Hamad International Airport’s senior vice president for technology and innovation, Suhail Kadri, discusses his gateway’s IT strategy.
What is your airport’s philosophy/strategy when it comes to the trial and introduction of new technology?
We are committed to harnessing the power of digital innovation and technology to deliver the passenger experience and operations of a true ‘airport of the future’.
Hamad International Airport has been almost relentless in trialling and introducing innovative solutions that provide passengers with a holistic, smooth and effortless airport experience and potentially enable the transformation of operations.
Any new technology HIA trials has to first, and foremost, be a candidate for addressing a specific business opportunity or a challenge that has been identified by our organisation in order to meet our tactical or strategic objectives. It is then trialled methodically to ensure that it delivers the desired business outcome and value. Our approach, and dedication, has allowed us to set numerous benchmarks for the aviation industry.
We also put passengers at the heart of this strategy, prioritising their emotional wellbeing and understanding the travel-related anxieties induced during these unprecedented times.
What are your key focus areas for new IT?
The comfort and security of passengers sits at the centre of HIA’s strategy and operations and this passenger-centric approach helps ensure that our technology investments offer solutions that accommodate their best interests. We are always exploring the latest technologies to improve overall airport efficiency while leading by example when it comes to innovating the passenger experience.
Has Hamad’s IT innovation extended to its response to COVID-19?
HIA has made great strides in adapting to the ‘new normal’ shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic and implemented a variety of new IT driven measures focusing on detection, prevention and sanitisation.
On the detection front, HIA swiftly acquired thermal imaging cameras and placed them at all passenger and staff entry points at the airport to detect elevated body temperature and manage as per defined protocols.
Going one step further, we also acquired Smart Screening Helmets for random monitoring. This is a portable, safe and effective tool that enables contactless temperature measurements through the use of infrared thermal imaging, artificial intelligence and augmented reality.
Given that the pandemic is affecting different areas of the world with varying intensities, we have also been focusing on how best to prevent the propagation of the virus as people from around the world come across each other and our employees at HIA. For example, the airport has introduced a face mask detection system which utilises artificial intelligence and computer vision technologies to automatically detect if passengers/staff are wearing masks at key entry points. This innovative solution was developed and deployed fully in-house within four weeks before commercial products appeared on the market.
The C2 security screening technology at the transfer security checkpoint allows us to screen cabin baggage without the need for passengers to divest their electronic devices, a process that also reduces the risk of cross-contamination.
On the sanitisation front, HIA has invested in disinfectant robots as well, which are fully autonomous mobile devices emitting concentrated UV-C light, used to reduce the spread of pathogens across the terminal. Similar technology is being used to disinfect baggage trays at security checkpoints, as well as elevators and escalators.
Where are the world’s airports going in terms of new technology?
The global trend is that passengers want a more streamlined and automated airport experience. We will undoubtedly see the role of biometrics, cloud and touchless technologies rising in the future of the aviation industry and become the basis of new experiences that will also include wearables, machine
learning and artificial intelligence.
In due course biometrics and blockchain will completely revolutionise the travel experience as we know it and hopefully replace paper based identity and travel/heath credentials.