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OTHER ARTICLES Last modified on November 17, 2014

The last word - Michael DiGeorge

Airport World catches up with Michael DiGeorge, Rockwell Collins’ vice president for international and global airports, information management services.

How is IT helping transform airports and changing the travelling habits of passengers?

IT is supporting the transformation of airports by increasing their processing and operational capabilities, whether this is passengers and baggage handling, ground service equipment and resources, building utilisation or retail and real-estate predicting and billing. 

Technology is also putting more control of the travel experience into the hands of passengers. Smartphones and associated applications allow for mobile check-in and wayfinding through an airport. The applications also allow for more real-time updates and information about their flight or airport amenities. Self-bag tagging and bag drops, automated passport control kiosks and self-boarding gates mean the passenger can process through the airport with minimum intervention. 

As passengers are becoming increasingly technologically savvy, it is important for airports around the world to modernise their IT systems to ensure that their infrastructure is able to cope with evolving needs. We’ve seen how technology has helped one of our customers, Incheon International Airport, thrive by using the latest and most innovative technology in all stages of the passenger journey, from check-in to immigration. Having such systems in place is integral to delivering a hassle-free passenger experience that can put an airport ahead of its competitors.

Can IT help solve the potential capacity problems of the future? 

Absolutely! Through leveraging and supporting mobile technology that enables self-service and touchless capabilities, the capacity throughput of the airport can be increased and the frustrating queuing times, which contribute so much to passenger dissatisfaction, can be reduced. Technology also plays an important part in the back-end. From baggage handling to catering, IT has a role to play in delivering a pleasant travel experience, despite airports handling increasingly large volumes of passengers.

What opportunities are there for the introduction of new technologies at airports?

I think airports are now more open to new technologies than ever before because they’ve seen the benefits that IT brings. Ultimately, travellers want to get through the airport as quickly as possible while being able to access information at their fingertips. IATA has also developed the self-service passenger processing standards, which provide a framework for airports to offer such facilities. For airports, this means opportunities to use technology internally to facilitate quicker check-in and baggage drop, and for the passengers to get through immigration and security checks as quickly as possible. We are seeing more investments being made in check-in technologies, flight information displays and access control. One example is near field communications (NFC) and smart cards, which provide capabilities that can make the travel process more personal, providing passengers with more control over their journey and ultimately, enhance their experience. As a player in the space, Rockwell Collins envisions a future where passengers can go through the airport, from check in to security, within minutes. 

What does the future hold for wireless communication services at airports for both passengers and airport staff?

Wireless communication has been used in most airports for a number of years by the operational workforce such as staff in dispatch, baggage and boarding. However, with the embedded technology now available on the average mobile phone, wireless communications and touchless technology are only going to become more prominent. In terms of passenger processing, these capabilities will shift the check-in process ‘out of the airport’ and ‘into the hands’ of the passenger. With the increasing sophistication and usage of smartphones, mobility solutions, as well as insights and analytics technologies, hard-copy boarding passes will soon be a thing of the past as all relevant information will be pushed into the passenger’s smartphone and saved onto smart cards. This eliminates the need for queues, delivering efficiencies and enhancing passenger convenience. 

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