As airports become more digitally connected,the Internet of Things (IoT) can open up a world of opportunities. Much more than merely improving efficiency, IoT can transform the traveler experience and generate new revenue.(1)

Elizabeth Krimmel, a senior manager in Deloitte’s Government and Public Services practice, shared with us her insights regarding IOT in the aviation industry.

·        Airport Performance Insights: Hi Elizabeth, can you introduce yourself?

My name is Elizabeth Krimmel. I am a Senior Manager at Deloitte Government & Public Services practice. Our goal is to support aviation clients in areas like aviation security and that is what I have been doing for the last 12 years. I have a large experience working with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which are both agencies of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  As a firm, Deloitte does a lot of work in aviation internationally, but in the U.S. we’re largely focused on aviation security and customer experience. We bring that aviation security expertise to US airports with a special focus on the TSA and some key airports around the US. At the same time we create a solid link to re-imagining the customer experience. Enhancing the customer experience and improving the security experience with new technologies and processes is my passion and the link is quite clear, a great security experience is key to great passenger experience.

 

·        Airport Performance Insights: You were involved in a recent report by the Airport Cooperative Research Program on the Internet of Things. Can you tell us about the report?

A Primer to Prepare for the Connected Airport and the Internet of Things introduces the concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) within the airport environment to leverage current and emerging technologies. The report was commissioned by the Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) which is a research body of the National Academies of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board (TRB). Texas A&M Transportation Institute and Deloitte Consulting were selected to conduct research to identify opportunities for IoT in the connected airport environment.

The main goal was to help airports understand to not just capitalize on current IoT solutions, but to plan for the future when undergoing development and other infrastructure changes. The industry is still figuring out what the IoT technology is about, however most airports already use it on many different levels to improve airport operations and the passenger experience.

What is clear, is that US airports lag behind their international counterparts – in part due to the differences in how US airports are funded and managed.  We have seen great examples, for example, with Middle East and Asian airport operators using sensors to allow the airport to offer a real personalized experience to passengers during every aspect of the journey which goes beyond just monitoring them.

I believe that now is the right time for airports to lean in on the smart airport and make sure that they have the backbone to support smart capabilities during initial construction or rehabilitation of parts of the airport. There is not a one size fits all solution.

They need to see what their strategy is and how they make sense of the investments. LAX is undergoing a major transformation, they will add new people movers, focus on terminal construction and much more. We need to think beyond just people monitoring to monitor improvement of passenger flows from the airport entrance all the way to the gate. How to manage these flows? How to use sensor technology to monitor waste bins,soap re-fills, etc. Airports like Dallas/Fort Worth have adopted advanced sensor technology to track janitor carts around the airport in order to better direct cleaning staff to high-traffic bathrooms and communal terminal areas. Sensors also monitor ambient light at DFW within a building and feed that information to a BMS. When sunlight is high, artificial light is needed, saving energy. But what LAX and DFW implement doesn’t necessarily make sense for smaller airports as they may have a slightly different focus.  

Using IoT to manage airport assets,understand where assets are located, monitor their usage, their overall utilization, etc… can be very useful. Airlines have been using IoT to monitor airline performance during ramp servicing, etc. and many have IoT on board to understand performance and weaknesses that exist.

·        Airport Performance Insights: How important will IoT become for both airlines and airports and where do you see the major take up rate?

IoT will drive information sharing between stakeholders. It’s all about data and how we can integrate the different data sources to make one view on where bottlenecks are located to see how to use it to better move people along. We can aggregate and analyze it so we can make better sense, while protecting personal data, and implement a model of data sharing for all companies active at the airport. Who will own that process? It should not be one single stakeholder as it would block others from sharing the information, so most likely it will be an independent party not a source or vendor that already owns some data.

Airlines are often reluctant to share data with other airlines, but airports might be in a better position as will others such as an independent body like AAAE, ACI or IATA. The commercialization of data offers an opportunity for airports and others to monetize the data. The data is there, the technology is there, who will pay to make the platform and commercialize it? It’s a fairly significant risk for a company taking on that risk. Some airports are already doing their own flavor of this by using their AODB product as the basis. The AODB offers robust operational data and can very well serve as a key input, but in itself doesn’t create an ideal result.

·        Airport Performance Insights: What is the role of Deloitte in IoT?

We see the topic as being part of the aviation consulting arm. A very robust technology practice with IoT in scope offers the opportunity to work with cross leads around the world and use the knowledge of some key players such as large technology firms like Amazon or Google. We can bring about robust solutions and implement them for customers ranging from governments to the military to the commercial aviation industry. Every aviation practice has its own specialty, for example, Deloitte UK has a lead on AI. This is where IoT and AI come in, understanding issues before they arise and increased predictability.  With robust IoT and Smart Cities practices here in the US, Deloitte is uniquely positioned to help airports not only develop their own smart airport strategy, but to implement the technology, governance and supporting structures to introduce“smart” across their operations.

·        Airport Performance Insights: How do you see the future of technology adoption at airports/airlines?

It’s all about future proofing plans. It’s hard to predict what will be the next big thing in IoT at airports, but they need to prepare for that big thing now. We know that band width, security, etc. will play a key role.

Whoever builds the central data aggregated platform will have a lead. The ability to not only manage performance, but predict what we haven’t yet seen is what it is all about. It will be exciting to have a single dashboard that will monitor all operations and provide valuable information from all steps of the passenger journey – from knowing when luggage will arrive on the carousel to understanding where passengers are within the airport and much more.

 

Reference list:

(1)   https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/industry/public-sector/iot-in-smart-airports.html