COVID-19 has brought the air travel industry to a standstill. In May, Airports Council International (ACI) predicted there would be a drop in 4.6 billion air travelers and a reduction of $97.4 billion in airport revenues for 2020. To stay operational, airports have been seeking help from governments and collaborating with airlines on new funding sources, fee waivers, and reevaluating budgets. This has given rise to tremendous pressure for airports to cut down on operating costs, which comprise almost 65 percent of total airport costs.
Moreover, a renewed focus on health and safety will define air travel of the future. Most airports are closely following the advice of their national public health authorities and information campaigns on keeping travelers safe. And while the traveler volume will recover slowly, airports must respond quickly, despite having fewer resources and lower budgets.
Connected and intelligent technologies based on the Internet of Things (IoT) can help address many of these concerns.
IoT at the center of tomorrow’s health and safety
The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) has begun its Healthy Airport program as part of an effort to provide a safe environment for travelers and employees. In conjunction with this initiative, Wipro is developing a pilot program of wearable IoT technologies for GTAA staff, enabling them to ensure physical distancing through tracing capabilities. Additionally, earlier this year Wipro rolled out our customizable IoT-based solution, Co-Track, which enables businesses of any kind to maintain social distancing, screen their associates’ and customers’ body temperatures, manage concurrent customer count, and monitor workspace hygiene.
IoT: The foundation to solve critical cost and resource challenges
The future of airports is contactless travel. The pandemic has made sure of that. Airports have already begun changing the way they function by introducing new technology and processes, and this is giving rise to use cases that will accelerate IoT adoption, despite cuts in IT budgets. Here are a few examples of what to expect:
- The use of biometrics: Multiple international airports have biometric corridors where passengers can seamlessly walk through for verification.
- The rise of AI: AI-based sensors will become ubiquitous and enable airports to analyze data, predict delays due to severe weather or other causes, and rebook passengers on alternate flights. With these AI capabilities, airlines will be able to deliver better service to travelers and reduce complications.
- Delivering real-time information to customers: With wireless communication devices known as beacons, airlines can keep travelers fully informed of any schedule updates via a smartphone app. This helps deliver satisfying customer experiences and improves the efficiency of airline staff.
Even when the current safety requirements are no longer necessary, these IoT solutions will continue to provide efficiencies and benefits in the areas of security, communications, and customer service.
Four areas where IoT can redefine operations
Smart airports are not unheard of. In 2018, implementing IoT, 5G, and AI were priorities for advanced international airports as they increased their expenditure in information and communications technology (ICT). Today as more airports around the world begin adopting IoT solutions, a variety of valuable benefits will be in reach:
- Cost optimization through improved operational efficiencies: By tracking the gamut of physical assets in airports, IoT can significantly improve efficiency and reduce costs. Departure delays cost airports and airlines millions each year. Tracking assets, such as ground service vehicles, baggage tugs, water trucks, and de-icing vehicles, and making sure they’re at the right gate at the right time, can help reduce departure delays significantly. Sensor-enabled baggage tugs, for instance, can improve the efficiency of ground-handling operations and maintenance routines. As an example, Qantas Airways recently rolled out IoT at its major airports as an asset-monitoring solution.
- Health requirements: IoT can also help streamline important compliance requirements. Certain countries have a mandate that citizens must update their health information on government apps before they travel outside the country. Wearable tech devices at the airport can enable travelers to practice correct social distancing and maintain other health and safety compliance parameters.
- Customer experience: As discussed above, IoT provides an effective platform for delivering compelling customer experiences. As reported in a recent Gensler article, the Miami International Airport uses beacon technology to provide travelers with relevant information on the closest amenities, refreshments, gates, and bookstores through a smartphone app. Airports can also use IoT for communicating queue times, entertainment choices, flight info, and rewards for frequent travelers.
The road ahead for the connected, intelligent airports of tomorrow
IoT goes beyond connecting devices and equipment. It offers the ability to unleash new forms of data that can enable airports and airlines to better serve their customers, remodel their businesses, and achieve new levels of growth. With IoT, the ways of working at airports will change significantly. With lesser manpower needed, most operations will be focused on managing data generated from travelers, equipment, and vehicles. Be it sanitizer dispensers to cleaning, there will be a rise in autonomous machinery at airports, changing the way people work.
But investing in technology also has its own set of challenges. Security, the right skill sets, 24/7 support, and the right vendor/partner mix are all critical areas.
With these challenges to overcome, airports and airlines must find the right partner to help them open up new opportunities for growth by transforming their digital operations. Wipro is well placed to assist this industry in its IoT journey.
How are you looking at IoT applications in airports? What do you think the future holds for air travel? Send me your views on firstname.lastname@example.org