by Divina Paredes

Airports view digital transformation as most important programme

Jun 17, 2018

The future airport will be data-centricRenjit Benjamin, Frost Sullivan.

Increased passenger traffic and global capacity constraints will drive airport IT spending to US$4.63 billion by 2023, reports Frost Sullivan.

Airports are developing their digital transformation roadmap in line with strategic planning activities to address key performance indicators across all areas of the airport operation, according to the research firm.

Digital transformation in airports is creating growth opportunities across the globe with renewed commitment to infrastructure modernisation and expansion creating a dynamic environment, says Frost Sullivan in its report on Digital Transformation in Airports.

According to Frost Sullivan, the majority of airports in the Asia Pacific region consider digital transformation as their most important airport programme.

The latter is divided into multiple digital projects and initiatives, it states.

IoT based systems and platforms, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity will be important technology themes in the next five to 10 years in the region, according to Frost Sullivan.

On-Time Performance (OTP) and passenger satisfaction are also key focus areas, with airports in the Asia Pacific investing more in technologies that help to reduce flight delay, enhance the passenger journey and strengthen airport security.

While larger and busier airports in the region aim to achieve airport digitalisation within three years, medium-sized hub and point-to-point airports average five years with a majority of airports at the initial stages of their digital initiative, says Frost Sullivan.

Renjit Benjamin, senior industry analyst, Frost Sullivan

As airports transition to a data-driven infrastructure, there will be considerable investment in data analytics, storage, and security products and services

Asia Pacific airports also place high priority on the following:

Airside technologies: The goal is to reduce flight delay, enhance safety and initiate collaboration among numerous stakeholders. Key technologies include digitalisation of ATC, surface movement surveillance and airside lighting.

Display systems: Enhance passenger wayfinding and journey through the airport. Key technologies include digital signage and wayfinding.

Passenger flow management: Queue management, passenger counting and measurement, flow management; location-based services(Indoor wayfinding, smartphone applications, passenger localisation, e-commerce); baggage tracking solutions; and business intelligence and analytics platforms.

The airport of the future

“The future airport will be data-centric; airports will migrate to an ecosystem where data collaboration among stakeholders will be efficient, systems will be interoperable and passengers will have greater control over their journey through personalisation,” says

The digital transformation focus differs across regions, the report states.

In Europe, airports are motivated to invest in digitalising operations due to physical infrastructure constraints, while Asia-Pacific airports are seen as more open to innovation as a brand attribute and to enhance the airport experience.

However, many airports endeavour to develop solutions in-house with local expertise and partnerships.

Technologies driving the digital transformation process in the airport environment include:

  • Biometrics: The applications focus on border control, reducing bottlenecks by automating processes. The technology is now being introduced across all touchpoints, in the form of identity management for self-service kiosks, aiming to create seamless passenger journeys. In the future passengers will be submitting biometric data (enrollment) at the first airport touchpoint and will only need to verify their identity in all subsequent originating airport touchpoints, with the possibly to further extend this facility at destination airport touchpoints.

  • Blockchain: As a trusted network for storing biometric and other personal data, blockchain can be used to create secure and faster passenger journeys. Blockchain could also prove to be the catalyst for a truly collaborative airport environment, among airport stakeholders that today work in silos. Passengers may be willing to share even more data about themselves, in exchange for valued personalized services and products, while blockchain eliminates any security or privacy concerns.

  • Analytics: The data generated by various airport systems are collated and analysed to provide historic, real-time and forecasted data that will empower the operator to take proactive steps to deal with peak operational periods and disruptions.

  • Artificial Intelligence: AI is already been used in narrow passenger-related applications, from chatbots to predicting preferences and recommending suitable products/services in the information and pre-travel stages of the passenger journey. It will be increasingly used in the e-commerce function of an airport, as well as in enabling operators to better manage airport spaces and allocating resources, according to optimized flow prediction models.

“Capacity constraints coupled with unprecedented growth in aircraft and passenger traffic, as well as competition and the promise of new non-aeronautical revenue streams necessitate a transformation in airports’ value proposition, by leveraging emerging technologies and transitioning from a process centric to a passenger centric business model,” says Benjamin.

Benjamin further notes that among other growth opportunities, IT and airport system suppliers focus on data monetisation and predictive operations.

At the same time, major suppliers are forging strategic partnerships and investing in innovative startups to fill capability gaps.

Companies that specialise in big data analytics and cybersecurity are increasingly being targeted by incumbents, he says.

“As airports transition to a data-driven infrastructure, there will be considerable investment in data analytics, storage, and security products and services.

“The industry will also witness the growth of end-to-end data platforms that consolidate airport functions and processes.”

Technologies such as biometrics, blockchain, big data and analytics, intelligent automation, disruption management, operation control centers, and self-service solutions are emerging as key digital transformation tools.

The integration of digital technologies with airport processes confers several advantages. However, factors such as resistance to change, cost of implementation, disruption of services and weak business case relevance hinders implementation, the report states.

With the proliferation of niche technology developers, suppliers now have the opportunity to form revenue sharing partnerships that enable them to focus on their strengths, while integrating new technology with hardware.

Market consolidation at the top tiers will focus on providing end-to-end services, the report states.

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