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Innovation Benefits

ACRP Periodic Report on Transformative Technologies at Airports
- May 7, 2021

Airport organizations stand to reap numerous benefits from well-managed innovation programs. The ability to look at new technology from an innovative perspective allows airports to maintain a strategic position, rather than a reactive one, in relation to technology. Research shows the following benefits:

  • Strategy
  • Design
  • Revenue/Cost Savings
  • Customer/Staff Experience
  • Integrated Approach

Strategy

Innovation programs allow an airport to incorporate new technology into their strategic planning more effectively. Airport operators can determine when and where a technology can be implemented through a better understanding of a technology’s current development status and how it can be used within the airport. Effective planning helps to align the pursuit of new technology with airport-wide objectives. Along with monitoring innovation for growth, airport operators can pursue innovation in relation to specific pain points for both internal and external stakeholders. This strategic approach also provides the organization with a multiyear outlook into the incorporation of innovative technology and allows airport operators to better prepare for these new technologies.

Airport operators can better understand the requirements of new technologies through effective research and concept development. Proper research and testing efforts give airport operators the necessary experience to implement technologies as they become available.

Design

For the best results, new technologies should be considered in both the construction and design process at airports. Although some technologies may be too far out to be implemented into a current airport project, an effective innovation program can begin to understand new technologies at an early stage, allowing airport operators to prepare for imminent technologies in the current design. Whether this includes consideration for infrastructural needs—like space and material—or areas like power and networking, construction projects should consider both the current state of technology as well as the future.

Through effective innovation tracking, projects can be planned with the needs of future technology solutions in mind. Designers need to also consider additional flexibility in their plans to allow the environment to better accommodate future technology changes. Though it can be difficult to accurately predict the development path a technology will take, maintaining flexibility in design gives airport operators more options as technological advancements become real.

The design for processes should also consider the trajectory of future technology solutions. The airport needs to incorporate flexibility to accommodate new technology solutions as they are made available. Areas planned to be used in certain ways may change as technology advancements continue. To effectively leverage resources now, proper understanding of future technology is vital. For example, as mobile passenger processing has grown in popularity, passengers are arriving to the airport more prepared and increasingly skipping processing in the check-in hall. Airport organizations are adjusting the size and equipment deployed in their check-in halls due to the changes in customer behavior brought on by new technology solutions.

Revenue/Cost Savings

Developing innovation programs allows airport organizations to allocate resources to facilitate the pursuit of innovative technologies. Future planning allows for cost savings in the design and procurement processes of new technologies. New technologies may provide new revenue opportunities for airport operators to explore, like autonomous baggage checking or premium services supported by robotic solutions. These technologies can be offered as services to clients and vendors to help offset some of the costs incurred when pursuing innovation. Innovation programs provide airport leaders with an outlook on where technology is heading and help uncover ways to both save money and increase revenue.

Customer/Staff Experience

Passengers and staff also stand to benefit from innovation programs. There are numerous pain points for passengers across their journeys, and these pain points can even be specific to certain types of passengers. Innovation programs designed to consider passenger feedback when tracking and researching technologies can focus research efforts on solutions to passenger pain points. New technologies can streamline the passenger journey and improve passenger satisfaction, such as mixed reality solutions that provide passengers with contextual navigation or autonomous wheelchairs to transport passengers with reduced mobility. Solving passenger pain points can be an effective measure to track the success of an innovation program.

Along with passengers, airport staff and operations stand to benefit from innovation technology. New technology can save time and costs and improve safety across the airport organization. Airport operators can better prepare their organizations to take advantage of the changing technological environment. Employee satisfaction and productivity can be improved through value-added technology solutions. A good example is that of robotic solutions that reduce employee fatigue and injuries. Another example is artificial intelligence solutions that can automate routine employee tasks. These and other technologies can improve the workplace environment for airport staff.

Integrated Approach

Airport operators need to consider technology in the airport from an enterprise perspective rather than a siloed approach. Without an integrated approach, these silos of technology can greatly limit functionality and operational performance. A well-designed innovation program allows airport leaders to view the overall technology strategy in alignment with the airport strategy and objectives. This high-level view can help airport operators solve problems at the organizational level rather than in small areas as issues occur.

This series of articles includes engaging discussions around approaching innovation at airports.
  1. Innovation Hurdles
  2. Innovation Benefits
  3. Innovation Tracking Suggestions