Today, the expectation is that airports and airlines will provide a frictionless and efficient passenger experience to their customers. Because of this, these organizations must take the proper steps to design the framework into their facilities that will support the necessary smart technology. Developing an information technology (IT) road map to identify the design and implementation efforts needed to acquire this smart framework is an effective way to keep invested technologies relevant, secure and scalable over the next several years.

Collecting Data in Smart Airports

As augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI) and biometric authentication (BA) capabilities continue to evolve, so will an airport’s opportunity to leverage the growing pools of data these systems produce. Data that is currently being utilized to optimize airport and airline operations, heighten public safety measures, and enhance the overall customer experience will continue to be used in new ways to improve the overall passenger experience. This is the future functionality of data collection in smart airports.

However, the volume of available interfaces and end-user data sets required to support this continued functionality is growing by the millisecond and will be driving the capabilities of an airport’s smart ecosystem. The health of that ecosystem — be it from a passenger or employee perspective — will be determined by the degree in which an airport has planned to securely integrate with a constantly changing digital world. Therefore, an organization must analyze its digital needs regularly to make sure that its IT road map continues to identify optimal timing for technology integration, infrastructure expansion, system support services, and training services for employees and external customers.

Using Existing Technology to Build an IT Road Map

Here’s an example: Airports that have properly invested in a budgeted beacon technology program at security checkpoints can extend this solution to cover curbside, ticketing, bag claim, concourse and gate areas. This geospatial functionality will identify individual passenger flow from advanced ticket check-in to the point of departure.

Now, combine this AR data offering with mobile smart paging and biometric authentication, and passengers will be provided a properly calculated, nonintrusive travel experience designed to optimize travel time, improve passenger flow and enhance public safety awareness. This is how just one small piece of a complex puzzle can be fully developed into an organization’s smart IT road map.

Using modern passenger flow technologies in this way vastly improves the efficiencies of an airport’s gate management process. With this technology, airlines can optimize the aircraft pushback processes. The data presented to an airline’s management team can create a safer environment and reduce operational costs related to mechanical maintenance and airline fueling, resulting in shortened aircraft turnover times, ultimately benefiting the airline, airport and passengers. 

Finding Value in IT Ecosystems

Of course, these efficiencies can only be achieved by properly investing in an IT ecosystem capable of supporting existing and emerging technologies. Many airports are investing heavily in off-premises solutions, allowing them to build scalable infrastructure for data collection and analysis as their needs grow. This is made possible by the dissipation of the historical deterrents such as upfront investment costs and system vulnerability concerns.

With these deterrents minimized, airports and airlines are thrusting forward with robust off-premises solutions that take advantage of AI, AR and BA technologies. The return on these investments continues to increase due to the heightened level of digital transformation offerings available to the aviation industry today. A well-defined smart IT road map will support these organizations in making their smart technology initiatives more strategic and resilient.


The use of machine learning and generative design is the next wave of integrating smart technologies into airport design. 

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Renju (Ren) Abraham is a project manager with more than 15 years of experience. He has worked as a civil engineer on aviation and airfield projects across the United States and has a master's degree in civil engineering with an emphasis on airport engineering.