Undoubtedly, digitization brings a host of opportunities to the airport industry. Mobile check-in apps, self-service bag drop, indoor geo-location, electronic bag tags, interactive digital displays – everything boils down to one thing: the digital revolution is transforming the airport industry. However, digitization also creates its own unique array of technical, cultural and legal challenges which must not be overlooked.
In every business, customer satisfaction and services are of prime importance. Some new technologies are likely to have a major impact on airports over the next decade – including on Frankfurt Airport (FRA). We can be confident that aviation will continue to bring great value to the world. Safety, however, will also remain of paramount importance in our industry, particularly as airports – including FRA – continue to expand. To meet the demands of our customers, we challenge new technologies aimed at improving the travel process. In doing so, we continuously advance with new technologies, thus achieving ever-improved operations and a more efficient infrastructure.
Digital transformation requires acceptance and participation. Therefore, the successful implementation of any digital strategy depends on finding a common orientation with all people involved. At Fraport, we did not have to start from scratch in developing our digital strategy but could resort to and integrate many already existing digitization initiatives.
Advancements in robotics and a new generation of self-learning systems are changing the face of the travel process. Until recently, having a coffee wasn’t the only thing you could do at the Goethebar in FRA’s transit area B —you could also chat to a robot. FRAnny is the name of the so-called socio-emphatic robot, who answers passenger questions in German and English. The female robot features the most diverse facial expressions, thus making the “chat” as human as possible. FRAnny was developed in conjunction with DB Systel and Furhat Robotics and was being tested for the first time in Europe under real-life conditions. Fraport has instigated this pilot project to evaluate customer acceptance, functionality and suitability for daily use of robot assistants. After all, new services and technologies must make passengers’ travel experiences as pleasant as possible.
The visionary “FRADrones” program is aiming to make further inroads into Fraport’s use of drones and to develop new business areas. Where and under what conditions can Fraport use drones? And how can they be integrated in regular operations at Frankfurt Airport in the long term? The areas of application are diverse, ranging from supervision and progress monitoring of construction projects to transportation of goods. Fraport is developing test cases for operating drones at the airport in close cooperation with government authorities and relevant associations. One thing is for sure: without mandatory permits, no drones are allowed to fly around any airport!
How do we reach our Chinese passengers? Where they are already! We take advantage of digital media, bridging distances as well as language barriers. A good example is the Chinese social media platform WeChat, a messaging service similar to WhatsApp.
Fraport has been operating an official service account here since 2015. In addition to the flight plan information and the jump to the Chinese online shop, Fraport offers a monthly newsletter for our Chinese passengers. Of course, we post in Chinese and if you have any questions we can also score with a Chinese customer service.
Many people at the beginning of the year spoke of influenza and the flu epidemic, this is about influencers. Although these have little to do with the flu, the distribution of their messages often works faster than that of viruses. Fraport works with influencers for many different areas. As part of a recruiting campaign, the YouTuber, Mafuyux, recently stirred up the job advertising drum and after 24 hours had already generated more than 60,000 clicks and just under 4,000 likes.
Big data means preparing for the future with data. At Fraport, all kinds of data has been generated for years, with operational and commercial data representing the lion’s share. In the Smart Data Lab, these data are bundled and analyzed by cross-departmental teams. The results can then be e.g. a better predictor of the arrival of the aircraft on the position and thus avoiding idle times or delays for ground handling services.
Telemetry is the transmission of measured values of a sensor located at a measuring location to a spatially separated location. At this receiving point, the measured values can either be collected and recorded or evaluated immediately. Fraport’s ground handling services have been using telemetry since 2013. The real-time maintenance and monitoring system uses telemetry data to generate a wide range of vehicle information in real time.
The data the system supplies can be used, for example, to enable Fraport’s winter service operations management to decide at short notice, which vehicle can be filled at which tank or silo, thus greatly optimizing refueling scheduling.
Fraport AG and IATA have launched a test partnership for virtual reality training to gain insights into how virtual reality technology can be used for operational procedure training in ground handling services. For the time being, this cooperation includes the implementation of a three-month test phase. During this time around 100 employees will be trained with the help of a VR training program developed by IATA (IATA RampVR). There are currently two handling processes available. On the one hand, the wave-in of the aircraft and, on the other hand, the so-called aircraft turnaround, in which the test person must check the handling position before arrival of the aircraft and the aircraft for damage.
Mobility is a buzzword of recent years when it comes to further develop the classic PC applications towards flexible solutions. In particular, executives and employees who travel a lot and have little access to the PC workstation also want to do every day routine tasks “on the move”. Fraport iPhone owners are offered the information system “my Sky” as a mobile browser application. Initially, the most commonly used functions such as creating, administering and approving leave requests, approving internal events and providing the Coming / Going addition.
FRA is revolutionizing the digital airport experience, and many are following suite. With passengers more and more accepting of digital transformation, the limits are boundless when it comes to travel.