Engineers Develop new Technologies 2020 they are on the rise for 2019. Here we highlight some of the hot topics that airports and airlines should keep an eye on in the year to come.
Biometrics – Pattern Unique to Aeronautics
Many Airlines are in partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), recently unveiled the first biometric terminal in the United States at ATL Terminal F.
Biometrics has become less of a buzzword and more of a reality in the past year with a number of initiatives coming to fruition and trials taking place across the world. Among the US airlines committed to exploring new and innovative ways to improve passenger processing and the customer experience through biometrics are Delta Air Lines and American Airlines. Delta, in partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), recently unveiled the first biometric terminal in the United States at ATL (Atlanta) Terminal F. Meanwhile, American Airlines has become the laster carrier to trial biometrics Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
A number of international airports, including the likes of Changi Airport, Heathrow Airport and Hong Kong International Airport have also launched major biometric-related projects that will play a crucial role in shaping the passenger experience for years to come. Considering the growth projections for Indian aviation, Bengaluru International Airport, the third biggest airport in the country in terms of passenger numbers, has also joined the club and is investing in biometrics to support the momentum of its growth. Looking ahead, in the first half of 2019, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is launching a trial of biometric technology at every stage of the passenger journey together with World Travel & Tourism Council, American Airlines, Hilton, and MSC Cruises. Elsewhere, Emirates is also gearing up to launch a so-called “biometric path”, which will offer its passengers a smooth and seamless airport journey at the airline’s Dubai International hub. At last year’s Future Travel Experience Global conference and exhibition, many are in favor of an ongoing effort to explore and define the future role of biometrics technology in travel. During 2019, it will be interesting to see how biometrics will bring the industry together to create the airport of tomorrow. https://bit.ly/2FAFsdj
Blockchain is to enable the exchange of value across digital channel without friction. Engineers estimate 34% of airports are planning blockchain research and development programs by 2021. One area in which airports see blockchain’s potential is the ability to help improve passenger identification processes, in part by reducing the need for multiple ID checks.
Engineers took another initiative, which took place in late 2017, we saw Geneva Airport, British Airways, Heathrow Airport, Miami International Airport and SITA Lab join forces in a collaborative project to explore if and how to blockchain technology can help to create a single source of truth for flight data. It is still early days for the technology, and its potential is sometimes over-hyped, but in 2019 we can expect more blockchain-related announcements and trials as airlines and airports continue to explore how it might be able to positively impact the industry.
Robotics & Autonomous Vehicles
Last year, Munich Airport teamed up with Lufthansa to trial Josie Pepper, a humanoid robot, developed by SoftBank Robotics, which provides information to passengers, using IBM Watson Internet of Things (IoT) cloud-based artificial intelligence technologies.Robots are becoming a more and more common sight in airport terminals. From Seoul to Seattle to Munich, the past few years have seen airports around the world adopting robotics to engage with customers and optimise efficiency.
Asian Airports are currently leading the way, with examples such as Incheon Airport’s Airstar Robot, Elsewhere in Europe, we saw Josie Pepper, Munich Aiport’s Humanoid Robot, come to life. Robotics could also have a big role to play in the baggage handling sphere. In fact, at Rotterdam The Hague Airport, autonomous baggage handling carts, or baggage robots, are already being trialled. Thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning, many of these robots have the ability to learn and expand their knowledge, so they can provide more relevant information to passengers and additional operational benefits to airports and airlines. So, as more airports adopt this trend, the technology will play a crucial part in strengthening the relationship between passengers and airports throughout 2019.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Working in collaboration with FieldBox.ai, a startup that focuses on industrial operations, data science and software engineering, Group ADP has developed a load prediction solution and predictive maintenance capabilities. Artificial intelligence is about far more than robots, though. A number of airlines and airports have already launched AI-powered products, such as chatbots and virtual assistants. The question now lies in whether this technology can further revolutionise customer service and optimise efficiency.
Group ADP, for instance, is one such company that is planning to further explore the potential of AI. We’re expecting to hear of more developments from Engineers in this space throughout the year as AI continues to gain further traction across the industry.
Engineers have developed Inflight VR’s “motion sickness-free” VR inflight entertainment solution has been tested by Iberia in its Premium Lounges at Madrid Airport and onboard select flights. With consumers becoming more accustomed to using virtual reality (VR) products such as Oculus, Google VR, and PlayStation VR, as well as augmented reality (AR) enabled smartphones, some airports and airlines have taken up the task to create more immersive experiences both in the terminal and in-flight.
