Airports from Australia and Asia to the Middle East and Europe and the Americas are transforming operations and enhancing terminal spaces. Effectively integrating technology with new building infrastructure is essential for desired outcomes. Every successful implementation of technology raises the standard for the entire sector, as airports continue to re-create the passenger experience.

San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco International Airport, Terminal 3 East

Leveraging Technology at San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

San Francisco International Airport’s Terminal 1, now under construction, will integrate state-of the-art technology to optimize business operations and allow passengers to easily connect with real-time travel information. Data will be aggregated from previously siloed systems, and data on traveller movement, generated from real-time location-based services, will enable enhanced facility management. A movement analytics platform will determine wait times at key areas throughout the terminal, including ground transportation, check-in and security checkpoints. Digital signage will complete the process by directing passengers to the best locations for fastest flow. 

Terminal 1 builds on previous innovations at SFO. The airport already inaugurated an advanced facility in 2015 with the renovation of Terminal 3 East. Sustainable design principles, thoughtful spaces and cutting-edge technology recast Terminal 3 East to meet the evolving needs of travellers. Terminal 3 East infrastructure supports today’s smartphone applications as well as a breakthrough airport platform called “Flight Deck”—massive interactive and immersive digital displays that are both practical and entertaining. Passengers not only see real-time flight information and updates but also interact with touchscreen kiosks that display content for destinations reachable from San Francisco International Airport. The entire offering can be accessed via passengers’ mobile devices. 

Preparing for the Future

Perhaps the most familiar yet still-promising benefit for travellers is accessing real-time information on their smartphones. New opportunities lie ahead for airports, airlines and vendors, as they strive to personalize the passenger experience through mobile applications. Location-based technology will make it possible for travellers to have more contextually-based options for enjoying spare time before departures. Augmented-reality wayfinding tools will increasingly help travellers save time and energy by digitally leading them to check-in areas, departure gates, baggage belts and other desired locations. Taking that concept just one step further, imagine passengers satisfying an impromptu craving for pizza by having it delivered to them at their departure gate.  

Meaningful improvement includes a series of factors throughout the traveller’s journey. While movement within the airport is a large piece of the traveller’s navigational puzzle, creating an efficient and enjoyable journey also involves pieces outside the airport. What if passengers could avoid trip delays and thus save valued time on every trip? Providing this major benefit would involve leveraging data coupled with analytics to foresee delays, then notifying passengers via their mobile devices—with enough lead time to allow for changing the departure day and time. 

Anticipating passenger needs, exceeding passenger expectations and making informed investments will form a proactive approach to help shape airports of the future and enhance the total travel experience.