Airport of the future: From vision to reality

Airplane Future

Imagine never missing a flight again. Imagine a connected world where location services can determine that you may have lost track of time and are eating lunch a short three-minute walk from the departure gate. The airline is now able to track you and alert you personally that there’s still time to make the flight.

At the airport of the future, smart airports are also connected with smart cities. So not long after booking a flight, the passenger receives an online brochure from the city she plans to visit outlining all the special activities going on during her stay.

And before she leaves the morning of the flight, our passenger gets an alert from the airport that because of heavy traffic there are no spaces in the parking garage. She then decides that driving doesn’t make sense anyway because she will be away for a week and wants to save money on long-term parking, so she orders an Uber. On the way to the airport, she gets an alert that there’s a backup at TSA and she may miss her flight. The airline then recommends she take the next flight, or if she’s a frequent traveler, empowers her with options to better solve the specific impact to her travel plans.

Recognizing she will only have a half-hour stayover for her connecting flight, our passenger pre-orders a sandwich from one of the airport’s restaurants, food that will be prepared ahead of time and ready for her to take on the connecting flight.

Airport as hub

Think of the airport of the future as a centralized hub that, when connected with smart cities, will enable all the major stakeholders to offer personalized services that create an enhanced passenger experience. Here are three technologies that will help deliver this vision:

  1. Analytics – Today, passengers have to work too hard to book flights and car and hotel reservations. In the past, technology people wrote applications that followed a step-by-step process. Airlines have to learn from the way Amazon uses analytics. Instead of having customers struggle to figure out the best flight and combination of services, the industry needs to move to an automated model in which, based on past purchases, the system lists three possible personalized travel itineraries in ranked order.
  2. Industrial machine learning – With industrial machine learning (IML), DXC Technology created algorithms that automate logistics planning and optimize stock inventory. IML integrates data from a variety of sources. So whether it’s rebooking tickets or making sure bags reach customers on time, transportation companies can deliver richer, more satisfying travel experiences.
  3. IoT – A series of Internet-connected devices across the entire airport’s platform will enable this new service-based model. IoT devices now tell us when a refrigerator shuts down at a grocery store, generating an automated service request for a technician to fix the problem. That’s the direction the transportation industry needs to move toward.

Connecting to smart cities

All of this can happen when airports develop fully digital systems that connect to a smart city infrastructure. Too often travel becomes inefficient and confusing when digital technology works alongside the older, legacy technology. In contrast, fully digital systems can run the gamut, from deploying mobile tracking solutions to using analytics to improve warehouse fulfillment.

So just imagine an airport where all the players — airlines, retail establishments, hotels, rental car outlets and cargo companies — are integrated with a smart city infrastructure that delivers services precisely when passengers need them. By making the passenger the focus, transportation companies can extend their brands in new and exciting ways as they build the airport of the future.

This is the first in a series of posts about the airport of the future.

Michael S. Deittrick was chief technology officer for travel and transportation at DXC Technology. He left the company in February 2018. A thought leader in digital enterprise transformation and business outcome enablement strategies, he is responsible for enterprise solution development and digital strategy for the travel and transportation sector. Mike focuses on the “why” of technology to derive greater business outcomes for his customers. He is the original media geek, having worked on consumer media and technology convergence strategies in the mid- to late 1990s with the MIT Media Lab and Cyberworks (IPG-Campbell-Ewald).


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