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The road to recovery for airports starts at the intersection of health and security, writes Johnson Controls’ Ramsey Nuwar.

Although it might not seem like it at the moment, the air travel industry can expect a strong rebound in passenger volumes this year, with a recent study finding that 70% of those surveyed plan to take a vacation in 2021.

This projected uptick means that airport operators must be prepared to welcome and manage these passengers while prioritising measurable health, safety and efficiency.

Through the strategic, enterprise-wide integration of building technology and processes, and by leveraging new partnership and funding opportunities, airport administrators can create a smart, safe and secure airport that can handle the incoming influx of passengers and remain prepared for any future requirements.

First steps in creating the modern, safe and healthy airport

Getting started on infrastructure improvements to facilitate a healthier and safer passenger experience can be daunting, especially as administrators and facility managers’ time and budgets are already stretched thin.

To streamline the process and keep the project goal-focused, airports can work with a technology partner experienced in digital transformation to support the planning, design and implementation of all technology to create healthier, safer buildings.

Early engagement with solution providers is critical to ensure technology is deployed and integrated in an orderly manner, reducing risk, construction and operation costs, and the overall project timeline.

Because the process requires more than just installing a few sensors or smart applications, airport operators should seek out experts who have experience assessing an airport’s risk and unique safety and security needs.

A trustworthy partner will help identify and clarify priorities and strategy, ensuring customised solutions that fit both operational requirements and budget.

Getting a clear definition of the desired business outcomes supports a holistic approach that looks beyond the physical infrastructure to examine the existing systems within the facility and how they are integrated, identifying the systems investment necessary to ensure readiness for future technologies while protecting the existing investment.

Once they’ve engaged a technology partner, airport administrators can begin transitioning their facilities into healthy buildings.

Digital technologies that protect occupant wellbeing by reinforcing healthy behaviours, monitoring for anomalous symptoms, and facilitating touchless experiences are all part of today’s healthy airport.

Solutions should also include real-time information related to the health of the airport facilities and their sanitisation status.

The best way to connect and optimise these solutions through a single interface is by leveraging a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution. By integrating healthy airport solutions through a cloud-enabled SaaS product, facility managers can gain in-depth insight into their buildings’ overall health status, allowing them to optimise systems when needed and achieve their physical and digital goals.

Of course, these state-of-the-art improvements don’t come free. With non-aeronautical airport revenue at an all-time low, many airports’ budgets are already reduced, leaving many operators searching for available funds to make these updates.

By leveraging alternative funding solutions, such as performance contracting and Buildings as a Service (BaaS) funding, airports can realise rapid ROI while achieving business goals.

Integrating safety and security technologies for greater outcomes

To mitigate increasingly sophisticated security and safety threats, airport administrators must leverage the latest technologies to more quickly detect and identify significant threats.

Security as a Service solutions inform Security Operations Centre (SOC) teams of threats and calculate risk scores for assets in near real-time, constantly ingesting, correlating and filtering threat event data from multiple data sources.

Risk scores are consistently calculated for life-safety, asset protection and business continuity, helping prioritise a security focus and response while automating threat impact assessments to simplify the monitoring experience for SOC teams.

Non-aeronautical revenue can be a significant component of overall airport profits, so safety and security can have an incredible impact on the bottom line, as passengers are more likely to spend when they aren’t distracted by safety and health concerns.

To increase traveller time spent at in-airport stores, airport leaders should enhance the efficiency and security of passenger processing. This can be achieved by integrating biometrics and touch-free technology with other airport authentication solutions used for check-in, bag-drop, security, immigration and boarding.

Additionally, airport operators can leverage AI-powered monitoring technologies to assess both security and public health threats, from elevated skin temperature (indicative of fever), to social distancing non-compliance, to concealed weapons.

With efficient passenger processing and upgraded, connected technologies, airport leaders can bolster security, reduce passenger wait-times and boost operational and financial performance.

Powerful data management to identify all risks and opportunities

When creating a healthy airport, it’s crucial to have access to building data that merges the physical and digital aspects of a building and gives facility managers insight into the overall health and safety of the space.

By constantly collecting and interpreting actionable data, facility managers can be empowered to make informed decisions. Powerful data automation also minimises the possibility for human error.

Whether this data includes indoor air quality rates or occupant traffic flow information, strategic data management allows facility managers to assess and address risk factors, identifying patterns and any anomalous activity.

A true healthy building ultimately needs to be maintained through active monitoring fused with intelligent data management, allowing managers to measure against their desired KPIs to establish long-term success.

Of course, when data is involved – especially vulnerable and sensitive data generated by an airport – cybersecurity is always a concern. By working with a trusted technology provider who can identify areas that require greater defence, airports can mitigate the risk of cybersecurity and better protect their passengers, employees and revenue.

Building public trust in the new healthy airport

Airports are at a turning point, as is the aviation industry at large. Airport operators are now tasked with providing returning passengers with an even healthier, safer and more efficient airport experience to inspire confidence and build back public trust.

By partnering with an experienced technology provider and thoughtfully installing and integrating building technologies that merge physical solutions with digital capabilities, airports can usher in a new era of safe and healthy air travel.

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