The digital transformation of airports is taking off with biometrics and blockchain taking the technological lead

Data monetisation, product portfolio expansion, and diversification are key to exploiting emerging growth opportunities, according to an investigation by business consulting and market research specialist Frost & Sullivan. Its recent analysis, ‘Digital Transformation in Airports’, predicts that increased passenger traffic and global capacity constraints will drive airport IT spending to USD4.63 billion by 2023 as airports develop their digital transformation roadmap.


Summary:

  • New research from Frost & Sullivan highlights increased passenger traffic and global capacity constraints will drive airport IT spending to USD4.63 billion by 2023;
  • Biometrics and Blockchain are taking the lead in the technological change at airports, but analytics and artificial intelligence will also have key roles to play;
  • To meet demand Frost & Sullivan says airports  need to leverage emerging technologies and transition from “process centric to a passenger centric” model;
  • Further research shows infrastructure modernisation and digitalisation will fuel global air traffic management market growth to USD5.21 billion with VoIP, remote towers, predictive technologies, and automation systems igniting new growth opportunities.

The report finds that digital transformation in airports is creating growth opportunities across the globe with renewed commitment to infrastructure modernisation and expansion is creating what it describes as “a dynamic environment”. In Europe, airports are being motivated by physical infrastructure constraints, while Asia-Pacific airports are seen as being more open to innovation as a brand attribute and to enhance the airport experience.

In the words of Frost & Sullivan, key technologies driving the digital transformation process in the airport environment include:

  • Biometrics: Biometrics applications focus on border control, reducing bottlenecks by automating processes. The technology is now being introduced across all touchpoints, in the form of identity management for self-service kiosks, aiming to create seamless passenger journeys. In the future passengers will be submitting biometric data (enrolment) at the first airport touchpoint and will only need to verify their identity in all subsequent originating airport touchpoints, with the possibly to further extend this facility at destination airport touchpoints.
  • Blockchain: Blockchain technology, as a trusted network for storing biometric and other personal data, can be used to create secure and faster passenger journeys. Blockchain could also prove to be the catalyst for a truly collaborative airport environment, among airport stakeholders that today work in silos. Passengers may be willing to share even more data about themselves, in exchange for valued personalized services and products, while blockchain eliminates any security or privacy concerns.
  • Analytics: The data generated by various airport systems are collated and analysed to provide historic, real-time and forecasted data that will empower the operator to take proactive steps to deal with peak operational periods and disruptions.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already been used in narrow passenger-related applications, from chatbots to predicting preferences and recommending suitable products/services in the information and pre-travel stages of the passenger journey. It will be increasingly used in the e-commerce function of an airport, as well as in enabling operators to better manage airport spaces and allocating resources, according to optimized flow prediction models.

It is clear that current capacity constraints coupled with an unprecedented growth in aircraft and passenger traffic, as well as competition and the promise of new non-aeronautical revenue streams necessitate a transformation in airports’ value proposition and Renjit Benjamin, senior industry analyst, Frost & Sullivan says that this can easily be delivered “by leveraging emerging technologies and transitioning from a process centric to a passenger centric business model,”

He notes that among other growth opportunities, IT and airport system suppliers focus on data monetisation and predictive operations. At the same time, major suppliers are entering strategic partnerships and investing in innovative start-ups to fill capability gaps. Companies that specialise in big data analytics and cybersecurity are increasingly being targeted by incumbents.

“As airports transition to a data-driven infrastructure, there will be considerable investment in data analytics, storage, and security products and services. The industry will also witness the growth of end-to-end data platforms that consolidate airport functions and processes,” he adds.

Frost & Sullivan also claims infrastructure modernisation and digitalisation will fuel global air traffic management market growth to USD5.21 billion with VoIP, remote towers, predictive technologies, and automation systems igniting new growth opportunities. The company’s recent analysis, ‘Global Commercial Air Traffic Management (ATM) Market, Forecast to 2025’, finds that the need to address increasing air traffic in congested airspaces is driving digitalisation of ATM to handle flights efficiently and manage air traffic flow at airports.

“Modernisation programmes such as SESAR in Europe and NextGen in the US aim to optimise air traffic operations by upgrading systems and making them globally interoperable. This results in airspace capacity expansion and optimised flight paths for aircraft operators,” says Priyanka Chimakurthi, research analyst, aerospace and defence at Frost & Sullivan.

For participants to maintain long-term growth, Ms Chimakurthi recommends further investment in data and aftermarket strategies, openness towards collaboration, and continued product development through consistent investment in research and development. “Cybersecurity is a recurring theme and a hygiene factor across markets, including ATM; future success in connected aviation will be driven by cyber credentials,” she noted.