Digital transformation is essential but tread carefully, says ADL

20 September 2018
The Internet of Things and other digitalisation enablers can help airports to improve operational efficiency, customer service, and profitability – but a holistic approach is necessary, according to a new report. Source: Nornir

Airport IT infrastructure is nearing a tipping point “beyond which the needs and expectations of passengers, airlines, and shareholders can no longer be met”, according to a new report published on 20 September.

Physical and IT infrastructure at many airports was not designed to handle the high passenger volumes and diverse customer needs that we see today – so digital transformation is a pressing need, consultancy Arthur D Little (ADL) argued in a report for Amadeus.

“There is a huge opportunity for airports,” Russell Pell, managing partner for ADL Greater China, explained to Jane’s . “This report shows there are many dimensions to digitalisation and many technologies to choose from, but airports recognise they need a way to pull these technologies together holistically, either to improve the end-to-end journey for the passenger or to solve an operational challenge.”

ADL obtained opinions and insight from 13 airport operators in Asia and Europe, UK air navigation service provider NATS, and selected industry experts. They ranked operational efficiency benefits (in terms of capacity enhancement and enhanced resilience or agility) as the main reasons to invest in digital transformation, ahead of other outcomes such as an improved passenger experience or cost efficiencies.

ADL described the end-state for digital maturity as Airport 4.0: a fully connected ecosystem with superior proactivity and reactivity to adapt to real-time airport requirements. Reaching Airport 4.0 requires heavy capital investment and long-term construction projects, so airports need to anticipate how best to generate a return on investment (ROI).

Varied priorities

Airports are at different stages of the digital transformation journey: some focus on the routine use of self-service and process efficiency technologies, while others use digital technology to optimise flow monitoring and passenger processing. They differ in their level of technological understanding and application of digital solutions. “The extent to which digital is perceived to replace, as opposed to reinforce, existing manual processes also varies,” the ADL study added.

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