Airports everywhere are becoming more connected. But when does the connected airline experience begin for a passenger? The moment you step inside the airport, or once you check-in, or once you board the aircraft? In reality, the experience begins at home as new technologies allow you to connect to a better travel experience before you leave and head to the airport.

Imagine, you’re rushing to the airport to catch a flight when the service you’ve subscribed to sends a text message. It’s letting you know there’s an accident ahead and provides an alternate route. It also lets you know that the parking garage you typically use is just about full and offers some other options. Because of the updates, you make it to the airport in time, jump on your flight and off you go.

“Sounds great, doesn’t it?”

While it may not be available today at your local airport, this type of solution, and others like it, are generating a lot of interest in the aviation community.

These technologies are part of a new set of solutions that focus on traffic, queue and flow management to enhance the passenger experience, optimize operations and improve revenue by using data to better understand passenger behavior before getting to – and once at – the airport.

<align=”center”>New technologies provide new capabilities

Tracking and flow management solutions have existed for some time, but technological limitations have slowed adoption. However, that’s changing. The percent of devices that can be tracked using Bluetooth, for example, is actually very low, so previous solutions did not provide as much value. But new capabilities, like indoor satellite and advanced sensor networks, are removing limitations and making these solutions more useful for airports, and passengers, alike.

And the value does not need to come from tracking an individual but rather from understanding the general behavior a person exhibits. For example, airports want to know that Person A was in security for 10 minutes, then stopped at a certain shop and then headed to the gate 45 minutes before departure.

New capabilities, like indoor satellite and advanced sensor networks, are removing limitations.

At some point in the future, airports may be able to identify an individual, but that’s likely to be subject to personal approval to opt in to a service, which will provide the passenger with a personalized service and other unique benefits, similar to the way a person may give up some of his or her privacy when using Google.

Optimizing operations

Technologies that measure traffic in real time, reporting volume, speed, lane occupancy, queue length and other information are very useful to an airport as well as to arriving and/or departing passengers. Systems that are continuously updated with the actual behavior of passengers enable airports to proactively address issues.

Inside the terminal, effective people flow management is critical to an airport’s core business. Extensive video systems, neural networks coupled with artificial intelligence and deep learning techniques and other technologies, enable airports to get real-time measurements and analytics of passenger behavior, predicted wait times, ongoing throughput levels and lane opening data, for example.

If predicted queue times at security are increasing, the head of security might receive a message to open a new line – eliminating issues before they become problems and increasing passenger satisfaction.

Understanding passenger analytics

Understanding where passengers dwell can provide unique insight for infrastructure decisions and also help maximize revenue. Understanding why people tend to congregate in this area versus that can impact how an airport designs, redesigns or builds new infrastructure.

How can it impact revenue? If an airport knows where its passengers dwell, it could, for example, charge different retail rates for different areas based on passenger behavior.

Likewise, an airport could control the content on its digital signage to determine the best placement for product advertising. It could mix and match advertising and track it so it can bill based on the demographics and the number of people who see it.

Combining data creates powerful insights for airports

While airports globally are looking at implementing a number of these solutions, the biggest value will come from integrating passenger analytical data with the operational data captured from existing airport systems, like Rockwell Collins’ ARINC airport operations, passenger processing and self-service systems.

This integration would provide a much more comprehensive data set and enable airports to understand every aspect of its passengers’ behavior. Most importantly, the data could be used to optimize operations and provide the services and facilities that it believes its customer wants.

The future connected airport

In the future, airports will be well served by looking at IT solutions that provide fully automated ways of understanding what passengers are doing throughout their journeys, from the moment they leave home until they board the plane.

Ultimately, understanding and using passenger behavior data and integrating it with operational data will be the key to unlocking the airport of the future.

About Anthony Chapman

Tony Chapman is a senior director of Product Management and Strategic Programs for Rockwell Collins, a leading provider of airport solutions globally.