Miami International Airport, Sita Beacons, Mobility & the IoT

By Maurice Jenkins, Director, Information Systems, Miami International Airport

You’re pioneering with mobility: can you give us a flavor of your approach?

Our clients across the airport, and our passengers, are telling us they have a need and it’s in the palm of their hands. We should remember that when we talk about mobility and the Internet of Things (IoT), it’s all about being connected.

Less than a decade ago, the average use per mobile device was 2.6 hours a day. We thought that was a lot. Today it’s 5.6 hours a day.

We look at our mobile devices about 50 times a day, even though sometimes there’s nothing there. It’s like opening your refrigerator: you know what’s in there, but you just have to open it again to see what you’ve missed.

(Maurice Jenkins, Director, Information Systems, Miami International Airport (MIA) talks about the new app MIA has developed to create a personalized experience for the passenger covering the entire airport and what the future holds. Courtesy of Sita and YouTube)

Our mobile strategy has to deliver on that eagerness for mobile connectivity, so we evaluate our approach all the time, because if passengers have a level of comfort in using their mobile devices to help move and act within the airport, it keeps them happy and reduces anxieties.

But it also adds to a potential level of spend. There’s a direct correlation between the two. That explains why 68% of airports will add airport services for purchase to their mobile app by 2018.

How far can this go?

miami-app-iphone-screensWith Miami’s app – ‘MIA Airport Official’ – we already have the ability to look at flight information, wait times, your bag’s journey, the weather and boarding pass information.

Look at how we’re using APIs at Miami. We decided to introduce maps into the airport. Mapping is hard in the airport environment, particularly if you want to add geolocation.

We developed an indoor map, made it cloud-enabled and tied it to a mobile app and our website. It helps you travel through the airport step-by-step, to get from point A to B and on to C, with everything in between.

We also looked at geolocation services. As you arrive at the airport, before stepping into the airport premises, the app is triggered and sends a welcome, asking how can we help and providing options.

If you open the app while at home or leaving your hotel, Google Maps displays. It’ll show you the easiest way to get from where you are to the airport, avoiding traffic and any other snarl-ups. So the feeling of comfort starts right there.

Do you see beacons as a tool for further development?

Most certainly. There are many things we can do by using beacons. Proximity campaigns is one example, as a potential revenue earner. We can use beacons to encourage passengers to take advantage of special retail offers or any non-aeronautical purchases.

But at Miami we also use beacons to produce heat maps of the airport. We spend US$ 29 million a year on air conditioning. If we can reduce our carbon footprint by 3%, 4%, 5%, we’ll have achieved something. Beacons enable us to do a multitude of things simply by adding an app on top.

It’s important to establish governance on top of that: the platform and direction of choice, for instance. Otherwise, addressing multiple systems will demand additional resources and the cost factor increases.

Might there be too many apps?

I’ve had discussions on this with carriers and with SITA. The point is that airports want passengers – particularly regular flyers – to feel comfortable with and loyal to their app.

But of course we need to explore how we can leverage that across all platforms. There have been discussions about approaches that, if you’re using say an airline’s app as you fly into an airport, enable that airport’s API to come up, or vice versa. Perhaps there could be a sharing of the revenue stream.

So there’s a lot of thought going into it, in particular through the work of ACI with its initiative – see below.


What other IoT use cases do you see?

There are many. We know that airlines have been looking at using the IoT to check life jackets or to speed turnaround, for example.

We plan to use the IoT and beacons to address all kinds of day-to-day operations – such as keeping track of luggage carts or even checking if a restroom door needs some maintenance.

Think also about the aircraft turnarounds. The more they make, the better for them and for the airport, so we’ll do everything we can to help with turnaround. For that reason, we’ve increased the level of wireless capability in the airport itself as well as in the airfield.

We can’t impact what airlines do in their own aircraft, but we can leverage the infrastructure to support that faster turnaround.

We’ve even looked at putting sensors in trash cans so we know when they need emptying. But we’re also looking at how we can introduce an audio element to support passengers with restrictive mobility.

So there’s a lot to consider and evaluate. Can we grow it? Yes. Do we plan on growing it? The answer is definitely yes and we’ll respond to the feedback we get from passengers and other users.

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