Emerging technologies and optimisation solutions dominated this year’s Passenger Terminal Expo (PTE), which provided the perfect platform to explore new products and discuss the challenges the industry is facing.

A three-day-long event that attracted thousands of stakeholders, players and enthusiasts to London, PTE is one of the leading annual events for the aviation industry.

With over 7,000 attendees and a large variety of products, solutions and trends on display, here are our key takeaways from the expo.

Facial recognition technology is advancing fast

Possibly the most discussed and researched technology currently tested in aviation, facial recognition took centre stage at PTE 2019.

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In particular, Japanese electronics giant Panasonic  attracted much of the attention with its One ID solution, which includes a range of products designed to fasten and automate a passenger’s permanence at the airport from beginning to end.

“Panasonic’s portfolio includes cameras equipped with facial recognition technology.”

Panasonic’s portfolio includes cameras equipped with facial recognition technology that can be installed in different parts of the airport and used for different purposes.

As a result, travellers can scan their passport upon arrival and then will no longer require it for the rest of their stay, as their facial features are registered in the airport’s system.

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Other than the traditional boarding gate – which will recognise a passenger’s face in about three seconds – Panasonic also developed a mobile robot called Hospi that patrols the airport and, having recognised a customer’s face, can provide information and directions.

The technology can also be installed in CCTV cameras – capable of finding a person even in the most crowded places – and on top of informational screens, which can instantly identify the traveller and highlight their destination and gate.

LG’s screens and OLED solutions draw attention

Drawing its fair share of attention at the expo was LG Electronics, which showcased the latest OLED and Fine Pitch LED solutions for airports.

“The In-Cell Touch panel combines indoor map data and live information to help guide passengers.”

Among its most interesting concepts was the In-Cell Touch panel, which features enhanced touch capabilities and is currently being used in Sweden. A first for the industry, the panel features an interactive interface that combines indoor map data and live information on flights and queues to help guide passengers through the airport.

The company also exhibited its LCD Video Wall, a control tower screen designed for live monitoring featuring another industry-first: its bezels are under 1mm, providing a more detailed and comprehensive view of the screen.

3D scanning of cabin baggage

In the field of security checks, US-based Rapiscan Systems is aiming to take automation and scanning technologies to a brand new level.

The company took to London to promote its 920CT checkpoint screening system for cabin luggage with advanced software and detection algorithms and 3D volumetric imaging, designed to allow faster and seamless screening.

“We’re working with a number of academics around the world.”

The system would no longer require passengers to take computers and liquids out of their luggage, and is equipped with Rapiscan’s Duel-Energy technology, designed for the detection of explosives.

“We’re working with a number of academics around the world on how to best use this data, but all the evidence points to the conclusion that with 3D, you get significantly better differentiation between detection of items as well as low false alarm rates,” Ken Mann, senior director, product management EDS at Rapiscan Systems said at the expo.

Automated baggage tracking software

Having safely checked the contents of luggage, the next crucial point for airports and airlines is making sure that it reaches its destination.

“Rain RFID technology is growing in popularity.”

In this area, the Rain RFID technology – a wireless software bidding to automate and improve baggage tracking – is growing in popularity over more traditional barcode methods, and was widely promoted at PTE.

Having been listed among IATA’s strategic priorities in 2018, the technology has similar properties to barcodes but also facilitates enhanced automation. Promoted by the so-called Rain RFID Alliance – a global non-profit organisation lobbying for its adoption – it can also be used to keep track of luggage trollies, like in the case of Heathrow Airport, and several other assets for both airports and airlines.

Optimising airport operations is the biggest recurring topic

Airports’ growing need to optimise operations and improve logistics management was a recurring topic at PTE 2019, which gave the Institute for Operations Research and Management (Inform), the chance to introduce its latest resource management system, GroundStar.

Using its own optimisation algorithm, GroundStar allows small and large enterprises to manage their resources and make sure all parts of an airport’s operations – including staff, ground personnel, loading, boarding – run smoothly.

“GroundStar allows small and large enterprises to manage their resources.”

As Inform director of sales Nadine Engwicht puts it: “It all goes down to the focus of the customers, whether they want to reduce the cost of the resources you need, improve the quality and make sure you meet the service standards, or as an airline, the biggest quality factor is to be on time.

“According to these three focus areas – punctuality, quality and costs – we can manoeuvre our solution to different needs and support our customers.”

Enhancing security with a unified platform

Not far from Inform’s stand was Genetec, another leading software developer aiming to make airport operations more efficient.

The Canada-based company was promoting Security Center 5.8, a unified security platform that combines IP security systems within a single intuitive interface.

“We collect all the data, clean it, structure it and display it so the operator can understand what’s happening.”

With thousands of sensors installed around an airport – all providing different types of data to managers – the Security Center allows users to access the entire operation on one screen; it also uses these sensors to give security insight into activities around the airfield, helping with the detection of drones or trespassers.

The product also features a mobile device that provides the operational tool for the operator and supervisors in the control centre.

As Genetec airport practice leader David Lenot says, “We collect all the data, clean it, structure it and then we display it in a reasonable way so that the operator can understand what’s happening within milliseconds.

“This way, we roughly represent a full passenger journey from the parking lot to the moment they are boarding, providing a full picture of what happens at the airport.”