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Digital and Personal: Future-Proofing Airport Operations and Services


To compete effectively and win over the next generation of travelers, airports need to use Code Halo thinking to deepen insights across the value chain and create more personalized and “just-in-time” travel services.

Prompted by other industries’ efforts, and the growth in international air passenger traffic, airports are working to enhance the traveler experience. Indeed, the number of people taking to the skies is forecast to reach 7.3 billion by 2034, according to The International Air Transport Association (IATA). However, as air traffic increases, the industry also faces challenges in the form of infrastructure constraints and environmental regulations, forcing all players in the value chain, in every area of airport operations, to become more responsive and efficient. 

To remain relevant and compete on a scale with airports that were “born digital,” older facilities need to quickly embrace digital business constructs. The SMAC Stack (social, mobile, analytics and cloud technologies) and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors can serve as a technological foundation for more streamlined and real-time ways of working.

Decoding Airport Transformation

Today’s travelers generate a virtual footprint, or “halo” of digital information, through their interactions and transactions with people, processes and devices. Making meaning from these vast digital fields – or what we call Code HaloTM thinking  – is mandatory for airports to understand and anticipate the needs and desires of their customers. Three Code Halos can be constructed and then analyzed for meaning to deliver unprecedented business value to airports: 

Three Code Halos can be constructed and then analyzed for meaning to deliver unprecedented business value to airports. Learn more by exploring the interactive graphic below:

Figure 1

Asset Code Halos

The data collected from assets such as air bridges, vehicles, HVAC sensors, device sensors, telematics instruments and location technologies can be assembled to create an asset Code Halo. By mining this information, airports can enable capabilities such as predictive maintenance. For example, through the continuous monitoring of an asset’s condition, it is possible to calculate the appropriate time for maintenance and inspection activities. Analytics also plays a crucial role in optimizing airport efficiency. For instance, the use of modern technologies such as iBeacons – low-energy Bluetooth devices that can interact with passengers’ mobile phones – can help airports make better use of their real estate.

Passenger Code Halos 

Based on a 2014 Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques (SITA) survey, more than three-quarters of airport passengers carry smartphones. Airports can gather a great deal of useful information about passengers’ likes, dislikes and behaviors by mining data from their social platforms. By mapping this data with traveler transactional data and applying analytics, airports can predict and influence passengers’ behavior. For instance, a passenger walking by a retail store or restaurant inside the airport can receive a personalized notification or offer on his/her smartphone. Travelers can also obtain updates on the nearest check-in counter, baggage drop point and other important information relative to their airport experience.

Employee Code Halos 

Employee Code Halos can be built by harnessing data from airports’ systems of record that contain insights on employees’ skills, location and availability. By looking for intersections between employee Code Halos and asset Code Halos, airports can resolve operational issues – at the right place and time and by the right personnel – before they undermine traveler experiences. 

Additionally, they can correctly forecast workforce demands, thereby enhancing the flexibility and reliability of airport services.

Code Halo Business Benefits

By employing Code Halo thinking, airports can do the following:

Enhance passenger experiences.

  • Personalize services by integrating disparate systems to deliver just-in-time custom notifications, information and advertising.

  • Reduce terminal congestion through greater visibility into high-traffic and congested areas.

  • Enhance the retail/food and beverage experience by customizing products and services for passengers. 

Improve operational efficiency and resilience. 

  • Optimize staff and resources by applying advanced analytics and collaborative decision-making to passenger tracking data, and using those insights to improve utilization of personnel and other assets. 

  • Enable more informed, real-time decision-making. Armed with weather data, resource availability and flight status data, airport staff can better execute flight movement and passenger flow. 

  • Reduce asset breakdowns by enabling predictive analytics to foresee asset breakdowns well before they occur. 

  • Improve safety and security by arming ground staff and security personnel with facial-recognition and emotion-reading tools, so they can quickly react to compliance challenges and/or safety breaches. 

Improve top- and bottom-line performance. 

  • Grow aeronautical revenue by boosting traveler loyalty to improve the passenger experience. A technologically advanced airport can also motivate airlines to partner and establish hub operations to drive more aeronautical revenue.

  • Grow non-aeronautical revenue by uncovering alternative revenue sources from non-aviation activities, such as personalized service offerings (lounge access, Wi-Fi, etc.), smart parking solutions, airport retail outlets, and food and beverage facilities. 

  • Significantly reduce operational expenses. From our experience, we estimate airports could improve their asset management efficiency by 15% to 20% by creating an integrated ecosystem in which information flows seamlessly and resource deployment is performed with speed and agility. 

Looking Forward 

Airports are waking up to the harsh realities of the complex and competitive environment in which they operate. Our engagements and interactions with operators at many airports, including London’s Heathrow and Changi Airport in Singapore, confirm that they are embracing digital technologies and business strategies to confront these challenges. 

In the age of digital, airports’ execution of Code Halo thinking will be the catalyst for significant transformation and growth, and a strong lever for future-proofing their business. 

For more examples and illustrations of the use of Code Halos in airport operations, read our whitepaper Digital and Personal: Future-Proofing Airport Operations and Services or visit Cognizant’s Transportation and Logistics Consulting Practice for more.

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