How Smart Airports use the IoT to improve Passenger Experience

As flying is becoming cheaper every year, passenger traffic at airports is increasing - and airport operators are struggling to cope with these masses. The Internet of Things is the only solution to not only manage an airport efficiently but also to enhance the passenger experience.

According to the Airports Council International, Atlanta International Airport remains the most frequented airport worldwide with about 100 million passengers per year. Just for comparison: This is as much as all airports in Germany serve together. Talking about figures: 275,000 passengers a day in Atlanta are guided through more than 200 gates at the 6.8 million square feet terminal complex. Not to mention 263 concession outlets including food and beverage, retail and convenience, duty-free and banking locations. In 2015, Atlanta also had to handle 626,000 metric tons of cargo from 18 cargo airlines – all on a total airport area of 1,900 hectares.

Smart airport management system

Now, imagine the coordination effort needed to ensure a smooth operation: Only a smart airport management system can efficiently deal with passengers, airport stakeholders, baggage and cargo. The Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication help to improve efficiency and provide real time information where it’s necessary. The heart of the airport management system is a central database where all data from sensors at gates, passengers’ smartphones and electronic baggage tags are combined with flight information from airlines. If this data were available for personnel, customers and passengers, a wide variety of benefits would be possible.
An eye on the passenger’s experience

Using data from gates and doors and combining it with an intelligent video processing system, the airport can monitor volume, flow patterns, speed and density of the passenger movements through the different terminal areas. Based on this information, the airport control can react on overcrowding and for example open up additional security lanes.

M2M also helps to optimize the passenger’s journey between entry and departure gate. A smart Flight Information Display System, invented by T-Systems at Köln Bonn Airport, shows current flight data in real time on all public displays and the traffic control center monitors. The information is also available on the Internet for passengers.

Or just make the traveler a customer: The airline informs passengers and airport shops about a flight delay and the expected waiting time. A restaurant near the departure gate automatically sends a voucher for a free coffee to the waiting passenger’s smartphone app, adding log-in details for its WiFi hotspot.

Clever suitcases for a smarter check-in

One of the annoying bottlenecks at an airport is the baggage check-in. Even if you checked in your suitcase online before the flight, you still have to wait in a queue because of the inefficient and time-consuming process of printing out a paper baggage tag. Suitcase manufacturer Rimowa found a solution: Together with T-Systems and Airbus they invented the “Electronic Tag”. It’s a module with a display that is permanently installed in the suitcase. When you check in your flight via the airline’s app, the flight information is automatically transmitted to the Electronic Tag via Bluetooth and shown on the display – it looks just like the standard tag. Now you can drop off your suitcase without queuing.
There are further features conceivable: Equipped with an integrated scale and an RFID tag, your suitcase could even tell you how heavy it is. Or, with additional GPS, such a module could let you track your baggage. To improve the passenger’s experience arriving at the end of his trip, airports could tell passengers waiting at the baggage belt where exactly their suitcase is at the moment and how long they will have to wait for it.

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