Today’s IoT technologies are circling tomorrow’s airports

IoT technologies, including sensors, wearables, virtual reality, and more are set to become a big part of the airports of tomorrow – and nearly a quarter of the world’s airlines are already on board.

For the most part, travellers are becoming accustomed to the slowly growing influence of technology on their travel. Electronic check-in has eliminated the need to stand in long lines at the check-in counter. Body scanners and other technologies are used by the TSA as passengers pass through the checkpoint.

See also: 5 IoT innovations that can’t advance without wireless power

Once you get to your gate, you can use your smartphone to get a real-time update on your plane’s location and status. A savvy traveller will be able to use these tools to quickly move from the drop-off point to their seat on the plane in a fraction of the time they would have just ten years ago.

But airports are a little different. They’re busy, crowded places where the flow of people through the different checkpoints can go from smooth to a standstill in seconds. Bags are still misplaced and even lost, and finding your way through the maze of a building is every bit as confusing as it has ever been.

This is where IoT technologies including sensors placed at strategic points in the airport can come in handy. Sensors that track the flow of traffic at various checkpoints, the location of luggage as it passes through the airport to its destination, and even security tools such as biometric tokens and wearables for staff can help streamline and improve the travel experience for passengers and staff alike.

A recent study by the airline industry association, SITA, shed light on the kind of role IoT technologies will play in tomorrow’s airport.

This study found that nearly a third of all airports are already taking advantage of the Internet of Things by placing sensors in key locations around the airport. Over the next three years, this number is expected to climb by 43%.

Sensors are a core feature of the IoT. They provide valuable insight by tracking things like traffic flow, congestion, and performance. Here’s a quick breakdown of the percentage of the 225 airports represented in the global study plan to place sensors over the next three years.

  • 66% — Security check points
  • 61% — Bag-drop areas
  • 60% — Retail areas
  • 54% — Boarding gates
  • 52% — Baggage claim

These sensors will enable airport management to have a real-time understanding of where they need to focus to improve traveller experience. Whether it’s additional staff at the check-in counter or a faster turn-around at the TSA checkpoint, this data will undoubtedly help to speed things up in the airport.

And it’s not just sensors at airports

Sensors aren’t the only IoT-related technology being applied to airports. Travellers with smartphones will be able to take advantage of location-aware apps to help guide them to their gate, a point that 71% of respondents indicated they were working to implement.

Wearables for both passengers (36%) and staff (41%) were also at the top of the list of applied IoT technologies. These wearables will enable staff to have quick access to restricted areas and give them access to data collected by sensors in their area to help them make educated decisions.

Virtual reality services (41%) and artificial intelligence (33%) were also on the list. Artificial intelligence would enable airport staff to benefit from quick, accurate analysis of real-time data to offer passengers more accurate arrival and departure times as well as to predict a rush on a certain service or checkpoint within the airport.

IoT technologies may not solve everything. Air travel will still be a pain in the neck for many travellers. But, at least with the additional insight and ease of access made possible by these technologies, it could be less of a hassle.

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