Airports are massive and complex organisations. Paris Aeroport – one of the busiest airports in the world – describes itself as a ‘factory of the future’ – “Management on a daily basis of industrial processes such as the handling of thousands of pieces of luggage that come through our airports each day,” the Paris Aeroport website quotes.
It’s true that airports need to refine their processes with the exacting precision of advanced manufacturing to facilitate the smooth flow of people, baggage, and the aircrafts themselves. To achieve that, airports are heavily investing in the IoT and other smart technologies, looking to leverage the ability for technology to enhance efficiency, productivity, and security.
From sensors deployed throughout the airport to monitor and manage temperature and lighting, to RFID tags to better direct baggage to the correct aircraft, smart check-in kiosks and unmanned bag drops, cameras with facial recognition and predictive AI to heighten security, and unified communications to enable instant communication across the entire airport, technology is being used in ever-more complex and integral ways across the entire airport.
A good example of the thinking that is going into these smart airport designs is Dubai International Airport. One of the growing hubs of airport traffic and commerce across the world, Dubai needed a new datacentre to handle the growth in demand that operations were putting on its systems, and the expected jump in numbers of passengers from 83.6 million in 2016 to 118 million by 2025.
The airport selected the Huawei FusionModule 1000B prefabricated modular datacentre solution on the promise of a 99.98 percent availability and annual downtime of under 1.6 hours. As a prefabricated unit, the project could also be completed within 10 months, meeting Dubai Airport’s urgent need to upgrade their technology in a timely fashion.
Dubai International Airport then wasted no time in putting that technology to work in enabling a host of smart features within the facility, and because of the promise of near-complete availability, could use it as a platform to innovate on the airport’s critical processes.
Now, passengers can complete the immigration process within seconds thanks to the Smart Gate service. Additionally, electronic boarding passes, as well as electronic bag tags, allow passengers to track their baggage throughout the journey.
Another example is that :HUAWEI and Shenzhen Airport work together for the project of IATA's Future Airport, including the Airport Intelligent Integrated Operational Center, Smart navigation lights, Visualized ground service, E2E self-boarding by FaceID, etc.
How smart airports are being developed
The key principle behind smart airport design is in the creation of an “airport sensing layer” in which a blend of channels including eLTE, WiFi, and agile networks are used to enable Cloud-based unified communications, video, IoT, and big data platforms that blanket the entire airport.
This is important in establishing the real time management of airports, which has previously been a challenge. With the number of flights at most airports increasing, precision handling of time and scheduling has become ever-more critical, and without that blanket of technologies over the airport, it makes it difficult to monitor the entire airport in true real time.
AI is another critical technology innovation that is enabled through a Cloud-based smart airport solution. AI can be utilised for a wide range of applications, ranging from the basic (customer service) to the more mission critical; as airports fill up and scheduling becomes tighter, being able to apply predictive analytics to increase the operational efficiency on the airfield is a critical next step in keeping the airport running smoothly.
Finally, investing in smart technology means that airports will be better placed to handle the future development of regulation in their space. For example, on June 1, 2018, the IATA Resolution 753 came into effect.
This resolution was designed to reduce mishandling of luggage, and requires airports to track baggage at four separate key points – passenger handover, loading onto the aircraft, delivery to the transfer area, and the return to the passenger. Implementing the airport sensing layer is essential for airports to ensure they meet this news requirement in an efficient manner.
Airports are highly regulated spaces, and as locations that effectively function as small cities (both in terms of the number of people that pass through them, and what occurs within them), the logistics involved in managing them is complex and wide in scope.
Technology solutions, such as Huawei’s Smart Airport Visualized Operations Solution, are important in making sure that not only can the airport continue to score well on satisfaction surveys with customers, but it can meet its ever-changing and more technologically-driven regulatory requirements as well.