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Smart Airport Capabilities Soar

Krystal Maxwell
Aug 28, 2018

Connected City 6

Most people can relate to travel stress. Busy security lines, gate changes, short connection times, dirty bathrooms with long lines, and general crowds can cause stress at the airport no matter the travel occasion. The number of air passengers has continued to increase—excepting the decline experienced during the recession—and more passengers leads to further airport congestion.

Rising Numbers of Passengers Necessitate Innovation

According to the US Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2017 was a record year for number of airline passengers, with a total of 965.0 million passengers for domestic and international travel, up 3.4% from 2016’s previous record high of 933.1 million passengers. Airports need to ensure a more efficient airport experience to address these yearly increases. Internet of Things (IoT) solution offerings are expanding capabilities within smart buildings to address pain points of building occupants, owners, and managers, and can provide value to airports looking to combat airport inefficiencies.

Smart Bathrooms Land in Atlanta and Los Angeles

As part of Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s $6 billion modernization program, the airport is piloting smart bathrooms in one of its terminals. For the project, Infax, an Atlanta based software and analytics company, partnered with Los Angeles based Tooshlights, which offers restroom traffic management. The smart bathroom systems installed notify travelers when a bathroom stall is ready to be used via a red indicator light over the stall changing to green. The light wirelessly communicates with a smart latch. While for some this might seem unnecessary given a person’s ability to check a stall door, the goal is to reduce time by helping travelers find a stall faster, thus reducing bathroom wait time.

The system displays information outside of the bathroom, so travelers can see the number of available stalls without even going in to the bathroom. An additional feature alerts cleaning staff in real-time when a bathroom needs to be cleaned and uses predictive analytics to inform staff which bathrooms are most likely to need servicing next. Infax and Tooshlights worked together earlier in the year to provide smart bathroom capabilities at a terminal at Los Angeles International Airport. Other airports such as George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport in Houston have already deployed smart bathrooms.

Flying Forward

Success or failure of these pilots to reduce waiting time and provide cleaner bathrooms to increase traveler’s airport satisfaction will influence the decision of others to follow suit. Smart bathrooms are just one solution to airport inefficiencies that are being enabled through IoT technology. While solutions for airport efficiency and optimization are just emerging, several companies are already offering indoor navigation for airports. The value of a less stressful and more efficient and pleasant airport experience will need to be shown to travelers to reduce skepticism of smart airport solutions and initial deployments will play a large role in traveler education and experience.