Written by Cãlin Hera , Business Development Manager, KONE Corporation
The fundamentals of building design and construction have remained stable for many decades. As have the basic principles of moving masses of people through buildings, urban centers, and transport hubs. We are all familiar with the escalators, elevators, autowalks (or moving walkways), and turnstiles which help all of us move in and around airports.
Populations all around the world, however, are growing and demographics are changing. At the same time, rapid technological improvements and innovation in connectivity, mobility, and computing power, are enabling changes in the way we live, move, and interact with our surroundings.
Megatrends like these have implications for airport developers and operators involved in moving increasing numbers of incoming and outgoing passengers.
Progresses in technology, including the Internet of Things (IoT), sensors, and data analytics have dominated the discussion around the developments of airports; from security, check-in, and luggage handling, to retail, dining, and entertainment- all these areas are subject to adopting the latest trends, in the interest of increasing the passenger experience. These same technologies can also have a dramatic impact on the customer experience, through a less obvious contribution: what if we could improve people flow, and introduce a calmer, more enjoyable, yet more efficient and controlled passenger moving experience through the airport?
Let’s first consider a light-hearted classification of the two types of passengers in any airport – those in a hurry and those not in a hurry. Any airport, if well designed, needs to cater to both of these groups in harmony, during their journey from curbside to gate; or from gate to the exit, or from one gate to another. One obvious way to start improvements is through careful planning – simulations and analytics of possible scenarios will indicate the most suitable selection of the location, size, and number of escalators, autowalks, and elevators needed. One additional step, however, is to connect the equipment to the cloud and use data to create further improvements.
By connecting elevators and escalators to the airport systems, airports can adapt in real time, based on real-life needs, adjusting to bottlenecks occurring at different times of the day, or to unpredictable situations. For example, a large airplane arrives late at a gate which is rather far from the transit area. Airports can re-direct all of the autowalks in the corridor to cater to the passengers in a rush. An average moving walk can transport some 600-700 people in 10 minutes; that’s one fully loaded Airbus 350xwb in 5 minutes. Similarly, when there’s a need for using lifts to move people to different levels of the building, the elevators can be ordered to wait with open doors for incoming traffic at the right level.
Data from elevator and escalator sensors can be monitored, analyzed, and displayed in real-time, giving a view of performance, reliability, and safety. This means potential problems can be detected in advance, any faults can be fixed earlier and the flow of people can be kept moving. For older buildings, by using technology, predictability and intelligence, capacity and the reliability can be increased significantly.
From a passenger’s perspective, apps and services from companies like Blindsquare can be used with GPS applications to provide much needed services for the blind and visually impaired. It describes the environment, announces points of interest and intersections; but it also communicates with the elevators and can even place an elevator call remotely to ensure that the journey is uninterrupted. The same can be said for service robots, which also need to communicate with vertical and horizontal transportation systems.
There is an added advantage in the elevator and escalator industry – the equipment is only noticed when it fails, doesn’t work well or is overcrowded. Put another way, when everything functions smoothly, transit through the airport feels natural, intuitive and passengers don’t pay attention to the means of transport. A quieter, smoother ride through the airport can make a difference in the perceived experience in the airport. And some of the technologies are already here.
Cãlin Hera is Business Development Manager at KONE Corporation. He has more than a decade of experience in people flow business and has had the opportunity to work on with intriguing cases such as futuristic offices, largest cruise vessels, and sophisticated skyscrapers. Now responsible for the Airports and Public Transport segment, Cãlin is combining his mixed background in international market management and social sciences, as well as his passion for technology, to develop and integrate new solutions for a better end-user experience in transport hubs.