Last year, Inflight VR claimed that it has become the first company to introduce a “motion sickness-free”, VR inflight entertainment (IFE) solution. The solution has been tested by Iberia in its Premium Lounges at Madrid Airport and onboard select flights. Clearly, a number of airlines see some potential in AR and VR, but the jury is still out as to whether the technologies will bring about entirely new forms of inflight and in-lounge entertainment that will stand the test of time.
Voice Technology – Power of the Voice
Virgin Australia has become the first airline outside of North America to launch voice check-in through Amazon Alexa, allowing passengers to check in for their flight with the power of their voice. Voice technology, or voice recognition technology, is becoming embedded in our everyday lives thanks to the likes of Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple’s Siri, and it’s slowly becoming the norm to casually interact with the technology.
In 2019, joining this trend were Heathrow Airport, which has empowered travelers to ask Alexa for live flight status information, gate updates and details on arrivals and departures, as well as Virgin Australia, which became the first airline outside of North America to launch voice check-in through Amazon Alexa. Recently it has been announced that United Airlines’ customers can now use Google Assistant to start the check-in process simply by saying “Hey Google, check in to my flight”.The potential here is huge and voice technology is likely to have a significant impact on the relationships between businesses and their customers – ranging from the way information is requested and shared to how payments are made. Indeed, we can expect that voice technology will have an important role to play in creating a frictionless, more personalized travel experience from home to gate.
In 2017, SITA and Airbus joined forces to develop the Security Operations Center (SOC) – a tailored, industry-wide response to cybersecurity – to provide airlines, airports and other air transport industry stakeholders with information about unusual cyber activity that may impact their business. Parallel to the ongoing digitalisation within the air transport industry, the number of cyber attacks on companies in the community continues to grow. Among the recent initiatives to strengthen cybersecurity include the opening of Munich Airport’s Information Security Hub, and Airbus and SITA’s Security Operations Center Services.
Cyber attacks are a very real threat, with the potential for huge knock-on effects in an industry as interwoven as the air transport industry. Layers upon layers of infrastructure could be impacted, with the consequence on global travel reverberating across the world. That is why the industry has placed such a high priority on cybersecurity to ensure that it stays one step ahead of a potential attack. It is essential for the industry to adopt a shared approach to tackling cybercrime, so it is to be expected that in the year ahead we will hear a lot more about how the sector is developing a far more unified approach.
Onboard Connectivity – More Airlines will Start to Realize the Financial Benefits
Wi-Fi service on wide-body fleet allows the airline to sell ancillary products and services through the free-to-access Nordic Sky portal.The number of airlines rolling out inflight connectivity (IFC) continues to rise. Last year’s Wi-Fi Report by Routehappy, showed that 82 airlines around the world now offer inflight Wi-Fi – a 17% increase. This is undoubtedly good news for passengers, who are becoming more and more dependent on connectivity. But beyond the obvious benefits for passengers also lies the potential for a strong financial driver for airlines.
It comes as no surprise consumers have become a big focus for the airline, as the trend shows that ancillary revenues are high on many flights around the word. Alipay is another application that is making efforts to localize the tone of voice of its marketing strategy, and enter local platforms such as WeChat. Improved onboard connectivity also opens new opportunities for partnerships with online streaming services, including the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime. While it might take a few more years for the benefits of the fully connected aircraft to be realized, we can expect 2019 to be a pivotal year for new partnerships in this space.
Houston Airports has partnered with technology company Aira to provide a more accessible passenger experience for blind and low vision travelers. Technological advancements are also helping to bring about a much-needed change in the way airlines and airports assists travellers with additional needs. Airports and technology companies around the world are already taking welcome action, for instance, an app has been released (developed by Neatebox), which allows passengers to personalize the assistance they require by setting up a profile and requesting assistance in advance of their travel. Several other airports including Houston, Seattle-Tacoma and Heathrow, are among the latest to join technology company Aira’s network, which strives to provide a more accessible passenger experience to blind and low vision travelers through smart glasses and an app. In 2019, we can expect more airports to join this trend as there is much urgency to make travel inclusive for all. https://bit.ly/2FAFsdj
Pioneering Commercial Partnerships – Food Delivery
DeliverooDXB, enabled passengers to get freshly-prepared food delivered straight to their boarding gates within minutes of ordering. As part of their efforts to find innovative ways to best serve passengers, airports are increasingly investing in strategic partnerships with some of today’s leading forces in retail and customer service. The unique concept – named DeliverooDXB – which was trialled at the airport, enabled passengers to get freshly-prepared food delivered straight to their boarding gates within minutes of ordering. One of the motivations was to explore a more practical side, as it could potentially help the airport overcome the fact that space for additional catering outlets is limited. Keeping a close eye on trends in technological and digital developments. https://bit.ly/2FAFsdj