The IoT take-off in airports

Published by Telefónica IoT Team IoT General

The presence of the IoT is felt everywhere; it's irremediable. Today the United Nations is celebrating International Civil Aviation Day, and in that field the presence of the IoT extends to airports, places that are traditionally full of uncomfortable experiences, downtime and inefficient operations. Connectivity can be the solution needed to end these problems and create a better and more profitable service.

Applying the IoT to airports

The operations carried out in airports are traditionally very mechanical: in all of them, you have to go through a check-in process followed by a security identification that leads to a waiting time until the flight leaves. From there, the process is once again mechanical, as you wait in a boarding queue, unless you have a priority boarding option, in which case you have to identify yourself yet again...

What if all this was automated? At the very least, it would become simpler and more pleasant. Despite the substantial improvements that the check-in process has undergone in recent years, the IoT could help make it even easier, as some companies like JetBlue are testing. They are incorporating "auto check-in", which selects the seat as well as other preferences based on your previous flights.

Once inside the airport, businesses can take advantage of well-known signalling and beacon systems, NFC technology and others that optimize the experience with services, purchase or information management. Thus, the mobile phone itself could automatically indicate what gate a passenger has to head to and when to go there depending on their location inside the airport.

Keeping track of suitcases is another possible application, and one of great interest since it would increase travellers’ ease and would help manage the passengers better. In turn, users may not worry about their suitcases if they could track their location with their device as the luggage is being transported to the correct flight. This would also greatly help to load and unload the suitcases in a more organised fashion.

If the traveller has enough time, the same systems could recommend a restaurant or a product on sale at a certain duty-free store based on their tastes. The most sensitive part is probably security, as mentioned above. With the new smart security applications, the identification and monitoring process could be much quicker and more painless for passengers by classifying the potential risk or better managing the verification process. All of this is, indeed, already underway. 

A more efficient space

According to Deloitte's latest report, 95% of passengers (in the United States) carry a device compatible with technologies associated with the IoT. In fact, one in four people is considered "hyperconnected", showing a clear preference for the services that the Internet of Things can offer them.

This translates into two things: first, a potential increase in the efficiency of airport operations. This means shorter wait times, fewer resources and lower costs associated with technical difficulties. The second is an increase in income due to more effective services.

Experts predict an increase in profits thanks to personalized navigation both in the airport and inside the aircraft through "travel tokens". The most interesting thing is that, thanks to the extensive infrastructure available in airports, owing to their intrinsic needs, the IoT is already "inside them".

The IoT in the air

In fact, examples such as JetBlue show that adopting new solutions to improve facilities operations based on the IoT is not only possible but also affordable and profitable. In 2016, the passenger segment related to the IoT saw an increase of 73.65%. By 2021, the value of investments in this type of solution is expected to reach 14.23 billion dollars.

This shows a growing space in which to explore new use cases that will allow for the appearance of more applications and solutions related to aviation and connectivity. Currently, some airports such as Helsinki, Miami, Birmingham and Denmark have already deployed beacons dedicated to different services, among them solutions to estimate wait times and make identification more fluid. Probably, we will soon see many other installations and applications available all over the world.


Telefónica IoT Team