How cloud technology is enabling frictionless travel at the airport

Stefan Ropers

President, Strategic Growth Businesses, Amadeus

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I was working from home recently when my broadband provider stopped working, the network was down and there wasn’t much I could do. As it turns out the cabinet at the end of my street which contained the network equipment had suffered a power failure and everyone on the street was affected. I had several large files that needed to be sent ahead of meetings and I was due to join an online video conference later that day. Mild anxiety set in as I realized this was really going to interrupt my working day. Fortunately, I was able to access the 4G connection on my mobile. But what if I had lived in an area without 4G, or if I hadn’t upgraded to a suitable handset?

This is effectively a situation faced not just on an individual level but also on a larger scale - in our industry it’s easy to forget the critical role that layers of underlying technology play in enabling the new digital experiences we enjoy talking about so often. But a new biometric boarding process and a contactless payment system are only as good as the resiliency of the network and systems that support them. It’s only if we make a resilient architecture possible that we can push forward to deliver a truly friction-free experience for travelers.

Of course, one solution to network connectivity challenges would be the equivalent of my home computing set-up. When my network went down, I was able to continue working because my email, productivity and video conferencing applications were all cloud-based. And with the mobile network to fall back on, it wasn’t quite business as usual, but it wasn’t far off.

For airports that have adopted our cloud platform, their check-in, baggage, and payment systems are no longer tied to the performance of network hardware on the ground. If the worst happens, the airport can switch to a 3G or 4G connection so that operations can continue as normal. And just like my working from home experience, it really is that simple to change network or computing hardware.

As an example, Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) partnered with Amadeus to launch the iCUSS wireless mobile check-in kiosk. Running on the cloud, it can be rapidly deployed both in and outside the airport terminal. With passenger numbers fluctuating day to day, this flexible technology helps to reduce queues at check-in counters. If you think back to my working from home example, this is a bit like being able to call on as much bandwidth as I needed on demand to support my work needs e.g. need a video call? We can just turn on more bandwidth immediately.

This flexibility benefits passengers too. Wouldn’t it be great if you weren’t tied to the airport when checking-in and dropping your bag? I know I would relish that additional afternoon in my destination if I didn’t have to worry about getting to the airport early to check in and drop off my bags. To that end, ground handling innovator OACIS or ‘Off Airport Check In Solutions’, is using our cloud-based platform to deliver ‘pop-up’ check-in and bag-drop stations off-airport at locations such as cruise terminals, sporting events, hotels and conferences. Here the cloud has improved check-in for travelers, a process that has traditionally seen little innovation.

But despite these great successes, we still see some misconceptions around cloud infrastructure and what it means for day-to-day airport operations. That’s why we’ve addressed these in a short paper, which challenges some of the myths around the cloud and explores the many benefits a cloud approach can bring to airports. “Airports in the cloud: dispelling the myths and charting the progress”  is available for download and you can find out more about our airport solutionshere

Airports in the cloud: dispelling the myths and charting the progress

Download report