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How To Enjoy Air Travel Again – Elevating The Air Traveler Experience At The Airport of 2020

Bob Nilsson Director, Vertical Solutions Marketing Published 26 Jun 2018

Air travel doesn’t have to be a dreaded, torturous, agonizing assault, comprised of constant waiting followed by rushing and missed connections. Digital transformation facilitated by smart and agile networking can extend a luxurious first class experience to all airport visitors.

All the information is already available to help travelers smoothly arrive at the airport, find and pay for parking, navigate security, and glide optimally through the terminal while staying comfortably connected with friends and business associates. All that’s needed is reliable, responsive, and pervasive Wi-Fi backed by secure and easily-managed wired network infrastructure and combined with an engaging traveling smart phone app. Delivering a truly traveler-centric experience is an important aspect of the digital transformation of the airport.

The interactive app keeps the traveler engaged, anticipating every travel-related need. Application and usage analytics enable the airport to optimize its resources to continually enhance the experience of future travelers. The key to this vision of the smart airport is a robust, easily-managed network infrastructure. This network offers agility, flexibility, enhanced availability, and minimized operational costs.

The interactive app helps the traveler find their way through the airport, beginning with guidance to open parking as they approach the airport. It welcomes departing travelers to the airport facility and helps them navigate the airport buildings. It provides flight status and alerts of changes with insight to help in reacting to the changes. It can highlight airport amenities, points of interest, and even provide shopping incentives. For disabled travelers, the app can help make special accommodations and provide needed assistance.

Physical airport security is enhanced with the application’s ability to field security questions and alerts from travelers, in line with the “see something, say something” policy. Travelers can view vetted comments and suggestions of others that have been approved by airport management. If necessary, travelers can be located and contacted by airport security.

To gain Internet access, the guest simply signs-on and agrees with the acceptable user policy (AUP). From that point on, the traveler has high speed Internet access, uninterrupted as they move about the airport buildings. They can even use their social media logins, and in the case of higher education travelers, their EDUROAM credentials.

Inbound travelers use the app to quickly become acquainted with the airport, to find their luggage, and check-in with their local transportation, including finding their rental cars or Uber driver, and local accommodations.  The app can connect them with local venues and activities to provide a concierge service.

Returning travelers use the app to find their parked car and make their payments. The smartphone application interacts with travelers to gather feedback so that the airport managers can constantly improve the traveler experience and ensure that the airport provides the best possible experience.

Analytics: Application and Location

ExtremeAnalytics and ExtremeLocation provide information about the travelers, their locations, and the apps that they use as they move through the airport. The user interface presented to the network manager monitors network performance to ensure the user always has adequate bandwidth and connectivity. If responsiveness drops, the network manager can accurately determine the cause of the deficiency: whether it is due to bandwidth limitations at the edge or core, due to the broadband connection back to the Internet, or the result of a slow remote application server. This means that a solution can be rapidly implemented. By tracking the location and movements of the users, general traffic flows through the airport can be optimized.

These real-time analytics provide a degree of situational awareness that can be combined with other real-time inputs to provide a view into security.

Minimizing Waiting Times

Wi-Fi and BLE beaconing technologies provide locationing services that assist with optimizing traffic and minimizing waiting times. The app can inform travelers of the wait times through security and around the airport so that travelers can plan and optimize their travel. Additional opportunities for optimizing travel including tracking and communicating taxi (and other modes of transportation) wait times, luggage arrive delays, and even dining facility wait times.

The Network Capabilities

The network infrastructure is capable of carrying data for a range of activities including airport management data, traveler Internet access, surveillance video, credit card processing data, environmental control, Internet of Things, and control of physical security locks and room access. Providing the best possible user experience in this environment requires adequate bandwidth, network analytics, and policy-based network access control. With these in place, all users and uses of the network have the best possible, completely-secure experience.

Internet of Things

As Internet of Things (IoT) devices become more prevalent throughout the airport, the network needs to provide both control and visibility into analytics to maintain security. IoT is making it possible to dynamically control the indoor environment, climate, and lighting throughout the airport to maximize traveler comfort while minimizing energy consumption. Policy-based network access control in conjunction with application analytics insures that only authorized devices can connect, and, once connected, all sensors and devices are secure and inaccessible to outside break-in attempts.

The entire airport network is managed from a single pane of glass that maximizes ease of management across the wired and wireless infrastructure. ExtremeControl provides policy-based management, enabling device connection based on location, user, application, device type, time of day and many other factors.

Potential Future Enhancements

The opportunity exists within the airport app for frequent travelers to create profiles for a personalized experience each time they visit and pass through the airport. Frequent travelers can gain access to special airport rewards and privileges.

As technology grows, augmented reality can be added to help guide travelers through their airport journey, to “view” arriving and departing flights, and even provide simulated educational experiences at displays and exhibits positioned at various locations throughout the airport. Augmented reality makes it possible to virtually label important features throughout the airport. These labels can be personalized and presented in the local language of the traveler.

Another potential for the future is to offer electronic tags for luggage that the traveler can attach for tracking with the app.

Because of Extreme Networks’ experience in smart buildings, airport networks, network management, application analytics, stadium Wi-Fi, and smart city/secure campus projects, we are able to bring a successful track record and knowledge of the industry’s best practices to bear on the smart airport concept.

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