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Technology matters


Airport World editor, Joe Bates, turns the spotlight on some innovative and pioneering IT projects across the globe.

Denmark’s capital city gateway, Copenhagen Airport (CPH), is to form its own IT company to sell digital services to airports worldwide.

Operator, Copenhagen Airports, has joined forces with Netcompany to form Smarter Airports A/S, which it says will be 100% dedicated to developing a new, market-leading digital platform for the efficient and sustainable operation of the airports of the future.

Once the solution has been implemented at Copenhagen Airport, the plan is to sell the system to airports worldwide.

Netcompany and CPH are prepared to invest a combined DKK200 million to get Smarter Airports A/S up and running and note that the company will finalise the development of its new digital, data-driven platform over the next 12 months.

“Notwithstanding the deep crisis currently facing the aviation industry, we need to replace the soon to be outdated IT system currently used to control traffic flows and support the passenger experience,” comments Thomas Woldbye, group CEO at Copenhagen Airports.

“This partnership enables us to combine our know-how and Netcompany’s competencies for the purpose of developing an innovative IT system able to meet the requirements of tomorrow for efficient and sustainable airport operations.

“Combining the best of the two Danish companies and sharing development costs, we have the chance to subsequently turn the system into a genuine export success by selling it to major airports worldwide.

“This is not only a good idea, it’s also good business, and on top of that, the project is in line with one of our strategic focus areas: To identify new revenue streams based on our existing strengths so we can continue the sustainable transition of the airport.”

Smart Travel solutions in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi International Airport is trialling a new enhanced ‘Smart Travel’ system, which it is confident will “shorten queues and streamline processes throughout the airport to deliver a smoother and more seamless passenger experience”.

Developed by airport operator, Abu Dhabi Airports, in partnership with ConvergentAI and powered by artificial intelligence (AI), the new system is said to utilise big data, AI, and the rigorous modelling and assessment of passenger traffic to optimise a variety of processes across Abu Dhabi International Airport from check-in and immigration counter staffing to passenger arrival and departure times.

As part of the ongoing trial, select passengers travelling with Etihad Airways will be informed of the optimal time for them to arrive at Abu Dhabi International Airport. According to the airport, by staggering passenger arrivals, the new system will mitigate crowding, facilitate social distancing, and shorten queues.

And perhaps crucially, overtime, the AI-powered system is expected to become smarter and more capable of further streamlining passenger journeys through the airport.

The gateway’s chief information officer, John Barton, notes: “Minimising queuing at airports is key to safeguarding the health and wellbeing of travellers and streamlining operations, which is why we are working with our airline partners and ConvergentAI to precisely model our passengers’ journeys and improve them at every step.

“By enabling passengers to quickly and seamlessly transition through check-in, immigration and boarding, we are providing them with more time to enjoy everything Abu Dhabi International Airport has to offer, from first-rate dining to superior duty free offerings.”

Barton adds that the introduction of AI technology at Abu Dhabi International Airport is also benefiting airlines, retailers, and employees working at the airport in a variety of ways.

Through using AI to monitor real-time imagery of aircraft, for example, special programmes are being developed to guide on-ground teams to complete certain actions, such as the unloading of luggage or the refuelling of an aircraft at optimal times.

Abu Dhabi International Airport is also exploring the integration of AI into its safety and security systems, enabling the automated monitoring of camera feeds of the airport apron, the area in which aircraft manoeuvre and park.

AI equipped systems, it points out, can be taught to detect irregular activity or objects and notify the relevant teams to address potential issues swiftly and efficiently.

Lyon-Saint Exupéry unveils next generation of travel assistant
Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport has inaugurated a new biometric enabled travel assistant called Mona that it believes will revolutionise airport journeys by ensuring touchless travel from baggage
drop off to boarding for passengers downloading the free app on their smartphones.

VINCI Airports is confident that Mona – developed at its Centre of Excellence for Innovation based at Lyon-Saint Exupéry – is the first app of its kind in the world as it effectively makes it possible for users to make a biometric journey from home to the plane.

