Data makes the difference

The intelligent use of data plays an important role at the Skytrax award winning airport, Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky International. We talk to Brian Cobb, Chief Innovation Officer of the airport’s operator, Kenton County Airport Board.

What’s the role of IT and data in the airport’s evolution?

We’ve come a long way since Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) began operating as a commercial airport in 1947. We’ve had to continually expand to keep up with increasing passenger traffic and the march of technology.  

This doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. Over the last decade alone, we’ve experienced tremendous change and frequently need to reinvent ourselves to keep pace with consumer demands on multiple fronts.

Technology, and specifically the provision of data, are playing a strategic part. A major focus for technology at CVG has been around one pain point where we know we’re challenged: security check points.

It’s at security check points that most travel-related anxiety is experienced by passengers. We knew this couldn’t go unnoticed, unchecked, and allowed to undermine the CVG brand.

How did you tackle the security check point challenge?

We collaborated with the Transportation Security Association (TSA), equipping them with the relevant data they need to operate more efficiently and in a smarter way. Instead of focusing on staffing shortfalls, our data provisioning focuses more on where staffing can be more efficient, ideally negating the need to add staffing resources.

We’re removing the guesswork from volume related surges that often times disrupt the timely security check processes.

The result? A significant improvement in CVG’s queue wait times – from over 60 minutes to around 30 minutes during peak periods of holiday traffic. We closed 2017 with an average wait time of under nine (9) minutes.

It’s a win for those on the operational end as well as passengers, of course. This is just one of many examples where technology, when used effectively and focused on efficiency, can really make a positive difference.

So passenger experience is a key driver?

Absolutely. Our aim is to create a sense of place for all those who visit and an unforgettably positive experience. One initiative we’re working on is making our airport more accessible to all.

At the moment, those requiring passenger assistance will be met by someone and taken to their boarding gate. Now we’re taking this further where this action is performed autonomously. Instead of waiting to be collected by personnel intervention, the passenger may be provided with an autonomous wheelchair option capable of navigating to their gate.

Another area regarding accessibility relates to the airport’s indoor environment, whereby we’ve made use of drone technology to capture the internal environment, create voice-to-text videos and bring this world to life for our disabilities community. We’re continually working to create a welcoming place that feels less unfamiliar for all.

What about IT for staff?

With the rising influence of the Internet of Things, we’ve invested in a way to immediately provide data for some aspects of housekeeping – something we thought we’d never have access to without human intervention.

It means that keeping our restrooms and facilities clean is now a high tech exercise in which wearables for our staff equip them with the information needed to better match the staffing required at peak times for restroom usage.

The technology uses sensors and cloud-based data analytics to notify housekeepers of high restroom traffic. When restroom usage reaches a predetermined number of guests, staff are notified via their wearable device that a restroom needs a quality inspection and cleaning.

Our quality metrics indicate a strong correlation between restroom cleanliness and overall customer embrace of the CVG experience. Wearables is another venture investment to ensure we’re focused and delivering on brand commitments while using cutting-edge technology.

Thoughts on data sharing and the passenger experience?

We’re only at the beginning. There’s an incredible wealth of emerging technology to help us be more efficient and effective in how we operate. All it needs is our willingness to accept and implement. The main stumbling block in the sharing of data is predominantly unsubstantiated concerns about the potential negative implications more so than the positive gains and forward looking development.

We only have to look at the on-demand economy with the likes of Amazon and Uber. The amount of information that the world around us holds about each of us is shocking, however, the consumer is willing to share if the end-effect is positive.

So, if we as consumers are willing to take part in data sharing practices in our daily lives, this alone should drive us to adopt this within the aviation sector to show what a difference we can truly make to the passenger experience. 

The time when we can truly begin to provide a walkthrough experience from check-in to the aircraft door is fast becoming a reality. Learn how SITA Smart Path™ uses biometrics as a 'single identification token'.

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