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Airport Multimedia Technologies Enrich the Travel Experience

By Matthew Meier, PE, CTS-D September 30, 2021

Moving beyond static informational systems, more airports are introducing awe-inspiring dramatic digital canvases, hyper-targeted visual communications, and other multimedia amenities that may even make security lines more pleasurable.

Interactive and personalized media not only help remove stress from air travel. These innovations can also improve convenience, efficiency and safety. Unique travel experiences support tourism efforts by drawing attention to the cultural and natural features of the surrounding region, distinguishing airports at a time when competition among travel options reaches new heights.

In the years ahead, integration of enhanced multimedia digital technologies will become the expectation among all travelers, making passenger-experience technologies seemingly essential components for every airport.

Data-Driven Audiovisual Systems

Airports have historically deployed audiovisual technology systems to inform and to entertain passengers. Starting with distributed television and flight display systems, these early systems — while limited — demonstrated that airports offered fertile environments for emerging multimedia technologies.

Today’s airport technologies include all the latest informational systems, display technologies, and data sources.

Advanced Displays
Contemporary LCD and LED displays present opportunities to mount video walls in every imaginable size, shape and curvature, creating a digital canvas throughout the facility.

Displays can combine with new video-projector, touchscreen, and camera technologies to create more compelling and informative digital signage, traveler interactivity, and ease of information access.

Windows | South Terminal Complex – Orlando International Airport (MCO) – renderings courtesy of GOAA.

“Inspirational art or expertly produced content can create a sense of excitement or peace…” | Courtesy of GOAA.

Smart Devices
The increasing power of pixel processing — combining artificial intelligence, geolocation, and beacon technology — has coincided with recent enhancements in audiovisual technology. The result is an ability to generate stunning content produced uniquely for each passerby, customized to the specific place and time it’s being experienced.

The confluence of IT and display technologies is in part enabled by smart cameras that can detect the three-dimensional presence of travelers, changing projected content to immerse individuals into surrounding video displays.

Technology usage during dwell time boosts passenger satisfaction graphic

Source: SITA

Social Media
Leveraging social channels and smart devices, airports can collect, produce, and disseminate content-rich messages targeted to travelers based on their interests and travel plans, released at ideal moments when they need the information most.

Surveying travelers throughout their journey, this end-to-end communication allows airports to reach visitors regardless of their travel behavior, language, or travel destination. From curb to jet, airports can take advantage of social media to provide useful updates or informative entertainment.

Content relevant to their interests or travel plans can also be pushed across social media and to the surrounding video displays, potentially showing up all the way to the traveler’s destination.

Inform. Enhance. Inspire.

Integrating audiovisual technology, multimedia content, and smart devices, the entire airport-technology ecosystem can serve new purposes.

Modern Flight Information Displays (FIDS) once simply listed flight numbers and estimated arrival and departure times. FIDS now offer much more, integrating live data from destination cities such as weather, events and seasonal information, as well as imagery of local cuisine and iconic landscapes.

Wayfinding once consisted of a sign simply pointing travelers in the direction of the relevant terminal. Wayfinding is now dynamic. Signs can change based on the languages most commonly spoken among travelers, the airlines active during any point in time, or other timely information.

Touchscreen displays integrated with mobile technology take wayfinding to a whole new level. Video walls can show traveler-specific routes, mapping out the path to the gate, check-in desk, or traveler lounge. Displays can include estimated walk times as well as nearby food, beverage or shopping options.

Advanced displays have also become mediums for storytelling. Inspirational art or expertly produced content can create a sense of excitement or peace, to boost the reputation of the surrounding region, or to provide dynamic venues for artists.

A forthcoming example of an immersive experience will be found at Orlando International Airport. Currently under construction, the “Moment Vault” will inspire travelers with a 360-degree view of Florida’s beaches, gardens and other attractions. Using advanced cameras and processing power that can detect visitors, travelers will also be able to playfully engage in the media environment.

South Terminal Complex – Orlando International Airport (MCO) – renderings courtesy of GOAA.

Orlando’s South Terminal Moment Vault will create an immersive 360-degree experience for travelers. | Rendering courtesy of GOAA.

