The demand for air travel and cargo is expected to double in the next 20 years. If the industry approach remains fundamentally the same as today, capacity will not match the predicted pace of growth, highlighting the need for a unified approach to airport infrastructure and operational efficiency improvements. Ensuring that all who need and wish to travel can do so, and that goods are delivered faster and with greater predictability, requires industry transformation which makes best use of New Experience Travel Technologies (NEXTT).
AP Insights: Can you introduce yourself, your role within ADB SAFEGATE and NEXTT?
Niclas Svedberg: “I have a Systems background and have been with ADB SAFEGATE for ten years, within different departments as Gate, Tower, and so on. Right now I‘m a consultant within the Airport Performance Services team. We offer analysis and knowledge about the possible solutions and best practices for airports.
I’m representing ADB SAFEGATE for NEXTT - I offer my views and my experience in different workshops, especially around gates. Together with other stakeholders,we address challenges by trying to apply our experience and view on the future to provide innovative solutions to the challenges.”
AP Insights: What does NEXTT stand for?
Niclas: “NEXTT stands for New Experience Travel Technology. It’s a joint initiative by IATA and ACI.”
AP Insights: Who else contributes to this project?
Niclas: “Associations, airlines, agents,airports, manufacturers and of course, ground handlers. These service providers are an important partner in the processing of baggage, passengers and aircrafts.”
AP Insights: What are the objectives of NEXTT? What’s the focus?
Niclas: “The mission of the NEXTT initiative is to see how new technologies help to optimize the different processes and passenger experience and enhance the throughput and efficiency of an airport.The number of airport passengers increases every year making it more and more complicated to ensure a seamless flow of passengers, bags and aircraft, through the airport.
IATA and ACI have an understanding that there is a need for a common way of practice. They are responsible for many regulations and want to verify if there is gap in their operations and standards manuals on the way they are looking at the future. The NEXTT initiative provides a way of tapping in to how different stakeholders from the industry look at the future.
For example, IATA organized a workshop around the ramp of the future questioning how the industry stakeholders perceive the ramp to operate in the future."
AP Insights: Why is collaboration so important?
Niclas: “In my opinion we can look at it from two perspectives.
Organizational bodies like ACI and IATA try to foresee what they will have to manage in future because the market is driven primarily by the different suppliers and airports with their different initiatives. It’s not always easy for IATA to manage the techniques when they are already in place and there are a lot of different applications of the same technique. With NEXTT they can have an overview of all the different initiatives and tap in on what is happening and what the suppliers see as the future. Without a central, coordinated vision, the benefits of the new technologies will not be realized at scale and may be fragmented.
For ADB SAFEGATE, it is very interesting to see what IATA and ACI foresee because it is our business domain, our environment. We have to act in the future. And we need to have products and services that are interesting in such an environment. It’s a good way to tap in on how the bigger or regulatory agencies see the future evolving.
And within the different workshops we get a lot of views on the different stakeholders of an airport. You can see how operational managers see the future, you can see initiatives in AI, like machine learning. You can see how the industry is adopting new technology at a very rapid pace.“
AP Insights: How can NEXTT help airports to improve customer experience, reliability and efficiency?
Niclas: “The constraints on the business and the prospects of future growth together with the limited possibilities of expanding the infrastructure leads to a common understanding that additional throughput and efficiency needs to come from somewhere other than just additional infrastructure. You can see it in different industries. It’s all about doing more with what you already have. To make some small changes and to increase collaboration between the business units to extract additional throughput or efficiency.
Of course, it’s also about the maturity of the data, the overall existing IT structure at airports today. Mostly they have many different systems, but how can these systems operate better together and how can you deduct better information from all the collaborative data. Within the software industry in general this is referred to as the organisations software maturity level. For example, to exchange information on what is happening at the gate is of utmost importance to ATC because it will impact their processes. Enabling the sharing of data with ATC in new platforms is becoming industry practice today. We see dashboards being built at every airport. The better information you have, the better decisions you can take and the better you can plan for upcoming and future needs.
Take for instance Wayfinder Solutions, applications that help passengers find their way through the airport complex. The app is supported by the wide collection and sharing of data.
There are also other initiatives that add to the passenger experience e.g. baggage management, for instance by introducing a service that picks up their baggage at home. So when they travel to the airport, the baggage is already managed by the airport services. Which will liberate a lot of load from the passenger and at the same time it increases the control of the airport/ airline because they know that the baggage is already managed.
And of course, nobody likes standing in a queue. There are several technologies available to deliver queue and flow insights, and improve capacity planning to reduce queues. These range from Wi-Fi/BLE sensors to camera-based solutions. If the airport measures the queues, they can easily add resources. They can open up another immigration counter for instance. They can foresee that there will be a really big flow of passengers at this schedule and for this flight. That feature means that people will be less stressed. All stakeholders have something to gain from sharing data and situational awareness.
