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Internet of Things

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

Technology Description

The ubiquity of internet connectivity has become relevant to an increasing number of areas in everyday life, and the number of connected devices has increased accordingly. Now, many traditionally non-digital devices and appliances have been incorporated with internet connectivity to offer new features to users. Referred to as Internet of things (IoT) devices, these connected devices are supporting innovation in data analytics, improved operational efficiency of business processes, and added flexibility for traditional devices. Improvements to wireless networking infrastructure and data analytics techniques enable the advent of new applications for IoT devices in commercial organizations. Increasingly, IoT devices offer new functionality and features to support many use cases, such as airport practitioners who wish to gain greater insight into airport operational processes.

Business Insider defines IoT as “any stand-alone internet-connected device that can be monitored and/or controlled from a remote location.”[1] Sophisticated data management tools can monitor all devices within a network and make sense of the generated data. These devices can be connected to the Internet via hardwired data cables, Wi-Fi networks, or an array of wireless protocols with their own use case–specific pros and cons. Numerous wireless protocols have been developed to facilitate the use of IoT devices in the various uses cases where they are deployed, including low-energy Bluetooth, LoRaWAN, and LTE-A (Long-Term Evolution Advanced).[2] Airports are large and complex operations, with varied service offerings and operational processes that must be managed effectively. When combined with software and network solutions, IoT devices provide airports with new levels of insight into operational performance. Further, beyond simply transmitting data, connected devices can be remotely managed to perform operational processes. Often referred to as a “smart airport” concept, connected devices can provide operators with profound levels of insight and the ability to adapt the operational processes to any situation.

This Publication classifies IoT within the Basic Transformation Tier due to the previous experience and deployments of IoT in both commercial and consumer settings. Airport operators are currently deploying various forms of Internet-connected sensors and devices and learning to better leverage the data insights generated from them; however, most operators have not deployed a mature IoT strategy to realize the full potential of the technology. Further, since IoT can play a central role in the digitization of airport organizations, airport operators must learn to incorporate the technology into strategic roadmaps for their airports. This necessitates that airport operators maintain a current understanding of the various aspects that underlie IoT devices in order to continue deploying effective solutions. This series of articles will provide a start to this understanding, drawing out key areas to help airports plan for IoT for their organizations.

IoT devices are an enabling technology for many of the technologies tracked within this Publication. Therefore, airport operators must stay up-to-date with IoT advancements as they investigate other airport innovations.


Until real-world deployments begin, airport operators will likely not understand the full impact that Internet of things (IoT) deployments will have on their airport environment. This article outlines many of the high-profile impacts that airport operators may expect from IoT devices as their usage increases. Following the impact list, three notable impacts are detailed further.



  • Connected devices may require higher capital expenditures than previous, non-connected generations
  • Consideration for networking and data analytic requirements will need to be included in budgetary models

Technical/Infrastructure Readiness

  • Data analytics and computing software are required to properly leverage data generated by IoT devices
  • Strategic network design
  • Improved bandwidth to accommodate increasing numbers of network devices

Process/Skill Set Changes

  • Updating processes to leverage live data in real time and adjust as information changes
  • Improved internal networking, data analytics, and cybersecurity skill sets
  • Airport staff must be properly trained to incorporate and maintain connected devices

Passenger Experience/Passenger Process

  • Offer new services to passengers
  • Leverage real-time and historic data to improve airport operations and passenger satisfaction


  • Airport-wide monitoring in real time
  • Cybersecurity threat from increased access points to the network through IoT devices

Airport Design/Construction

  • Network connectivity, power, and placement considerations should be given to IoT devices
  • Leverage data in construction and redesign processes to maximize layout utilization

Revenue/Business Model

  • Provide data access to third parties; sources may include passenger counts, volume metrics, or process performance statistics. The data can be used by different users to draw their own insights.
  • Leverage data to provide new services to passengers and vendors
  • Leverage data to identify and capitalize on trends


  • Data privacy concerns
  • Data ownership considerations

Featured Impacts

Strategic network design: Airport wireless networks will need to be designed with the support of vast IoT deployments in mind. The various protocols used must support the planned devices and use cases. As connected devices are still early in their development and rapidly changing, it may be difficult for airport operators to predict how IoT devices will be used across the organization. Removing technology and networking silos will be vital for airport organizations to consider.

Data security concerns: Connected devices offer cybercriminals multiple access points into an organization’s network. Due to the array of devices an organization must monitor, potential issues with these devices can slip through the cracks. Efforts must be made by the organization to improve security processes and measures when deploying connected devices.

Data ownership considerations: Data ownership can vary by location and contract agreement, and it may not be initially clear who owns what sources of data. As organizations begin to realize the value that data possess, they will understand the need to become better data stewards. Understanding data ownership rights will help in the contract development stage, or it will help organizations plan necessary budgetary requirements.


To better understand the Internet of things (IoT), airport operators should gain a better understanding of its specific attributes. This article explores the operating factors of IoT and some of its usage characteristics. Understanding these attributes will help airport operators determine applicable use cases for IoT and how their organizations can support it.

