At the beginning of 2024, the installation of biometric identification equipment at Lisbon and Oporto Airports was announced. This cutting-edge technology, which is a testament to their commitment to innovation and efficiency in air travel, will not only streamline passenger processes but also elevate security standards, ensuring a seamless journey for travellers.
VTM therefore takes this opportunity to recognize the excellent work carried out by the Lisbon and Oporto Airports and, of course, by our esteemed client ANA Aeroportos de Portugal, the entity that manages most Portuguese airports. These recent news are symbolic of a great milestone in enhancing passenger experience and taking one more step towards fully transforming into Airports 4.0.
Hence, to provide a better understanding of the concept of Airport 4.0, VTM seizes this opportunity to provide a brief explanation below to those who are as interested as we are in this topic.
Through the analysis of different scientific articles, particularly by authors Roberto da Silva & Konarzewski (2022), it is quite easy to understand the origin of the term Airport 4.0 and its respective concept definition. These authors start by referring to the literature of Halpern et al. (2021), which defines the various evolutionary phases that an airport can go through depending on the degree of its digital transformation process:
(Halpern et al., 2021)
Thus, Roberto da Silva & Konarzewski (2022) define Airport 4.0 as a smart airport, whose concept is based on not only using technology for constant and extremely efficient data collection but also using that data strategically, with real-time analysis, decision-making, and information sharing. This type and quantity of collected data, as well as their respective use, can contribute to operational improvements in airport management and optimization, by allowing a much deeper understanding of passenger behaviours (Alabsi & Gil, 2021).
To this definition, Roberto da Silva & Konarzewski (2022) also add that, according to SITA (2021), there are three essential aspects for an airport to be considered smart: the type of infrastructure and technology used, which is integrated into digital systems that enable data sharing and resource management in real-time, and finally, that materialize these same characteristics in smart solutions. Additionally, the authors further add that a fundamental component is the capacity for integration, including the integration of digital systems that are completely independent of each other in their genesis and development, as well as integration with smart cities located in the vicinity of these 4.0 airports.
Additionally, in another scientific article analyzed, Tan & Masood (2022) also conducted a literature review in search of a conceptual definition of Airport 4.0. In their study, these authors concluded that the concept aims to capture the new digital era of airports, also highlighting the ability to analyze data as an essential characteristic of a smart airport. Also, similar to the previously analyzed article, the authors refer to the literature of Zaharia & Pietreanu (2018) with the mention that 4.0 airports allow for efficiency improvements in airport operations, promote improvements in the passenger experience, and additionally generate additional ancillary revenues.
Benefits associated with Airports 4.0
Through the definitions above, it is already possible to begin to understand the benefits associated with this type of infrastructure, mainly regarding economic and social sustainability. Thus, the following briefly presents the framing of smart airports in the three main pillars of sustainability: economic, social and environmental.
Economic Sustainability – The economic aspect of Airport 4.0 is evidenced by the potential impact on strategic plans and operational performance of airports and even their contributions to the economy of the region/country where the airport is located. One of the aspects that stands out in the previous paragraphs is the operational improvements that can arise from the digital transformation process of an airport, which can contribute to optimizing the allocated resources with a consequent cost reduction, as well as generating additional revenues through the analysis of passenger profile data. The following are some practical examples that demonstrate the contribution of smart airports to economic sustainability:
Social Sustainability – The social aspect of Airport 4.0 is mainly related to the responsible management of the socio-economic consequences arising from airport operations and, moreover, with the direct impacts on society and the well-being of passengers. Thus, the social sustainability of smart airports is evident in the impacts of airport operations on the living conditions of the local population and in the perception that passengers have of the airport infrastructure as users. Some practical examples of the applicability of digital transformation in this social aspect are:
Environmental Sustainability – The environmental aspect of Airport 4.0 refers to the ability to reduce the harmful environmental impact of airport activities, including aspects such as minimizing air pollution, reducing noise, and optimizing water and electricity consumption, which are typically high in airports. Some examples of environmental initiatives enabled by the digital transformation of airports are:
When looking for practical examples and case studies related to smart airports (Airports 4.0), it is sufficient to focus on airports at the forefront of technology and innovation. In this context, the two most frequently mentioned examples are Changi Airport in Singapore and Dubai International Airport (Global Infrastructure Hub, 2024). For example, it should be noted that Singapore Airport is integrated with technologies including sensors, data analysis, and artificial intelligence to improve the passenger experience and increase productivity, and furthermore, has already implemented a blockchain-based digital wallet (Global Infrastructure Hub, 2024).
Other relevant examples of airports that can already be framed in this Airport 4.0 context are cases such as London Airport (UK), New Delhi (India), Beijing (China), or Atlanta (USA), with the latter often seen as an international benchmark. As for Lisbon and Oporto Airports, with the implementation of the biometric identification technology mentioned in this article, they are also beginning to position themselves and fully transforming towards the concept of smart airports.
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[Portuguese translation below] VTM was present on January 9th at the conference organized by AMT, the Portuguese Authority for Mobility and Transport, titled “First-Generation Public Passenger Service Contracts – Balance and Outlook” – where perspectives (and concerns) of various public transport operators, granting authorities, as well as other relevant entities in the sector were heard. […]