The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation trends in all industries with merely no exceptions. For airports, digital transformation is all about evolving processes and services to deliver a better experience to passengers and customers by adopting and implementing new technologies and integrating them with existing which also enables a faster recovery of the industry. Digital transformation also plays a vital role in creating more efficient airports of the future – those that are connected in the true sense while driving more efficient operations across both airside and landside and supporting sustainability strategies.
Over the past year, a significant amount of innovation has been fast tracked within the airport sector. The focus on digital transformation, automation and efficiency is even stronger as airports look to improve safety and security. Solutions and processes previously deployed in hospitals, labs or other healthcare environments are now being adapted for airports. Filtration and air cleaning are good examples of this, whereby having the right filtration, particulate sensing and air cleaning systems in place can help reduce the pathogens, allergens, and other indoor air pollutants in the building.
Likewise, face mask detection and thermal temperature screening at airport entrances can help minimize potential exposure by controlling access based on specific parameters. Deploying tools that monitor, detect, and help respond to potential issues is key, along with connectivity to building management systems. It is all about enabling the collection of real-time data and creating unified responses through an integrated network with smart analytics.
The pandemic has transformed digitization from a nice-to-have feature into a strong enabler to enhance processes, operations, and outcomes. The need for healthier and safer spaces post-pandemic has forced airports to reimagine the passenger processing flow and to digitize the passenger experience. Mobile and cloud apps, and biometric technologies are helping airports and airlines to transition towards a contactless, self-service passenger journey that even starts off-airport and gives more control and responsibility to customers with online check-in, complete health forms, book slots for security check-in prior to getting to the airport and once in airport, order a meal, shop online for duty free and others complemented by robotic delivery services to gate and more.
The need for integration and digitization had accelerated across all airport segments. For example, integrated airside systems can deliver efficiencies, as airline, tower and airport operations and maintenance work together for an optimized end-to-end airport management.
As well as optimizing the utilization of airport assets, an integrated technology system can also help automate energy savings. It does this by applying analytics to understand how airport spaces are used in real time and where energy reductions can be made. Not only can energy efficiency efforts help airports to meet their compliance and standards requirements, they can also indicate to passengers and the industry the airport’s commitment to carbon reduction and to give back to society where possible.
Airports have been on the digitization journey for a while; however, they are now accelerating it to become more digital than ever before, from curb-to-gate. During the pandemic, such technologies have become more recognizable and used to ensure safety. Digitization is not a one-way process and airports will have to weigh how willing passengers are to embrace the new technologies in order to be supported and reassured every step of their journey in an airport environment for their own safety and comfort.
The airports who embrace innovation and data to make passengers feel safer will keep the leading edge, and the remaining airports will have to follow what is expected to become the new norm.