The scale of future passenger and traffic growth brings into sharp focus the need for systems and processes that are up to the task of tomorrow’s facilitation, security and sustainability challenges. All stakeholders in the value chain, in every area of airport operations, will have to become more responsive and efficient.
The challenge for airports, airlines and governments is to manage performance and growth, contain costs, make better use of resources and find efficiencies, all while improving the passenger experience and maintaining safety and security.
The rapid emergence of new technologies can lead to a new way of looking at airport capacity challenges. Digital transformation is not only about technology but also about business transformation in a digital world. ACI offers the Digital Transformation Best Practice and will release an updated guide later this year that delves deeper into the ways in which airports are transforming their businesses via technology. The latter includes both the implementation of new technologies as well as the integration of existing technologies, processes and services to deliver a better experience to all stakeholders.
Recognizing all these factors, ACI and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have been developing NEXTT, or New Experience Travel Technologies, which pulls together the work that is being done in our security, airport operations, passenger and cargo facilitation teams, on biometrics, autonomous vehicles and digital transformation. It seeks to ensure that stakeholders have a common direction, and that all projects benefit to maximise interoperability with others.
The NEXTT vision looks at the transformation of the complete ground journey for all the elements that currently move through the airport – the passenger, baggage, cargo and the aircraft. While the transformation is not driven by one technology or another, we do see several technology trends as key enablers for change. These include: better use of data and communication; predictive modeling and artificial intelligence to enable swifter real-time decisions; the advancement of automation, autonomous vehicles and robotics; and, “off-airport” processes via the use of digital identity.
To capitalize on the potential brought by data, a common vocabulary is needed. The Airport Community Recommended Information Services framework, known as ACRIS, has been developed by ACI to provide a data exchange structure in the aviation community. ACRIS provides an environment where airports can share data with their partners in a standardized and seamless manner. ACI is also working closely with IATA to ensure airline and airport data standards are harmonized; this work is expected to continue and evolve as data comes to the forefront of digital transformation. This environment will lay the groundwork to support digital transformation and NEXTT projects.
The benefits mentioned for the industry equally apply to government agencies which are key stakeholder in the air transportation ecosystem. NEXTT envisages travel authorization and customs controls managed digitally from time of booking right through to arrivals. There are opportunities to pre-clear passengers and cargo well in advance of travel, and from remote locations, making better use of resources and enabling a genuinely risk-based approach to formalities. This applies equally to border security and aviation security.
There are already major steps in the right direction towards improving the ground journey at the airport and ACI will continue to work with airlines, governments and other role players. I encourage all stakeholders who wish to be part of the NEXTT long-term vision to get involved by participating in the NEXTT webinars, joining the discussion on social media (#NEXTTjourney) and visiting the LinkedIn group for latest news, case studies and discussions.