Digitale Transformation

Taking Off into the Cloud

When going on vacation or taking a business trip, travelers should have as few worries as possible. This is the high standard that airports are pursuing as part of their digital strategy. Seamless travel is the key term: a data-supported guidance system for passengers.

08 Mar. 2017
Über den Datenwolken Digitalisierung Flughafen Smart City
Munich airport is taking off (Photo: Fotolia.com)

At an airport, many different people cross paths: Chinese tourists, business travelers from Dubai, plane spotters from the local area, Majorca vacationers en route to bachelor parties, and thousands of other travelers. They all have one goal: getting from home to their destination as quickly and easily as possible. To support such a diverse group with exact information would be impossible – or so it would seem.

"In order to serve all of our travelers equally well, digitization is one of our top priorities," says Konrad Best, Digital Vice President at Munich Airport. Projects are in progress on multiple levels to help the airport to implement digital services and offerings. "First and foremost, it is about providing passengers with greater convenience, but also creating targeted purchase incentives," explains Best.

Transforming the Airport into a Smart City

This involves multi-lingual communication, helping visitors to find their way through the airport and to the plane, and providing greater transparency into information on arrivals and departures.

Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the airport grounds. This is an important enabler for other services: "Via a login portal for the free data network, we can connect with visitors who speak neither German nor English", explains Best. "When users log in to our Wi-Fi, we can identify their preferred language based on their browser settings. This enables us to provide them with useful information, such as which gate they need to go to and how they can get there," states Best.

Information Sharing through an App

Interaction is a crucial aspect of the airport's digitization campaign. In contrast to airlines, car rental companies, and retails, the airport has no information on its visitors. For this reason, it uses the Passngr app to reach out to visitors – a strategy also followed by the airports in Hamburg and Dusseldorf. Alongside the website, the app serves as an important information portal, combining data from multiple sources.

"There are many providers that analyze traffic, plan routes, and calculate journey times for people travelling to the airport. However, all these services end on arrival," says Best. "We developed a system to supplement this data with our own important and relevant information – such as waiting times at check-in or security. This isn't only done in real time, it also forecasts in advance." Video cameras analyze queue sizes at security checkpoints, while software predicts the waiting time for new arrivals and also includes information about the local transport services.

Precise Predictions

Through the combination of different sources, airport visitors receive a much more comprehensive overview of how long they will be in transit – from leaving their front door to boarding the plane, and, in ideal cases, beyond. In the future, when travelling to or from Dusseldorf or Hamburg, the app could be able to accurately calculate travel time from door to door.

The mapping of the building is also relevant in order for this plan to work. "Overall, that is the fine art of navigation," admits Best. The implementation could still take a while longer. However, the foundations have already been laid, with all public areas of the airport covered by a 360-degree camera that can provide virtual tours in 2D and 3D.

Through the combination of different sources, airport visitors receive a much more comprehensive overview of how long they will be in transit – from leaving their front door to boarding the plane, and, in ideal cases, beyond. In the future, when travelling to or from Dusseldorf or Hamburg, the app could be able to accurately calculate travel time from door to door.

Virtual Tour of the Airport

Anybody can use the app or the airport’s website to find their way around. The map lists all points of interest along with additional information such as the opening hours of shops.

"At the end of the day, digitization is about improving processes for visitors and employees," concludes Best. The current projects are only the tip of the iceberg: "Our goal is to first provide all existing services digitally. On this basis, we can create new offerings." However, there are still some obstacles to overcome before Munich Airport can take off as a "smart city".

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