sydney Airport shared with FTE its plans to trial end-to-end biometric-enabled passenger processing from mid-2018.
Lufthansa announced a partnership to explore blockchain-based distribution; similarly, Air New Zealand revealed that it is exploring blockchain for baggage, retail, distribution, and loyalty use cases. In addition to which, Heathrow Airport, British Airways, Geneva Airport, Miami International Airport and SITA Lab teamed up to look into how blockchain technology can help to create a “single source of truth” for flight data.
Moreover, in the field of AI, beyond chatbots, some of the most forward-thinking airlines are already implementing AI in other areas. For instance, KLM is using the technology to complement the efforts of its social media service agents. Automated answers to straightforward questions can be provided by AI, which frees up the human agents to deal with the more complex inquiries.
Further, in the field of robotics, Japan has proved itself to be the first country to check Airport Terminal Co., Ltd. at “Haneda Robotics Lab” and will soon trial seven robots in a live airport environment. These robots are capable of performing a variety of tasks, ranging from transporting luggage to proactively identifying potential security risks. The ultimate goal is for a fleet of robots to be deployed at Haneda Airport before the start of the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Considering Asia, Airport of Incheon has also been evaluating the latest generation of robots and recently hosted a trial of LG’s Airport Guide Robot and Airport Cleaning Robot. Interest towards start-ups as a service provider is also increasing. Examples in support of the statement are companies like Lufthansa, San Diego International Airport, SAS, WOW air, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Emirates and Changi Airport Group are collaborating with start-ups. All these companies tied up with start-ups for innovation labs and programmes. In addition to these technologies like translation technology, augmented reality, IOT, cybersecurity will be having a great scope in the smart airport industry.
The global smart airport market is studied across: North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and LMAEA (Latin America, Middle East and Africa). The rapid developments at smart airports across the U.S. are supported by various factors, such as the introduction of radio frequency identification (RFID)/near-field communication NFC-based baggage tracking systems. Additional factors like smart security gates along with the increasing need for real-time information, unmanned immigration system, real-time CCTV surveillance, on-demand self-service, user-specific offerings, and system-generated alerts are also supporting the development of smart airport market.
The Asia Pacific is expected to emerge as the fastest-growing region in the upcoming years, owing to the growing adoption of artificial intelligence, robotics, and biometric-enabled bag drop facilities, typically in Japan and China. Southeast Asia is anticipated to expand in terms of security, technology, infrastructure, and services by providing new innovative airport solutions to passengers, such as automated bag drops and self-service check-ins.
The Middle East & Africa (MEA) region is expected to have an intense growth in the upcoming period, owing to the rising passenger traffic and the expansion of airport modification cum modernization programs across major airports. Busy airports across the UAE have started adopting voice-based artificial intelligence tools and digital assistance to provide real-time information to passengers.
On the basis of technology:
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Prominent players in the market are Amadeus IT Group S.A., Cisco Systems Inc., Honeywell International Inc., Siemens AG, and IBM. Other companies include Sabre Corporation, Thales Group, Lufthansa Systems GmbH & Co. KG, T-Systems International GmbH, QinetiQ Group Plc., and Vision-Box among others.
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