In addition to providing information about flights and the passenger journey in real time, Mona is also able to offer users a number of personalised services and experiences, developed in partnership with airlines and retailers at the airport.

Mona is currently undergoing a one-year trial at Lyon-Saint Exupéry for passengers flying to Portugal with Transavia (Porto) and TAP Air Portugal (Lisbon).

Nicolas Notebaert, CEO of VINCI Concessions and president of VINCI Airports, says: “With Mona, VINCI Airports is launching a world first that adds a new dimension to the airport experience.

“At a time when contactless technology is proving increasingly important and personalisation is becoming the norm, our network once again proves it is able to continuously reinvent itself.”

Doha’s infra-red touchless technology
Doha’s Hamad International Airport is trialling new check-in kiosks that use infra-red technology to detect passengers’ fingerprints and therefore eliminate the need to touch any screens.

The kiosks – which utilise happyhover and SITA Mobile Solution technology and also offer passengers the option to use their mobile phones to control the kiosk screen – are being trialled for contactless self-check-in and baggage drop.

Qatar’s gateway to the world says that the introduction of these advanced smart solutions is part of its ongoing efforts to safeguard its staff and passengers from COVID-19. Passengers can simply scan QR codes that will connect their mobile phone via Wi-Fi to the SITA remote control app. The app will display a touch-pad which the passenger can use to remotely control the mouse pointer on the kiosk screen.

It also features a keyboard that passengers can use to type on the kiosk screen without touching it.

Hamad’s senior vice president for technology and innovation, Suhail Kadri, says: “We are continually looking for solutions that aid the wellbeing of our passengers and employees.

“Our solution ensures passenger comfort and peace of mind with their intuitive user experience, allowing a range of inputs and gestures.

“The introduction of these technologies at Hamad not only fits well within our strategy of frictionless travel as a leading global digital airport but also reaffirms our commitment to
rebuilding passenger trust in travelling through Hamad International Airport.”

ATL’s touchless feedback technology
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) has introduced touchless technology that allows passengers to record their satisfaction levels at the world’s busiest gateway without the need to press any buttons or screens.

The new technology from Avius has also been launched at LEGOLAND Florida as the operators of the airport and the theme park search for ways to keep their guests safe.

According to its inventors, ‘Gestures’ provides a fast and easy touchless way to gather information from experience feedback surveys so businesses can ensure they are meeting and exceeding expectations for customers and their employees.

“As the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson implemented a cutting-edge restroom data collection technology to improve operations and the overall satisfaction of our passengers,” notes ATL’s airport director/customer experience, Steve Mayers.

“In today’s COVID environment we recognise that touchless technology is critical, and we are confident that passengers will feel comfortable using Avius Gestures to provide their
important feedback.

“This will enable us to maintain a laser focus on our passengers’ health and safety, which is currently our top priority.”

To engage with Gestures, customers simply stand in front of a kiosk terminal, show a thumbs up for a good experience or a thumbs down to report a not so positive experience. An animation and sound will notify that the response has been successfully recorded.

In addition to singular questions, it can also be used for a series of yes/no questions. Avius assures that it has also taken strict measures to protect privacy, such as not storing any images or
results on the device.

The real-time software allows businesses to instantly review data and in turn, immediately resolve an issue before it becomes a problem, and further improve the overall customer experience.

Hyderabad’s smart baggage trolleys
Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport has become the first airport in India to deploy Internet of Things (IoT) enabled smart baggage trolleys that allow operator, GHIAL, to track them in real-time and ensure that there is always enough available to meet demand.

The airport has deployed a LoRa (Long Range) IOT platform for its entire fleet of 3,000 baggage trolleys and is confident that with this technology in place, there will be a substantial reduction in passenger wait time for baggage trolleys.

The airport also notes that an inbuilt security mechanism alerts it when trolleys leave their dedicated zones, notifying operators of their exact location so that they can be retrieved before they are potentially taken off site.

GMR Airports’ executive director – south and chief innovation officer, SGK Kishore, said: “We are revolutionising the way baggage trolleys are managed with the adoption of IoT as a smart and intelligent solution to help enhance the passenger experience and also enable smooth operations and inventory management.”

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