Navigant Research Blog

How IoT Can Improve Airports

— March 15, 2017

Airports are busy, crowded places, and navigating through such large and complex buildings can be confusing. The flow of passengers through different checkpoints can go smoothly or stand still for hours. Around 23 million bags are mishandled (either lost or delayed) every year. However, thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), this experience can be transformed. Sensors and connected devices, combined with intelligent analytics, are allowing airports and airlines to make rapid advancements toward a better passenger experience and reducing operational costs.

Sensors are expected to enable airport management to have a real-time understanding of what is necessary to improve traveler experience, such as dispatching additional staff at the check-in counter. This data will help speed things up and streamline numerous processes within an airport. Sensors aren’t the only IoT-related technology being applied to airports. Travelers with smartphones will be able to take advantage of location-based apps to help guide them to their gate. In fact, in the context of digital transformation across all industries, customers are demanding innovations that enable customization—whether it be ordering a coffee or booking an airline seat. Smartphones and mobile applications are the main channels for facilitating customization.

Based on a survey of 225 leading airports, the 2016 Airport IT Trends Survey found that around one-third of airports have incorporated IoT into their IT strategy, while an additional 43% have plans to do so over the next 3 years. 80% of airports in India are expecting an IT budget increase in 2017. In China, 29% of airports included IoT in their strategy in 2016, and that number is expected to rise to 82% by 2019.

IoT Use Cases in Airports

Miami International Airport (MIA) is one of the pioneers employing IoT technologies in airports. The airport’s mobile application, MIA Airport Official, provides flight information, wait times, baggage tracking, the weather, and boarding pass information. It also provides an indoor map with geolocation to help passengers navigate through the airport to restaurants and gates. The GVK Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai has also launched an airport navigation app, the Mumbai T2. Based on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons and technologies, the app provides interactive navigation assistance.

One of the biggest pain points for travelers is baggage collection, and there are IoT technologies to help with that. In particular, radio frequency identification microchips (RFIDs) address mishandling during transfer from one flight to another by ensuring that airports and airlines keep track of bags at every step of the travel. The technology also supports the International Air Transport Associate’s Resolution 753, which requires member airlines to maintain an accurate inventory of baggage beginning in June 2018. In 2016, Delta Airlines spent $500 million to deploy RFID baggage tracking technology at 344 stations around the world, the largest investment in baggage tracking solution yet. The RFID-enabled tags look just like regular barcode tags, but with tiny chips inside that are able to provide real-time tracking of luggage during travel.

There is little doubt that further proliferation of the IoT advancements will affect the air travel industry. With IoT devices and analytics, the airline industry is poised to achieve greater efficiency and better customer service.

 

Reliable Service Parts Critical to Autonomous Driving Future

— June 30, 2015

Thanks to advances in materials that increasingly avoid corrosion, modern engineering and manufacturing processes that improve build quality, and electronics that improve performance and efficiency, cars now last longer than ever. The average age of the more than 200 million cars on American roads today is nearly 11.5 years, and 20- to 30-year old machines are shockingly common. Despite how well-built vehicles have become, parts still eventually break or wear out and need replacement; this includes the sensors that control the vital systems in modern vehicles.

As cars become increasingly automated, the number of sensors has grown dramatically, and they need to be functional and reliable. This potentially poses a significant problem for vehicles after they are out of warranty or out of production. My friend Richard Truett, engineering reporter for trade publication Automotive News, buys older vehicles, repairs or restores them, drives them, and sells them before moving on to the next vehicle.

While most of Richard’s vehicles are older British sports cars that predate the electronic age, he recently bought a 1988 Pontiac Fiero with relatively low mileage that was in need of his TLC. As Richard went through the car from the wheels up, he attacked the engine control electronics that were keeping the car from running properly. In the process, he discovered issues that could pose serious problems for future automated vehicles. It’s actually not uncommon for people to manage to get around for months or years with the tell-tale “check engine light” illuminated, usually indicating some sort of sensor fault. For automated vehicles, that is less likely to be an option because of the dependence on sensors for basic functionality.