Passenger Experiences Yield Financial Benefits

As air travel continues to recuperate from pandemic restrictions, competing with other travel modes while managing pressure from fluctuating airport charges and diminishing parking proceeds, visionary airports are turning to enhanced multimedia technologies to raise new sources of revenue.

With non-aeronautical revenue from restaurants, shopping and advertising playing a larger role in airport operating budgets, airports can leverage their valuable architectural space with significant digital canvases. Integrated displays and mobile technologies can better capture dwell-time revenue, such as by developing sponsorship partnerships with premiere brands, or to connect travelers with regional resources.

London Heathrow International Airport recently updated 3,000 new flight-information and advertising displays. Following the upgrade, a Johnnie Walker Black Label advertising campaign made use of digital tools to connect with potential consumers — first when travelers visited the mobile ticketing app, then across terminal video walls, and again during in-flight entertainment. With ads appearing 59 million times, the four-month campaign reported a 15-percent boost in passengers’ potential to become customers.

Opportunities go beyond attracting advertisers. Passenger satisfaction is, in many instances, directly linked to revenue. Studies have found happy, relaxed airport customers are twice as likely to shop, spending 7 percent more on retail and 10 percent more on duty-free goods.

Graphic: Traveler relaxing in airport terminal - Spending 7% more on retail and 10% more on duty-free goods

Source: DKMA

Content Management Across Airport Technology Systems

Successful multimedia transformation requires a comprehensive information-technology strategy, combined with organization-wide support. Importantly, that strategy should rely upon an enterprise-wide content management system (CMS).

A central data repository of all multimedia assets and resources, the digital CMS is a vital piece of the overall multimedia program, enabling airports to better maintain, plan and manage the airport’s multimedia environment.

Many airports now rely on separate vendors managing different platforms, each distributing their own content silos. A CMS ingests data and content across a myriad of sources, allowing airports to cohesively present media in customizable formats and sequences. Otherwise, the ability to integrate messaging across platforms and the digital environment is significantly limited.

Importance of the CMS is underscored by the many different source inputs. These include but are not limited to:

  • Airline and flight data,
  • Building information (wayfinding, security, queueing),
  • Common use systems,
  • Digital advertising platforms,
  • RSS feeds,
  • Social media,
  • Weather platforms, and
  • Rotating artwork and multimedia exhibitions.

A comprehensive digital game plan can turn each passenger’s journey through multimedia content into an airport asset. Central control and management of content allows displays of all shapes and sizes to be maximized, presenting the most useful and productive content at any point in time.

The CMS can also provide value as a platform for collecting and making sense of data analytics from the airport’s video displays. Measurable data goes beyond tracking impressions, the content that travelers directly engage in by visiting websites or by participating in immersive displays. Camera technology can now detect the number of visitors who view any piece of communication. This level of insight can be invaluable to advertisers as well as emergency response teams.

Integrating technology not only allows for widespread distribution of advertising and sponsorships. The CMS can be leveraged for emergency communications. In addition to conventional public-safety radio systems, rapid-response messages published on airport social media are being pushed to travelers on their smart devices and displayed on video walls throughout their journey. The ability to communicate across channels and over various mediums is especially helpful when reaching hearing-impaired travelers.

In the years ahead integration of enhanced multimedia digital technologies will become the expectation among all travelers.

Embracing Multimedia

Before the coronavirus pandemic, airports around the world realized a need to attract visitors by making trips as fast, secure and enjoyable as possible. Enhancing the travel experience is now more important than ever, especially as advanced-technology amenities have become an expectation among many passengers.

If offered the right technology solutions, travelers may be willing to reward airports for the investment. Multimedia technology can create a pleasurable experience, possibly encouraging greater levels of dwell-time and subsequent spending. Immersing travelers into unique and memorable environments also helps airports to differentiate themselves and their region, creating an unforgettable sense of place easily recalled as travelers decide from where they wish to depart.

As multimedia technologies continue to advance and airports embrace the advantages of their digital canvases, the airport experience may ultimately become a favorite part of the travel journey.

South Terminal Complex – Orlando International Airport (MCO) – renderings courtesy of GOAA.

About The Author

Matthew Meier, PE, CTS-D

Aviation Project Manager