Face scans, ro­bots: Plan­ning the next gen­er­a­tion of air­ports

... They are re­ally com­pet­ing to be the global hubs for air trans­porta­tion.”

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - World -

SIN­GA­PORE — Pas­sen­gers’ bag­gage is col­lected by ro­bots, they re­lax in a lux­u­ri­ous wait­ing area com­plete with an in­door gar­den be­fore get­ting a face scan and swiftly pass­ing through se­cu­rity and im­mi­gra­tion — this could be the air­port of the fu­ture.

It’s a vi­sion that plan­ners hope will be­come re­al­ity as new tech­nol­ogy is rolled out, trans­form­ing the ex­haust­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of get­ting stuck in lengthy queues in aging, over­crowded ter­mi­nals into some­thing far more pleas­ant.

The Asia-Pa­cific re­gion has been lead­ing the way but faces fierce com­pe­ti­tion from the Mid­dle East as ma­jor hubs com­pete to at­tract the grow­ing num­ber of long-haul trav­el­ers who can choose how to route their jour­ney.

The re­gions “are the two lead­ing pock­ets of tech­nol­ogy growth be­cause they are re­ally com­pet­ing to be the global hubs for air trans­porta­tion”, said Seth Young, direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Avi­a­tion Stud­ies at Ohio State Uni­ver­sity.

“If I’m go­ing to fly from New York to Ban­ga­lore, do I trans­fer through Abu Dhabi or Dubai or do I trans­fer an au­to­matic ro­bot vac­uum clean­ing the floor dur­ing a me­dia tour at the newly built Changi air­port ter­mi­nal 4 in Sin­ga­pore, which is sched­uled to open later this year. through Hong Kong? That’s a huge, huge mar­ket.”

But the changes also rep­re­sent ma­jor chal­lenges that could up­end decades-old busi­ness mod­els at ma­jor air­ports, with an­a­lysts warn­ing op­er­a­tors may face a hit to their rev­enues to the tune of bil­lions of dol­lars.

Gen­er­at­ing buzz

Fa­cial scan­ning in par­tic­u­lar is gen­er­at­ing a lot of buzz. Changi in Sin­ga­pore, re­garded as among the world’s best air­ports, is set to roll out this bio­met­ric tech­nol­ogy at a new ter­mi­nal to open later this year.

Pas­sen­gers will have their faces scanned when they first check in and at sub­se­quent stages, the­o­ret­i­cally al­low­ing them to go through the whole board­ing process quickly with­out en­coun­ter­ing another hu­man.

De­spite the buzz sur­round­ing new tech­nol­ogy, there are con­cerns that rapid in­no­va­tion could threaten long-held ways of do­ing busi­ness.

A re­port from con­sul­tancy Roland Berger warned that air­port rev­enues from re­tail and park­ing could fall by be­tween two and four bil­lion dol­lars due to the new in­no­va­tions.

Au­to­mated, more pre­dictable check-in pro­ce­dures threaten re­tail out­lets as pas­sen­gers are likely to re­duce the “buf­fer” they build in to trips to the air­port, mean­ing less shop­ping time, while de­vel­op­ments such as ride­hail­ing apps could un­der­cut park­ing rev­enues, it said.

ROSLAN RAH­MAN / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Jour­nal­ists watch Cen­ter for Avi­a­tion Stud­ies at Ohio Uni­ver­sity

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