“From an IT perspective, that is just not the direction that the industry needs to go. It’s worth the time and money to really look at total life-cycle costs.
“One of the mistakes we make is a lack of focus on overarching airport goals — most of our IT master plans today start with the airport’s strategic plan. What are the airport’s goals and objectives for the departments, and how does IT roll into that, and support that?”
Many times technology does not get involved in a program until 30 percent design, and that’s far too late, relates Varwig. “We really need to be working with and be integrated with the architectural and civil components up front, to say, ‘Are there things we can do and offer through technology programs that would change the way we might be designing these spaces?’
“And there must be an adoption of an integrated planning approach in our industry ... not just integrated with the design team, but airport stakeholder integration as well.”
SITA’s John Powell comments, “What if you could increase your slot capacity by predicting arrival and departure times? What if you could improve on-time performance by allocating staff real-time via mobile devices so that you have the right people in the right place at the right time? What if you could improve your operational passenger flow and target retail based on actual passenger traffic flows, and not just through simulations?”
According to Powell, there are three trends coming together today that will make possible the intelligent airport setting within the next decade: mobility; self-service; and collaborative decisionmaking.
“Today, 66 percent of U.S. business travelers carry smart phones,” explains Powell. “And 70 percent of airports plan to offer mobile services by 2013. 4G and WiFi will provide permanent connectivity, and passengers will expect context-enriched applications when arriving at the airport.”
With regard to self service, Powell says 71 percent of passengers already use self-service check-in. Self bag-drop is already being used at airports outside of the U.S. “Self bag-check is coming, and so is self-boarding,” he adds.
According to Powell, the digital airport incorporates an integrated strategy that includes: a technology platform to enable process optimization; delivery of personal on context-aware services; mobility; and digitally flexible facility space and resources.
The digital airport will significantly increase terminal efficiency and utilize a shared passenger flow rather than an airline-specific passenger flow, relates Powell. “If you have the network connectivity and the infrastructure, you can flex your space based on what’s going on,” he says.
“What’s that mean for the terminal? My recommendation is to turn the terminal upside down; there’s a whole lot of wasted space upstairs in the ticketing lobby. Why not turn it upside down — put a ticket counter position per airline in the basement and take all that space upstairs and make it bag claim, meeters and greeters, retail — make it a destination experience.”