Lessons to Be Learned

Standard industry practice after a vehicle goes out of production is for automakers and suppliers to license the production of replacement service parts to third-party manufacturers. In many cases, these service part manufacturers will also reverse engineer the original parts and produce compatible replacements. What Richard discovered when trying to replace the oxygen sensors and spark plugs on his 27-year-old sports car was that compatibility and functionality were often not a sure thing. The electronic systems in the Fiero were comparatively primitive by 2015 standards, but brand-new components as basic as an oxygen sensor or throttle position sensor fail out of the box—that’s a bad sign, and these aren’t even safety-critical systems.

The sensors being used for automated driving systems are far more advanced, and the technology is evolving rapidly, so components are less likely to stay in production with the original manufacturer than they were 3 decades ago. It may not even be possible for third-party manufacturers to replicate the original parts, and if they do, they may not perform to the same standard, thus hampering the performance of safety-critical automated systems.

Navigant Research’s Autonomous Vehicles report projects that by 2030, 40% of new vehicles will have some sort of autonomous driving capability built in. Those vehicles will be totally dependent on sensors that must provide accurate and reliable information about the world around that vehicle in real-time. Before we become overly reliant on these systems to get us where we need to be on our daily rounds, manufacturers need to sort out solutions that will ensure a more robust and reliable stream of service parts. Perhaps this should even be part of the safety regulations that govern automated vehicles. There are still many fundamental questions to be answered before you can summon an autonomous Uber car from your wrist—and service parts is just one.

 

As Smart Parking Market Expands, New Players Emerge

— June 15, 2015

The parking industry is being transformed by new technologies that are enabling cities to significantly reduce levels of congestion. It is estimated that drivers searching for parking are responsible for about 30% of traffic congestion in cities. Sensor networks that detect vehicle occupancy are providing the basic intelligence behind smart parking systems, but other players are emerging with alternative products and strategies for reducing congestion.

Sensors and Their Limitations

Sensor networks, which generally consist of sensor hardware, communications technologies, and software applications, provide real-time parking availability information to make it easier for drivers to find a parking space. Large cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Moscow, among others, have adopted these types of sensor-driven smart parking systems that have demonstrably improved the chronic congestion in their respective city centers. According to Navigant Research’s new report, Smart Parking Systems, the installed base of sensor-enabled on-street smart parking spaces is expected to surpass 1 million worldwide by 2024.

Sensors provide excellent accuracy into vehicle occupancy, and Navigant Research estimates that sensor costs are decreasing by 10% to 15% per year. Nevertheless, the primary barrier to more widespread adoption of sensor-driven smart parking networks is the high upfront cost for cities to buy, install, and run the sensors. It can cost cities anywhere from $200 to $350 in upfront costs per parking space to install a sensor network, in addition to monthly software fees.

New Solutions?

Some new players in the market, such as Parko and ParkAide, are looking to offer cities a different parking solution at a significantly lower price tag—but with much less accuracy than sensors. Israeli startup Parko raised $1.1 million in seed funding in mid-2014, and uses crowdsourced data to help drivers find available parking spots. The company uses advanced algorithms analyzing anonymous data from when people park on the street, which spot they park in, and when they leave. This data is combined with GIS land-use information, parking supply figures, road types, regulations, current traffic, day of the week, weather, holidays, and local events to determine which streets and parking spaces are more probable to have open spots. This creates scenarios on the company’s app such as “most probable” and “least likely parking availability.” Similarly, ParkAide’s Mobile Parking Availability product is a general public mobile application that shows and direct consumers to a probable open parking space.

While Parko and ParkAide offer an innovative and lower-cost parking solution compared to sensors, they are unlikely to replace the use of sensor networks for smart parking. The advanced algorithms, while likely helpful tools, do not provide the accuracy of sensors.  Above all, they do not provide city transport departments with the control over parking fees and regulation that smart parking systems do.

These companies will also need to prove their apps’ utility to drivers in real-world situations. Residents living in cities with high traffic congestion often already know which streets are more likely than others to have parking availability. Nevertheless, if these algorithms are able to provide help to drivers unfamiliar with an area, then they will have a role to play among the range of new urban mobility options that are emerging.

 

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