The elapsed time from leaving your front door to the gate agent calling your group to board has a margin of error many of us measure in hours. Utilizing data collaboratively, Amsterdam Schiphol is going to change that.
The experience of air travel comes pre-packaged with a certain amount of stress. The factors involved, even for a veteran traveler with all the perks, are simply too many to confidently plan a trip that gets you to your gate with perfect timing. Hardly any of us have been en-route to the airport, walking toward check-in, or passing through customs without feeling the stress of proper timing.
Meanwhile, the multitude of airlines have to service planes, move luggage, relocate gate staff and direct flight crews at a constant rate. Security and Customs need to know when and where the balance of people are moving in and out of the terminals. Indeed, improving efficiency of movement at your local airport is in everyone’s collective interest.
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol aims to remove some of the stress of air travel, to provide a smoother experience across the whole journey, and they’re doing so with a strategy that benefits everyone involved.
Data is the engine
Backing up, looking at the journey from your home to your gate, the data points affecting timings are plentiful. What is the traffic like on the roads between you and the airport? Will that traffic change by the time you get closer to the airport? Which is the best door for my airline? How busy are the check-in desks? How fast is the line for customs moving? How far is the gate once I’m through? Will I have time to buy a T-shirt for my nephew?
To create the necessary tools to answer all these questions, Schiphol is building a central wayfinding API that will be available to everyone. The tools they’re creating account for every step in any trip to the airport – door to gate. To help power the effort, Schiphol has partnered with HERE, which is providing the location data and maps needed to produce accurate, dynamic routing and traffic conditions.
The resulting API, scheduled for its first release this year, is a truly channel agnostic solution. Rather than utilizing the application solely in the official Schiphol Airport application, the end-to-end data will be made available to everyone involved. Airlines can utilize the data in their own applications, smart assistants like Siri and Alexa can develop skills to provide more accurate information, and more partners and capabilities are on the horizon.
Exchanging information for the benefit of the whole
Schiphol’s Smart Airport Data Team observed that to minimize stress, many of us leave for the airport early – too early, in fact. As we all rush to the airport, the roadways get congested. The ‘early’ traffic mixes with the ‘on-time’ traffic, which is already mixing with the ‘cutting it close’ traffic, and everyone is collectively delayed.
Schiphol’s API will help reduce this type of congestion by providing passengers with travel times that they can trust. With a more even flow of traffic, road congestion is smoothed out over time. The result has a domino effect, easing congestion at check-in, customs and all points beyond.
Airlines also stand to benefit. If passengers volunteer their own location information, airlines have a more accurate picture that informs the boarding process. Your gate agent could potentially see if a number of passengers due to board are stuck in a slow-moving customs line and adjust plans accordingly.
The world’s largest airports are out of room to grow. Instead of expanding physical spaces, airports like Schiphol are turning their focus to efficiency of movement – but that’s not something they can easily produce on their own.
To create a virtuous cycle, Schiphol opted to produce tools that give passengers and airlines better information. Each use that information to move faster, which supports the airport’s goal of moving people as fluidly and as smoothly as possible – and provides a better flying experience for everyone involved.