Another emerging technology is biometrics. It’s all about processing passengers by biometrics, it could be facial or other types of biometrics. It enables an automated process and will reduce lead times for passengers and increase customer satisfaction. The need for travel documents could be avoided in the future, which will give a better flow in the process. Of course, this will have to go through a lot of regulation. Once the data collected, it’s available for all the stakeholders if the management of all that data is enabled. Today we see some regulatory problems of sharing biometrics, but I think the industry will overcome these issues, as new generations have a different perspective on sharing their data. The passengers will have to accept the sharing of their data to enable a better flow in their experience.”
AP Insights: In which ways the future baggage journey will differ from the actual baggage handling?
Niclas: “We see that the industry and airlines are adopting new technologies where they manage the baggage way earlier in the baggage flow and passenger process. For instance, city centre baggage drops. As airport processes depend on the flow of the baggage, airports prefer to have control as early as possible in the process.
The identification of the baggage will be done with a mix of different technologies. The industry is adopting RFID, which I think is still going to grow further. Of course, there is a need for industry-wide acceptance. All the different airports will have to be able to work with the same kind of technology. But as the industry and the technology mature, we will see RFID being used to facilitate the treatment of baggage.
Next to this radio technology there is the already industry standard technology of baggage tags or ID barcodes. Airports can additionally merge picture data together with barcode and RFID data about the baggage and this will immensely enhance on the possibilities to identify baggage. This in turn can enhance the possibilities of surveying the baggage flow from baggage drop off to delivery at final destination, greatly reduce missing or late bags issue which has a huge impact on the overall passenger experience.”
AP Insights: The aircraft journey will also be redesigned in the near future. What are/will be the most significant innovations?
Niclas: “We have agency wide missions which are very interesting. We have the NextGen initiative of FAA for the North American market. We have a similar initiative within Europe, called Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR)from Eurocontrol. Those initiatives are looking into how we can also in the future create an aircraft management that makes flying even safer, more efficient, and more predictable. They put demands on how we look at aircraft management on the airport and what data is available and the processes and the flows of the aircrafts to get them up into the sky.
We already see the possibility as a passenger to be able to follow his flight in the sky by aircraft tracking. If you have to pick up someone on the airport, you can see if the aircraft is on time, if it left the airport on time, as foreseen. That also goes in aircraft management. Airports can also see if their incoming aircraft left on time and if there was a delay so they can anticipate earlier. This is mostly enabled by ADS-B satellite signals that enable tracking the aircraft throughout its journey and sharing that information with everyone.
Asset management is also evolving in a big way in the airport industry. The assets to manage the flow around a turnaround are quite substantial. There are many vehicles,many resources involved. The possibility of better using those assets by having precision data, is something that most airport and ground handlers are looking for today.
We will also see robotic loaders and other autonomous vehicles at the apron and throughout the airport. Because there is the consensus that humans bring the factor of human error. In stressful or complex situations where they have to move around together with different vehicles, errors are inevitable. While autonomous vehicles have the possibility of talking between themselves and can be easier to control by sensors from a damage perspective. It is much easier to control an autonomous vehicle that connects to the aircraft. In the situation where external equipment has to couple to the aircraft, small forces could mean a problem for the aircraft integrity and that will imply a big cost.
Another big topic is Airport Collaborative Decision Making.It is a concept that is already widely adopted in Europe. The Network Manager cooperates closely with air navigation service providers, airports, airlines and the military across 43 states
The network manager is being fed by different A-CDM frameworks at airports in all Europe. A-CDM is fully implemented in 27 airports across Europe (2017), with the purpose to improve the airport operations through the process of optimizing resources and predictability of air traffic.
The connected airports share information that is interesting for other airports that are involved in their aircraft flow and internally to be able to do good estimates for the network manager. Many Asian airports also adopt this concept. In the US they have their own initiative, called S-CDM. Studies done by Eurocontrol show clearly the benefits of these kind of initiatives. The idea is that the value of data is more than the sum of the data from the combined data to enhance predictability and the use of resources.”
AP Insights: Can you give some examples of NEXTT initiatives/concepts in action?
Niclas: “One of the workshops I attended was a look at how the process of the turnaround could be enhanced in the future. They have put up a number of different challenges, questions of where they see the process could be enhanced. A working group of different stakeholders like suppliers to the industry, catering, operational stakeholders, ground handling etc. has to solve a certain problem, provide a good viable solution. IATA representatives choose the best propositions and those are presented at fairs or seminars and published on the NEXTT website. The purpose of IATA is that the market will adopt these ideas or will be triggered by the ideas.”
AP Insights: How can I get more information about the NEXTT findings and conclusions ? And how can I contribute to NEXTT?
Niclas: “NEXTT is a truly industry-led initiative. You can contribute by becoming a member of an Advisory Group, working group or committee. There is also the NEXTT Linkedin Group.
The NEXTT initiative and mission are explained in the NEXTT website https://nextt.iata.org. The website has today 2.2 million page views; they are clearly gaining interest from the industry. You can get a primer on the NEXTT vision with recorded webinars available for viewing at any time on https://www.iata.org/en/programs/ops-infra/airport-infrastructure/nextt.”
AP Insights: Many thanks Niclas!