Implementation Concerns

Airport operators should consider the alignment of multiple factors to facilitate a successful IoT deployment. Along with myriad computing and networking requirements, data ownership and process integrations must be accounted for. In many instances, data streams from connected devices may fall under the ownership of the vendor or solution provider. This can make it challenging or costly to access those data streams for analysis. Data ownership must be clearly understood before pursuing extensive IoT installations.

Current Processes

Current airport processes should be properly redesigned to incorporate connected devices. This includes properly retraining staff and putting in place the correct software solutions to leverage the data made available from connected devices.

Computing Power and Hardware Requirements

Airport organizations must be prepared to provide the networking and computer processing requirements needed to support IoT deployments. Conversely, airport organizations must have sufficient computing infrastructure to transmit and process the data generated by connected devices.

Use Cases/Business Effect

With every new or emerging technology, there are two basic questions an airport operator asks: “How can my airport use this?” and “How does this affect my business, even if my airport doesn’t wish to use it for our own benefit?” This article provides answers to both of these questions, addressing the airport uses cases and business effect of the Internet of things (IoT).

Use Cases

As IoT solutions advance to a point of being cost-effective with widespread adoption, potential use cases become available for airport operators to incorporate into their organizations.

Security Monitoring

Airport security can leverage data provided by an array of security devices to monitor areas of the airport property remotely. Airport operators can also use sensors that detect sound, occupancy, and other data sources to alert staff to issues.

Device and Equipment Monitoring

Connected devices can be centrally monitored by various departments within the airport. For example, passenger check-in kiosks, baggage drops, and parking control systems can incorporate connected equipment to monitor performance and analyze data. Equipment that contains consumables (such as printer paper or bag tags) can also be remotely monitored to more efficiently dispatch replacements. Using IoT devices, airport operators will have greater insight into the performance of processes and equipment, which they can leverage to improve operations and address issues in real time.

Movement Tracking/Fleet Management Sensors

Airport operators can leverage connected devices to track passenger movement through the terminal. This data can be valuable to airport operators, operations planners, and vendors who can use trend data in numerous ways. Operators can also begin to segment their population based on how they travel through the airport. Further, airport operators can attach sensors to mobile equipment to monitor its use and location across the airport property.

Connected Digital Dynamic Signage

With an increase in digital signage installation at airports, new opportunities are presented to airport operators. Connected displays can show contextually relevant and up-to-date information to passengers across the airport property. Airport operators can implement solutions that can leverage real-time flight and passenger information to constantly update signs to provide the best information available. Connected signage with the proper data interfaces can allow for inventive use cases, such as real-time wayfinding changes and multi-language displays for international passengers.

Business Effect

Whether or not an airport chooses to employ IoT for its own benefit, IoT deployments near or on the airport property that are not directly initiated or driven by the airport organization may have an effect on aspects of the airport’s operations.

Supporting Network Access

As third parties begin to integrate connected products into their operational processes, they will look to airport operators to supply the necessary connective infrastructure to operate. This may require an increase in budgets as the technical network infrastructure is upgraded to add the capacity necessary to support additional connected devices.

Cybersecurity Protocols

The prevalence of connected devices can increase areas of vulnerability in an organization’s network. Therefore, an airport operator’s cybersecurity personnel should meticulously track and record the location and status of each device while keeping software up-to-date.

Tiered Approach

Airport operators interested in new or emerging technologies, such as the Internet of things (IoT), will differ in their levels of risk tolerance. Some organizations are comfortable at the forefront of technology and have the resources to support innovation. Other organizations are interested in simply exploring how they can use IoT within their limited resources.

This article takes a tiered approach to IoT technology, providing use cases that are separated by the following innovation tiers: Reactive, Strategic, and Innovative.


Device Consumption Monitoring/Device Monitoring

Airport organizations can deploy connected forms of traditional airport equipment, such as trash cans or boarding pass printers, to monitor their use and performance. By monitoring equipment data, airport operators can track usage and provide replacement parts or service when needed. This central management will help remove redundant efforts of airport staff. Further, airport organizations can analyze the data gathered to identify usage and processing trends across the airport property.

Security and Environmental Monitoring

Airport organizations can install connected security monitoring technology to monitor restricted areas of the airport or verify identification. For example, connected sensors capable of detecting movement into restricted areas or building tampering can provide alerts to a management software solution. Security personnel can use these connected devices as an extension of their services to maintain surveillance at the airport. Airport organizations can also monitor environmental threats to the airport property, including water leaks and fires, through connected heat or water detection sensors.


Predictive Data Analytics

Airport organizations who already access data from connected devices throughout the property can investigate solutions that make better use of that data. Through combinations of artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT solutions, airport operators can begin to draw insight from the data sources within the airport. These insights can assist in data-driven decisions and improve processes within the airport property.

Smart-Buildings Solutions

Machine learning solutions can be used to proactively manage connected infrastructure systems within the airport property. Potentially integrated solutions include HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning) systems, lighting, escalators, and dynamic signage. Proactively optimizing these building operations can be a great way to reduce costs. Further, solutions that can be automated based on environmental factors provide airport organizations with an added layer of flexibility.


