With air traffic expected to double in the next 17 years, airports around the world are rising to the demand to meet the growth of capacity. While updated infrastructure will be a key factor in the future of our airports, the development of advanced technology will play a vital role in making air travel faster, easier, and ultimately safer.

2018 came to an end with the first fully biometric terminal being opened in the U.S. on November 29th. Delta Air Lines and Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International airport partnered together to open and introduce biometric ID technology to the United States in what is considered the busiest airport in the world. The technology, which uses facial recognition, reads each person’s unique features through a camera-based system, which is then compared to verified photos in a database from US Customs and Border Protection. Travelers can easily glance at the screen to check into their flight, drop off baggage, and pass through TSA ID checks. The implementation of facial recognition will save time for travelers. Experts in aviation security believe the incorporation of biometric technology will also lead to a more secure system for airports around the globe. Atlanta’s general manager, John Selden, shares that from a security perspective, facial recognition will be far more effective than a paper, barcode scan.

The U.S. TSA also awarded a contract in 2018 to the company ThruVision, one of the leaders in people-screening technology. ThruVision utilizes a unique stand-off people-screening solution to detect threats and illicit items as passengers pass through airports or other mass screening areas. ThruVision’s technology uses terahertz imaging to detect concealed objects up to 25 feet away. The technology has passed extensive testing and trials and will be a big game changer to identifying and preventing threats to security.

Finally, as the mobile app industry continues to boom, we will see continued incorporation of automated self-service technology. The entirety of a passengers journey has changed significantly with mobile app usage and wearable tech. With more people using mobile devices to book flights, track luggage, order meals, and request ride-sharing services, airports will need to keep up with smart travel with an overall digitalization of services. The incorporation of virtual and augmented reality will become more frequently present, opening the door for countless opportunities to assist travelers. Virtual maps and assistance for individuals with varying language backgrounds or disabilities can be improved with the development and implementation of virtual and augmented realities.

In an effort to make air travel faster and more secure, airports are evaluating the future of their infrastructure and technology to adapt to the rising number of travelers. The advancement of technology plays a major role in the planning of future passenger insight. To conclude, this quote from Floor Felten, the general manager for strategic planning and development at Brisbane Airport speaks to the future of airports perfectly: “In the era of big data, we don’t go online, we live online.”

Kelly Hoggan has over 30 years of experience in aviation security, operations, and technology. He is the founder and principle of H4 Solutions, which provides aviation security consulting.

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