Advanced Technology Can Transform Your Airport Facility Management

May 17, 2022
Shifting towards advanced technology can result in benefits like maximized productivity, cost-efficiency and higher traveler satisfaction and loyalty.

Airports everywhere are still dealing with the operational disruptions caused by an unauthorized landing all the way back in 2019: coronavirus. While the arrival of COVID-19 may have resulted in far below average flight numbers, air travel demand is now steadily increasing. In 2021, more than 2 million people passed through TSA checkpoints on Dec. 16 — double the passenger volume on the same day in 2020 (AAA). This steep increase in passengers demands a substantial adjustment surrounding airport efficiency and technology.

As travel increases, airport leaders are under more pressure than ever to optimize efficiency and resource management, all while continuing to elevate the traveler experience to new heights of comfort, convenience and safety. Whether it’s implementing the latest cleaning technologies or utilizing data-driven insights to optimize facility management, shifting towards advanced technology can result in benefits like maximized productivity, cost-efficiency and higher traveler satisfaction and loyalty.

In 2022 and beyond, creating a more responsive airport starts with innovative technology offerings. Here are a number of technology solutions that airports can leverage data to optimize virtually all aspects of facility management and cleaning, resulting in measurable increases in quality and efficiency.

Market of IoT

Utilizing new forms of technology to offer data-backed solutions is becoming the norm for a multitude of industries. For airports, serving hundreds of thousands of travelers daily can result in the generation of millions of useful data points. The emerging integration of data, systems, IoT-connected tools, and mobile devices is creating new ways to detect data patterns that translate into actionable insights, make recommendations and detect potential problems before they occur. According to Deloitte Insights, IoT technology can help create airport advantages like enhanced operational efficiency, strategic differentiation and even help identify new non-aeronautical revenue streams.

From parking and departure to arrival and baggage claim, IoT can be applied to any of the different stages of a traveler’s journey. For airport restrooms, IoT is changing the game when it comes to efficient cleaning and attendant responsiveness. Features like IoT-equipped flush and urinal valves, faucet alerts for leaks and clogs, water usage monitoring and vacancy indicator lights all aid in a streamlined experience for travelers. Other aspects of airport operations, like retail revenue, luggage tracking and efficient terminal navigation can all be enhanced by IoT software.

Centralized Control Center

The information that airports routinely collect about arrivals, departures and passenger counts has become more important than ever considering increasing travel estimates and COVID-19 advisories. With dozens of platforms and IoT connected tools, the success of airport operations depends on efficient and organized technology systems. A centralized dashboard and control center helps create a single data source collected in one place to help airport teams make informed, longer range, less reactive decisions. Advantages of a centralized control center include ultra-efficient labor management, data-driven metrics to determine the macro effects of facility services and integrated predictive analytics. In addition, proactive trend identification like passenger forecasts and seasonal peak models help to build a predictive model ready to launch when passenger traffic surges. Without a centralized dashboard, the process of retrieving and analyzing data becomes confounding and disorganized. This process can take weeks or even months — causing costly and unacceptable delays when both passenger health and satisfaction is at stake.

Touchless Facility Offerings

With the coronavirus pandemic forever heightening the need (and want) for contactless technology, airports are beginning to respond to the increasing demand. Millions of travelers coming and going from airports daily makes the transportation hubs a prime target for bacteria and pathogen transmission. Helping travelers avoid pathogen-laden surfaces through offerings like touchless bathroom fixtures, soap dispensers and hand sanitizer dispensers can help decrease transmission, creating safer environments for occupants.

Ushering in a wave of touchless equipment upgrades can help create healthier, more efficient environments while putting your airport at the forefront of industry technology shifts. According to Airport Council International, 89% of airports plan to implement touchless check-in self-service initiatives by 2023. Other technologies like biometric facial recognition and thermal scanning operations (to identify individuals with possible fevers who may pose a health risk) are rising in popularity among the world’s top airports.

Smart Restrooms

Ensuring your airport’s restrooms are clean, well-stocked and functional can play a crucial role in the overall success of your business. Did you know (according to the ACI’s “Airport Service Quality: Airport Cleanliness” report) restroom cleanliness (combined with terminal cleanliness) affects overall passenger satisfaction more than any other single infrastructure factor? Did you also know that your own passengers are one of the best sources of real-time data around bathroom cleanliness? Technology can help gather immediate response restroom ratings from occupants. Tablets placed in restroom exits allow users to rate their experience as “exceptional,” “average” or “poor” by selecting a “happy,” “neutral” or “sad” face emoji. If the rating is “poor” then the occupant receives a series of options to share feedback, from cleanliness to a water leak. Restroom attendants then immediately receive an alert, resulting in fast response time and higher overall satisfaction ratings. Even if the initial unsatisfied user doesn’t see the solution in action after they leave, the restroom users after them will. The goal is to achieve maximum cleanliness with maximum efficiency without redundant cleaning intervals.

Other technologies, like autonomous floor scrubbers, attendant communication apps and automatic mobile alerts for equipment errors and malfunctions are leading the way toward a cleaner restroom experience. Certain smart restroom apps can go beyond scheduled cleaning to use data and technology to surge crews to specific gates and times to respond to a specific day’s air traffic.

Intelligent Platform for Airport Operations

Complex airport operations demand a suite of cutting-edge technology offerings optimized to streamline the passenger experience. Using a combination of artificial intelligence (AI), beacons and mobile devices, intelligent platforms can deliver more functionality than any other solution on the market. Beacon technology, a type of software that uses proximity technology to detect human presence nearby and trigger preset actions, optimizes work by demand instead of by resource allocation. Innovative beacon technologies help deliver real-time results like work order statuses, team member locations, audit results and other operational data.

Airport cleaning apps help prioritize real-time intelligence, with features allowing teams to schedule tasks, assign resources, reassign teams for urgent services and more. Real-time proximity data and AI drives airport cleaning efficiency, automatically dispatching the nearest team member to support emergent work orders.

Keeping your facilities up to date with the latest technologies is key in delivering efficient and healthy environments. Utilizing data and adopting innovations creates opportunities to elevate the traveler experience while optimizing operational efficiency, cost savings and resource management. It's clear that leading airports are investing in modernizing their airport facility operations to enhance passenger satisfaction in 2022 and beyond.

Mike Ostendorf is senior VP of Service Delivery with ABM.

About the Author

Mike Ostendorf | Senior VP of Service Delivery

Mike Ostendorf is senior VP of Service Delivery with ABM.