Campus-Wide Smart Infrastructure

Airport organizations can go beyond one-off connected solutions and look at an integrated campus-wide approach to connected solutions. This will likely require an extensive upgrade to building infrastructure and networking capabilities; however, when combined with external data sources and machine learning, it can enable new levels of performance and cost savings. Airport operators can implement solutions allowing for central monitoring and management of connected infrastructure across the airport property. With the inclusion of AI systems, building infrastructure can automatically adjust in real-time based on data trends. By accounting for changes in weather, passenger demographics, or time of day, a system can reduce operating costs or scale up to improve the performance of various airport processes.

Digital Twin Integration

Digital twin technology allows for the digital recreation of real-world equipment or processes through advanced data analytics and AI solutions. As more devices and pieces of airport equipment are monitored by a network, new possibilities become available for data visualization. Advanced machine learning and data visualization solutions can support the use of a digital twin of airport property. Connected devices provide the data that a digital twin requires to operate, and as machine learning solutions become more advanced, so do the opportunities. The eventual fully digital simulation of airport equipment and processes can be done as both types of solutions advance.

Through this combination of IoT devices and digital twin technology, airport operators will no longer be limited to waiting for historical data to prove that a solution is a success. Instead, process changes or equipment additions can be simulated to identify their benefits or issues in real time, which can eliminate months of trial and error in process change implementation. Airport organizations can more effectively test multiple process scenarios to determine the most appropriate solution.

Industry Status

Exploring Internet of things (IoT) technology deployments in both aviation and non-aviation industries can provide airport operators with a better understanding of the technology as a whole. This article outlines the current state of IoT technology from both perspectives.

Aviation Industry

Consumption Monitoring

Airports are deploying various types of connected devices to centrally monitor the consumption of resources. From printers to restrooms, airport operators can gain a better understanding of how their airport is performing.[3]

Passenger Wayfinding

Using connected beacons strategically placed throughout the airport environment, airports can provide navigation services to passengers using their mobile phones. For example, passengers can view maps of the airport property with real-time navigation instructions. Alleviating this aspect of passenger travel anxiety can help to improve more portions of the passenger journey.[4]

Real-Time Passenger Feedback

Passengers can provide feedback in real time at connected devices located across the airport property, such as restrooms. This can alert airport staff to issues in certain areas so they can respond as necessary.[5]

Non-aviation Industry

Preventative Maintenance

By monitoring building infrastructure and equipment constantly through connected devices, operators can dispatch teams as needed to address problems. Examples include emptying trash cans before they are full and cleaning restroom facilities based on usage patterns. No longer will teams need to commit to regular schedules that can misallocate time and resources; they can instead address problems before they occur.[6] Connected devices can provide smart and automated management of building resources; from heating to lighting to access management, the building can be used more efficiently with less staff.[7]

Technology Interaction

Technology solutions may enable or be supported by other types of technologies. In some cases, the advancement of one technology may be vital to the effective use of another. This article highlights some of the high-level ways that Internet of things (IoT) technology may leverage the functionality of other technologies or be used to enhance the functionality of another technology. As solution development continues, integrations with other technologies may become more evident.

Autonomous Vehicles

To operate in a real-world environment, autonomous vehicles must communicate with other vehicles and IoT devices in the environment, such as parking spot sensors, stoplights, and wayfinding signs.

Mixed Reality

Mixed-reality solutions can be integrated with the data generated by IoT devices, providing users with a more engaging and contextual experience. For example, mixed-reality embedded equipment can relay contextual information to staff conducting maintenance or repair tasks.

Digital Twin

Digital twin solutions require IoT devices to access the data embedded in equipment or processes. To simulate an environment digitally, data from equipment and processes must be accessible by the digital twin solution. Providing this data connection should be the first step when developing a digital twin solution.

Technology Barriers

As with other technologies noted in this Publication, there are market forces or obstacles in development that present barriers to the deployment and widespread adoption of Internet of things (IoT) technology. Keeping abreast of these barriers can help airport operators know when to expect to see wider use of this technology in the public and when they should look to reassess it for their own use. This article outlines the current state of IoT barriers.

Improved Network Connectivity and Bandwidth

Networking bandwidth and speed are necessary to effectively support IoT deployments. A comprehensive IoT deployment may require greater networking capacity than an airport organization has available.

Data Analytics and Effective Management Solutions

Effective data analytics and management solutions are needed to best leverage an IoT deployment. Airport managers may require a better understanding of where IoT deployments can help their operations today before they would consider deployments. Airport organizations will need to develop sufficient data analytics solutions and data analysis skills to gain insight from gathered data. Airport organizations may be incentivized to incorporate more IoT devices as they become better prepared to derive insights from the data those devices may yield.

Budgetary Inclusion for Traditionally Non-connected Devices

Current airport budgets most likely track equipment pricing for non-connected devices. The price increase for connected devices may cause airport managers to hesitate in experimenting with new deployments.