Airport upgrades: Baggage robots, biometric scanners, etc.

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TaxiBot International

Last year, Vice President Joe Biden compared New York’s LaGuardia Airport to a third World countries.

This may be a sad commentary on the current state of the country’s airport infrastructure, but they are improving. Facilities across the country and around the world are improving to meet the growing demands of modern air travel – and technology plays a central role.

According to SITA, 97% of passengers will carry a mobile device.

According to annual report 2014 According to SITA, a firm specializing in airport IT, 59% of airports surveyed ranked information technology and telecommunications (IT&T) as a high priority, and airport officials are funneling money in that direction. . Spas, salons and children’s play areas can be nice extras, but given that 97% of passengers carry mobile devices, amenities like Wi-Fi and charging stations are essential.

Airports also rely on technology to help them process passengers entering and exiting the airport, security and operations – the three main focus areas. These include RFID baggage handling, biometric scanners and self-service kiosks that handle check-in and baggage. Behind the scenes, improved telecommunications can help airport operations run more smoothly, and environmentally friendly technological features can make airports greener.

Here are some of these technologies that are invested in the future of air transport.

More self-service kiosks

If you traveled during the holidays, you may have encountered long lines to check in. To help reduce congestion, SITA says more and more airports are adding self-service check-in kiosks. Two out of five airports plan to increase their number, and 92% of airports will use them within three years; by 2017, 72% of passengers should use these kiosks. Additionally, many airports now allow passengers to self-tag their checked baggage; According to SITA, the number of unassisted bags will reach 62% in 2017.

airport self-check-in kiosk

McCarran International in Las Vegas is considered a model for airport self-service kiosks. It has already adopted a common-use system where a single kiosk serves multiple airlines, removing the need to check in to a specific area of ​​the terminal. Although you still have to go to an airline’s counter to drop off your bags, airports like McCarran are moving towards greater sharing of resources between airlines to maximize efficiency. This could mean sharing baggage services, counters, computer systems and even doors.

While airports will always need real people, there may be fewer as more passengers turn to self-service, if SITA’s projections are accurate.

More connectivity

Of course, savvy connected travelers are also using their mobile devices to check in even before arriving at the airport, among other air travel-related services. Airports are aware of this: according to SITA, more than 70% of the world’s top 50 airports are investing in cloud and geolocation-based technologies, as well as improved Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and RFID technologies. Emerging technologies like iBeacon, NFC and wearable devices are also explored. These technologies can help improve the transmission of information to passengers and airport staff, and potentially replace outdated wired infrastructure.

Many of the world’s largest airports are implementing cloud-based and location-based wireless technologies.

Last October, Miami International Airport became the first airport to use Apple’s iBeacon technology, which can deliver the most accurate information to passenger iPhones and iPads, such as delays, arrivals, boardings, etc With iBeacon, the airport can push a map of a passenger’s boarding area to their device after dropping off their baggage, for example. This personalized service is also used by American Airlines at Dallas-Fort Worth and Virgin Atlantic at London Heathrow.

Wi-Fi will also improve. boingo wirelessa major airport hotspot service provider, announced last year that it had launched Hotspot 2.0 at 21 US airports, including busy Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles International and New York Kennedy terminals. Hotspot 2.0 is promoted as a more secure network that allows easier connection.

The number of lost or misdirected bags has been halved. As airports become more connected, they can use RFID-based “smart baggage tags” that improve baggage management and tracking. So even if your bag doesn’t arrive in the carousel, these tags can help you locate it faster. Airports in Las Vegas, Hong Kong and Denmark have already implemented the technology.

Robots to the rescue

Last year, Indianapolis International Airport deployed the Double Robot to help with customer service. As they navigate the airport, passengers can ask for directions or other customer service-related questions (the robot actually connects passengers to a real human, who communicates via a connected tablet).

But robots are also used for operational efficiency. An aircraft towing system, called the TaxiBot, allows pilots to remotely pull the aircraft to and from a door from a cockpit. At Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, six robotic arms automatically load luggage onto trolleys while entertaining passengers who watch them work.

The coolest use might just be the robotic valet at Düsseldorf Airport, already one of the most high-tech airports in Germany. The robot automatically measures the size of a car and then moves it to a reserved parking space. He can even access a passenger’s return trip information, so he can get the car out and get it ready.

Faster boarding

We have already mentioned self-service kiosks, but Lufthansa also uses Speedy boarding automatic gates at several airports in Germany. For passengers with a special electronic ticket, the fast boarding gates allow them, as their name suggests, to board a plane faster than conventional means. Self-contained gates are also used at Changi in Singapore, Logan in Boston and McCarran in Las Vegas.

These gates are a component of a seamless journey, where passengers can take care of everything from check-in to boarding. In the future, passengers could, in theory, even get through security faster using biometrics and high-tech baggage scanners (although, with security being a major concern, we can’t see this happening anytime soon). so early). The aim is to enable efficient management of passengers as their numbers grow, with minimal staff required or repositioning of staff to handle more important things. This becomes crucial at an airport that cannot provide full services, such as the new low-cost terminal in Kuala Lumpur.

friendlier earth

Air travel undeniably has a heavy carbon footprint, but new designs and construction practices are helping airports become greener. San Francisco International’s Terminal 2 was the first to receive LEED Gold certification for energy efficiency and resource management. Indianapolis International claimed to have the world’s largest airport solar farm when it turned it on in December 2014, which can power up to 1,410 homes for a year. Dusseldorf has also installed solar panels to help generate energy for the airport. From San Diego to San Jose and Detroit, as new airports upgrade their facilities, they are keeping the environment in mind by reducing carbon emissions, utilizing natural light and minimizing energy waste.

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