Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) have enabled numerous advances in many sectors, including airports. Smart airports have emerged as a result of the growing importance of air freight, the paradigm shift in leisure travel, and the internationalisation of business travel.

Why did Smart Airports emerge?

Smart Airports are born to solve and cover control and management needs in airports that are increasingly seeing the problems associated with the large volume of goods and passengers that pass through them.

In this way, international specialists are focusing on smart airports, which integrate different advances in the fields of telecommunications, infrastructure, robotics and IoT.

What is a Smart Airport?

Smart Airports are airports based on the use of intelligent systems such as sensors and devices configured for specific purposes in different areas in order to control, manage and plan their operations in a centralised digital environment.

Thanks to this application of state-of-the-art technologies, it is possible to improve staff performance, optimise passenger flows, improve sustainability, or increase airport security.

For example, much more valuable data can be collected on the condition of aircraft in real time, allowing for greater precision in maintenance work and optimisation of flight safety.

So let’s take a look at the different applications of digital transformation at airports.

Digital transformation applications in airports

Over the last few years, both airport management and the construction of new airports have evolved, with cutting-edge technological systems that enable monitoring, process automation and 360º control to be carried out in these spaces.

This digital transformation is taking place in 3 areas:

  · Digitalisation of infrastructures

This transformation brings with it the hyperconnectivity of each and every one of the assets that form part of an airport, resulting in improved infrastructures that dump large amounts of data from the different points and areas, thus enabling centralised management, process optimisation and obtaining qualitative analyses that help to improve predictability for more accurate decision-making.

  · Digitalisation of commercial flow

Airports require increased network reliability and improved real-time performance for commercial flight-related systems. Digitisation enables the automation of processes for tracking goods, executing tasks from offices, improving cyber security, resource planning and optimising time and efficiency.

  · Digitalisation of passenger flow

In this section, greater performance of the daily operations of the airport ecosystem is achieved. For example, monitoring domestic flights en route, cross-referencing real-time data from assets on the ground, results in improved preparation and coordination of processes that improve passenger flow, including check-in and check-out, baggage, occupancy and check-in wait times, etc.


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Applications of digital transformation at airports

These are some of the aspects that Smart Airports improve over airports that have not yet achieved full digitalisation:

  · Fully optimised operations

Any smart application seeks to fully optimise resources. For example, until recently, you had to be at the airport two hours before your flight departed. However, thanks to the application of AI, passengers do not need to come to the terminal so far in advance, saving hours of waiting and long queues at the boarding gates.

For example, to optimise passengers’ time, the New Hamad International Airport has implemented 5 state-of-the-art self-check-in kiosks and a self-service bag drop with biometric technology capability.

This autonomy that smart airports give to users is crucial to understand the advantages that these infrastructures possess.

On the other hand, AI has also been applied to the airport industry to improve the quality and enhance the user experience after each flight. London-Gatwick Airport has integrated technologies including sensors, data analytics and AI to improve the customer experience and, in turn, increase productivity. How? By developing a blockchain-based digital wallet that allows passengers frequenting this airport to use rewards.

The trend of the future, already proven in the UK and Sweden, is to transform air terminals into one-stop transport hubs. In this way, a single control centre will be able to manage the traffic of several airfields, reducing construction and maintenance costs from one integrated operations platform.

  · Safer airports with smart solutions

Security is an absolute priority at airports and AI plays a key role in this context.  In addition, new smart documents and biometric technologies are opening up new opportunities that promote fully optimised user screening.

For their part, IATA and ACI’s smart security programmes advocate improved security practices that combine enhanced security with greater operational efficiency, while delivering an improved passenger experience.

Biometric self-boarding gates or automated border control with electronic boarding gates are examples of such applications.

Dubai Airport makes use of a smart tunnel which, thanks to facial recognition and AI, allows passengers to pass through passport control in just 15 seconds without any human intervention.

Another example of security is Shezen Airport, which has implemented an intelligent flight information display system that recognises passengers’ faces.

  · More sustainable airports

The implementation of sensors and devices in airport assets and facilities, connected to an integrated operations platform, allows centralised management and control, achieving greater energy efficiency and sustainability.

To guarantee a cleaner and more sustainable infrastructure, high-efficiency hardware (solar panels, LED lighting, low-consumption monitors, optimised water systems, etc.) is combined with digital control of the same.

Likewise, the ability to measure in real time the temperature, air quality, status of the entrances or ventilation, allows optimised management of the air conditioning and healthiness of the environment.

Advantages of Smart Airports

These are some of the advantages of a smart airport:

  • Improved operational efficiency, making use of data collected in real time.
  • Reduction of operating costs, improving productivity and perfecting operations.
  • Optimisation of demand, thanks to greater control of passenger flows and automation of entry controls.
  • Significantly improved passenger experience, by improving passenger handling services, flight control, check-in, etc.
  • Enhanced surveillance and security through biometric monitoring systems, advanced cyber security and greater reliability in operations and maintenance of facilities.
  • Improved health surveillance and ground services (cleaning frequencies, availability of amenities, etc.).

Address the complete digital transformation of your airport

All of the improvements that smart airports present are just some of the ways in which technology has influenced and changed the airport environment forever.

While safety, security and speed of service will always be top priorities for passengers, the incorporation of new technologies allows airport managers to facilitate and improve day-to-day and future operations.

Nexus Integra is the integrated operations platform that provides intelligent solutions, turning your airport into a Smart Airport.

Contact our specialised team for a study adapted to your needs.