In 2016, Sydney Airport served a total of 41.9 million passengers. With so many people relying on an organisation, there is a lot of pressure for everything to run smoothly and efficiently, as even a small hiccup can have consequences for someone’s travel journey. Here, Stuart Rattray, General Manager Technology at Sydney Airport talks about how technology is being integrated into the airport’s operations to improve customer experience and streamline processes.
Improvements in technology and a desire to innovate has seen Australian airports at the forefront of some exciting changes in travel.
Some of the advances in technology at Sydney Airport are allowing passengers to access relevant queue times for security processing and view their travel information in familiar apps.
Technology is also helping the airport predictively manage assets to reduce disruptions.
Mr Rattray said technology touches every part of Sydney Airport’s operations.
“It’s central to how we drive efficiency, offer a seamless customer experience and partner with airline customers to achieve On Time Performance.
“I’m responsible for our technology focus, including our digital strategy where we’re focused on a seamless customer journey, as well as our open data strategy, where we collaborate with our partners to deliver a great airport experience for our customers,” Mr Rattray said.
Driving airport efficiency with technology
While mobile apps may be the innovations that airline passengers actually see, technology is having a huge impact behind the scenes at the airport.
With over 800 businesses operating at Sydney Airport, Mr Rattray said it is vital that technology allows them to work together to deliver a consistent experience throughout the airport process.
Mr Rattray said Sydney Airport is constantly investing in technology to ensure systems are resilient and able to adapt to demand.
The Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud communication offer very exciting opportunities for airports in terms of monitoring assets.
“Harnessing the data that can be created by connected devices and IoT delivers new ways to monitor performance of critical assets, whether industrial technology, digital sensors or processing technologies.
“This information flow becomes predictive and through big data analytics we become more able to intercept and avoid interruptions before they occur,” Mr Rattray said.
Mr Rattray said it’s essential to have resilient technology underlying the operations of the airport, and Sydney Airport has built in layers of redundancy across all critical aspects of its technology network.
“For example, our Integrated Operations Centre has additional, independent power and connectivity to ensure we can keep it operational in the event of a power outage or network issue. This is a critical part of our technology strategy and we are investing to ensure we have appropriate redundancy in place across our operations,” Mr Rattray said.
Smartphones driving the demand for smarter options
Information and technology are now vital parts of an airline customer journey. Mr Rattray said the increased use of mobile technology has resulted in customers expecting this technology to integrate with their airport experience.
Sydney Airport has taken advantage of new technology by creating an open data strategy with key partners, which helps to ensure a seamless journey for travellers.
Mr Rattray said that although they were comfortable with using mobile phones, passengers were reluctant to download a multitude of apps to access airport information. As a result, Sydney Airport has found a way to integrate airport, flight and travel data with channels that are already familiar to customers.
“They can access flight information from our own website and our Flight Information Display Screens in the terminals, but they can also use Twitter, getting real-time updates through the BizTweet platform, or through their airline app,” Mr Rattray said.
Accessing flight information through Twitter is convenient for many customers, Mr Rattray said, but the open data strategy also proves vital for the airport by fostering information sharing in real time with key agencies such as the Traffic Management Centre.
“This means we can see the potential impact of a car accident on the Sydney Harbour Bridge straight away, and make faster, better decisions to manage that and minimise the impact on our customers accessing the airport,” said Mr Rattray.
Once at the airport, customers are able to use their smartphones and familiar apps such as Google and Baidu Maps to navigate the terminal. With China being Sydney Airport’s largest source of foreign inbound passengers, it makes sense to offer an integrated app like Baidu Maps, which is China’s equivalent of Google Maps.
Mr Rattray said this provides a familiar piece of home for Chinese passengers, and makes it easier for them to find their way through the airport.
Another exciting innovation at Sydney Airport is real-time queue wait times, where customers can see how long it will take them to move through security screening and passport control, removing a large part of the stress for frequent and infrequent travellers alike.
The airport of the future
Mr Rattray believes airports are at the forefront of exciting innovations and in many respects lead the way in technology development.
“Sydney Airport’s about to begin the first phase of our biometrics roll out which will ultimately allow passengers to navigate through airport processes using facial recognition, without the need to present their passport at each processing point,” Mr Rattray said.
“That has the potential to change the way we travel – and deliver improved customer and security outcomes at the same time.
“We’re seeing innovation like this across the aviation industry, and it’s very exciting to be part of it. Most importantly, our focus on technology is not only delivering some fantastic efficiency gains, but it’s also making a real difference to the customer experience, from reducing queuing to delivering tailored information.”
Mr Rattray believes the airport of the future will be incredibly connected and seamless, where customers can better plan their airport time from home.
He envisions customers using mobile technology to do everything from booking parking, finding their check-in counter and accessing duty free shopping.
Technology is set to make the airport of the future a less stressful and more efficient place.
This will be achieved through preventing service interruptions before they occur, reducing passenger queue times and delivering tailored information to customers in real time.
“As technology and data make all those airport processes faster, less noticeable and far more seamless, your time at the airport will be more focused on having a great experience – so you can expect to start your holiday even earlier,” said Mr Rattray.