You struggle to arrive at the airport thanks to traffic chaos. You are then faced with a huge queue to drop off your bags and check-in, a clunky and uncomfortable experience. Now you have to find and pass through airport security—another time-consuming and burdensome challenge. You briefly enter the relative comfort of duty-free but spend too much time looking at products you don't need, so cut it fine to find the right gate—but you have no idea where to go. And after sitting on a plane for four hours, you finally get to your destination and lose your bag.
Sound about right? Luckily, some travel technology companies are working on products that will revolutionise air travel—making it a pleasurable and seamless experience.
ICM – self-service bag drops
ICM Airport Technics specialises in self-service bag drop solutions. The company has processed more than 100 million bags worldwide, and its products include both retrofitted and replacement-type Auto Bag Drop (ABD) units.
ICM's retrofit solutions enable passengers to be in control of the process and check in themselves. Meanwhile, customer service agents can focus on safety and security. Advanced retrofit solutions include additional detection devices for a more secure process. ABDs include fully automatic bag drop solutions with high security and safety features, including biometrics and ergonomics.
The travel tech company also designs check-in kiosks, created in the same style as the ABDs, to provide consistency for passengers across the entire check-in and bag drop process. Finally, ICM makes the Smart Biopod, which provides a touchless and hygienic passenger departure flow using integrated facial recognition biometric technology.
Thales – e-passports and verification systems
Thales is a global digital security company with a complete end-to-end e-passport solution. The company offers highly secure travel documents such as biometric passports and robust border control security products. The solutions are designed to provide high security and efficiency for border crossings while improving the passenger experience.
By combining advanced biometric technology with efficient data management and processing, Thales is helping to make international travel safer and more convenient for passengers and the authorities.
Thales also offers various components and solutions for machine-readable passports, electronic passports, and the latest generation of biometric passports. The company produces a range of passport readers that can capture biometric data from e-passports, including facial recognition and fingerprint scanning.
The passport readers are designed to be used with Thales’ border control systems, which process passengers quickly and efficiently. Using biometric identity verification, these systems ensure that only authorised individuals are allowed into or out of the country.
Thales also delivers mobile border control solutions for use in different locations. As these solutions are portable and easy to deploy, they can be brought in during peak capacity (summer holidays, for example) to reduce blockages.
Linev Systems – X-ray imaging solutions
Linev Systems specialises in security and detection technology. The company produces two security X-ray screening products for use in airports.
The parcel, baggage, and small cargo X-ray inspection product is designed to provide high-quality, reliable security screening of items in airports. The product uses advanced X-ray imaging technology to generate high-resolution images of the contents of bags and packages, which can be analysed by security personnel.
Baggage inspection products detect dangerous objects by atomic number. An operator can obtain advanced-quality images through AI automatic threat detection software, ensuring passenger safety.
Linev Systems also produces full-body X-ray scanners for Customs and Border Security. The tech includes high-resolution imaging and advanced detection capabilities. While the individual being inspected remains still, the non-contact bodyscanner provides a clear image in three seconds. The threat detection algorithms can non-intrusively detect contraband items on or inside smugglers' bodies.
Smiths Detection – no more 100ml liquid restrictions
Smiths Detection is a global leader in threat detection and security inspection technologies. The HI-SCAN 6040 CTiX is now installed in several airports, including the Leonardo da Vinci International Airport in Rome. The device is a computed tomography (CT) X-ray scanner producing high-resolution volumetric 3D images.
The travel technology allows items to be assessed in luggage quickly and in great detail, reducing false-alarm rates. Airports that use this technology can allow passengers to keep electronics and liquids over 100ml in their bags—speeding up passenger screening, reducing touchpoints, and ending a significant source of passenger frustration.
Air New Zealand – Sophie
In 2019, Air New Zealand introduced a holographic virtual assistant—a digital human named Sophie—at Sydney International Airport. Sophie is programmed to answer questions about the departure process and directs passengers to areas in the airport.
Sophie is made by Soul Machines, which uses neural networks and brain models to bring its digital humans to life from their cloud-based human computing engine.
KLM – connections through live hologram bar
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines asked itself: "What if travellers waiting to board a plane could exchange tips face-to-face with others heading in the opposite direction?" The mega-company then created a hologram bar where travellers can meet and talk.
Passengers can communicate with a hologram of other passengers anywhere on the planet (with the same travel technology). They can share travel information, tips, and cultural insights.
SITA – beacon technology
SITA is an information technology company that provides IT communication services to the air transport industry. SITA’s beacon technology provides passengers with real-time information on flight status, gate changes, and directions throughout the airport.
The beacons use Bluetooth Low-Energy technology, and passengers receive information and personalised offers via the airport’s mobile app. The technology is used at Miami International Airport, Heathrow Airport, and San Francisco International Airport.
SITA software can also be used with wearable devices, such as smartwatches and Google Glass, to provide a better passenger experience. Flight attendants wearing the glasses can greet passengers by name and see their dietary requirements and any additional important information.
Qmatic – virtual queuing
Qmatic is a Swedish company specialising in airport queue management solutions that optimise passenger flow and reduce congestion. The company's systems use sensors, cameras, and data analytics to monitor passenger flow in real time, improving the passenger experience.
Sensors and cameras installed at key locations monitor passenger flow and collect data on queue length, wait times, and other metrics. The data is analysed to identify congestion and optimise queue management, directing passengers to less crowded areas or opening additional lanes to accommodate peak demand.
Qmatic has also created a virtual queuing system for British Airways at Heathrow Airport. The travel technology allows customers to plan their departures and provides a dedicated check-in slot. When it's time to check in, passengers are notified of the correct location.
Apple AirTag – preventing lost luggage
Apple AirTags are small, lightweight, Bluetooth-enabled tracking devices that can be attached to luggage. They work with Apple's Find My network, which uses Bluetooth signals, Wi-Fi, and GPS to locate lost items.
If a passenger attaches an AirTag to their luggage and it goes missing, they can locate it with the Find My app on their iPhone. The AirTag sends out a Bluetooth signal that can be picked up by any nearby Apple device, which then relays the location of the AirTag to the Find My network.
The app shows the last known location of the AirTag, which can help the passenger narrow down the search area. Additionally, if someone else with an iPhone or iPad comes near the lost luggage and has the Find My app installed, their device will pick up the AirTag's signal and relay the location back to the owner.
Let's face it: air travel is currently a challenging experience. The increased number of passengers and legacy systems at airports create queues, friction, confusion, and frustration. Fortunately for passengers, companies are working on innovative travel technology solutions to make the experience safer and more enjoyable.