inter airport Europe 2017 – The interconnected airport is shaping tomorrow’s airport landscape

by Silke Kley

Just recently the 21st edition of inter airport Europe came to an end at the Trade Fair Centre in Munich, Germany. From October 10 - 13 the world's leading airport exhibition attracted a total of 13,854 visitors from 110 countries, representing a growth of 9 percent compared to the previous event in 2015. As a well-established and highly international event, inter airport Europe connects industry experts from around the world focusing on the latest trends, innovations and technologies in the airport industry. INFORM participates in the exhibition on a regular basis to compare notes about the key challenges and developments within the industry.

This year's inter airport Europe event was all about the "interconnected airport" which is currently boosting innovations in the aviation industry. There is no doubt that automation and digitalization are among the key drivers for future developments of airports. According to Arthur D. Little's report of Airports 4.0, digital-based solutions will grow by 40 percent in 2020, aiming at an advanced passenger experience and improved operations. The concept of the interconnected airport involves full connectivity with all stakeholders; therefore, airports concentrate on the implementation of an overall IT infrastructure, which is expanding IT solutions across all areas of the airport and focusing on the close connection of all processes. This involves processes such as passenger and baggage handling, maintenance operations and the management of ground service equipment. Moreover, the integration of IT interfaces with airlines and other service providers within a single airport, as well as across various other airports, is a crucial success factor for the airport of the future.

Visitors at the inter airport Europe exhibition were able to experience a comprehensive range of airport technology, equipment, design and services, including intelligent resource planning software, automated baggage handling systems and driverless vehicles. The latter involves, for example, self-driving shuttle buses transporting passengers from the car park to the terminal or between two terminals. This way, personnel costs can be reduced while service times are extended. Another trend can be seen in automated solutions. As the number of passengers is increasing further, the demand for automated solutions at airports, facilitating the smooth transit of both passengers and baggage, is growing. At the exhibition, a new baggage system was presented that replaces the need for fixed conveyors and sorting systems. The system involves individual vehicles which carry a single bag and determine its route through an airport. In addition, the management for the key use of airport resources has become even more relevant than before. Manual planning approaches established in the past hardly withstand today's dynamic environment with requirements constantly changing. As a result, airport operators concentrate on the implementation of intelligent software solutions for enhanced planning and real-time operations in the face of operational disruptions.

Over the last few years, the main trends of the airport industry have predominantly varied. In the 1980's, airport planning and interior layout gained a new dimension. Moreover, the focus in the 1990's was on flight safety, the increasing air freight and how to improve passenger comfort. At some point, these trends and innovations became a standard practice and today's technologies are focusing on issues such as security, automation, mobility and data exchange. By reviewing all these tremendous developments of the past, it is becoming clear that an exciting future is ahead, offering more opportunities for airport operators than ever before.

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