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The airport of the future

05 December 2016

Airport Parking & Hotels (APH) has a vision for the airport of the future with self-service technology driving a radical change.

Image courtesy of APH

Queuing is one of the things people hate about travelling. Check-in, baggage drop-off, security and border control – modern airports have a lots of queues. However, APH has a vision that sees airports doing away with queues and making boarding a plane as a simple as boarding a bus.

Already airports are seeing the introduction of technology like facial recognition, molecular scans and artificial intelligence driving the new generation of self-service air travel.

Beverley Barden, APH said “first and foremost, airport innovation is focused on offering efficiency; travellers are looking for a remarkable experience before they’ve even boarded the plane, and simplicity throughout the check-in process is paramount to achieving this”.

Here are some of APH’s visions for the future airport:

Automated check-in

Staffed check-in desks are expected to be phased out as passengers check-in online or via a self-service desk. Information such as flight times and delays can be send automatically to smartphones and tablets. 

Once checked in, passengers are issued with a biometric token that serves as passport, boarding pass and ID for the journey. It doesn’t have to be a physical object – it can be uploaded to smart devices.

Bag collection and tracking

On arrival, passengers drop bags off as selected drop-off points connected to a high-speed conveyor belt. Embedded chips within the luggage track the bags by radio frequency and send smartphone notifications when they are ready for collection from the carousel. 

Drop-off points can be found in the airport car park, train station, restaurants or coffee shops – some airlines could even offer this service straight from home or hotels.

Laser molecular body scanners

These scanners are effective from distances of 164ft and can detect contraband or dangerous chemicals in clothing or luggage without the need for a physical search.

Unlike x-ray scanners, these devices provide feedback on a molecular level, making them ideal for detecting small quantities of high-risk material. Other types of scanners can read body language to flag up suspicious behaviour or alternatively alert staff to any passengers who need help. 

Image courtesy of APH

Biometric scanners

As part of the check-in process, passengers will be scanned for biometric identifiers like facial features, iris patterns and fingerprints to verify identities. This information can then be shared with immigration and security officials to streamline the arrival and departure process.

This technology is already being trialled at Heathrow and Schiphol and could be used to track passengers throughout their airport journey. Its faster and more reliable than checking passports manually. 

Expanded space

With aircrafts becoming much bigger, runways and parking facilities need to expand. Not only do they need to make room for more passengers and modes of transport but areas of relaxation become increasingly important. Elements like waterfalls, indoor woodland and even walking trails will give passengers the chance to relax and reflect, taking the stress out of travelling. 

Touchscreen shopping

Duty-free shopping is another important part of the airport experience. The future of airport shopping involves virtual malls where passengers can have all purchases delivered home with a swipe of a hand. Via smartphones, these ‘shopping walls’ can interact with a customer’s buying history to create a personalised display of their favourite brands or suggest gifts for family and friends.

Automated control towers

Airport control towers are still heavily reliant on people to make key decisions. However, some towers like the one recently introduced in Sweden, contain no personnel and are operated remotely by a team miles away. 

Virtual assistants

While this new experience is tailored around self-service, passengers can still get help from a friendly virtual assistant. This assistant can automatically detect everyone’s native language and converse with them effortlessly. 

Using a more advanced, specialised version of the artificial intelligence embedded in today's chatbots, these digital helpers will also be able to advice on sights to see in the local area, list nearby hotels.

All information courtesy of Airport Parking & Hotels.

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