The smart airport concept has become a buzz word in the aviation industry. The concept includes comfort, advanced security for passengers, enhanced overall airport experience and optimization of the operational efficiency of airports. It involves creating passenger-oriented, technology-driven airport experience for passengers, airlines, and airport operation teams by taking full advantage of data science, developments in mobile technologies and innovative thinking. Smart airport solutions being adopted by airports around the world can range from smart gates, beacon technology, mobile devices to navigate the airports and face recognition systems, to air traffic management, baggage and check in management, IP-based security monitoring, communications, ticketing, and information systems, freight operations information systems, air traffic management and airways analytics.
It is important to note that being a smart airport appears much more complex than just being digitized or innovative. A Smart Airport is about the ability of the company to make the most of innovation and technology in order to develop a competitive edge and face international competition.
The challenge is focused on data and the sharing of information between the various stakeholders of airport operations in order to optimize operational performance and quality of service. An airport is no longer just a place for waiting and passing through; airports now give travelers the experience of actually being “in the city” with spaces for gathering, entertainment and customized information.
With many airports evolving into 21st century commuter stations, they now go beyond their basic function of getting passengers from point A to point B, looking to provide a very positive first impression of the city they serve while offering customers new experiences as they transit through. Singapore’s Changi Airport, for example, with its rooftop swimming pool, orchid and sunflower garden, and free 24-hour cinema is one airport working hard to make a good impression and, in doing so, they are a part of a trend where airports are not a source of stress, but rather an extension of the entire holiday experience. Under that scope, a smart airport includes faster, safer, standardised processes, which in turn require seamless and very fast wireless communication means (5G, WiFi).
Speaking on the smart airport concept, the International Vice President of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), Mr. Francis Ehiguese said that logistics is about smartness.
“Everywhere in the world today, we look at smart operations and smart activities. The situation of Nigeria should not be different. I just came back from Rwanda and you need to get to the airport. All their operational facilities are intact. The response to their passenger’s request is also very smart. Rwanda has also become the second fastest growing economy in Africa and it’s about people and tourism. We need to emulate such a country.”
The concept of a smart airport involves smart mobility, data analytics, smart infrastructure and advance technology. He urged the aviation industry in Nigeria to adopt the smart concept in order to become more competitive and sustainable.
Smart mobility involves self service personalization, mobile enablement, collaboration, workflow automation, ability to work anywhere and mobile payment. Data analysis encompasses data integration, video analytics, predictive analytics and prescriptive analytics.
Smart infrastructure on the other hand covers goe-location tracking, smart sensors, wireless, cloud computing and next generation display while advanced technology involves robotics, eco- friendly, biometrics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and virtual/augmented reality he outlined.
However, the Managing Director of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Captain Hamisu Yadudu has disclosed plans by the Authority to adopt the new concept in several airports across the country.