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Ten years of smart airport solutions

I wrote the article on smart airport solutions for the Journal of Airport Management in 2012, while working at Helsinki Airport. What has changed in the ten years since that article was published?


Heini Noronen-Juhola

Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 12.05.2022

Quite unexpectedly sent me an email asking, if I have published an article called Smart Solutions at Helsinki Airport. Indeed I have. I wrote the article for the Journal of Airport Management in 2012, while working at Helsinki Airport. What has changed in the ten years since the article was published? Has everything become smarter? Let us have a look at a pick of examples from the article.

Automated passport processes

In my article, I wrote about the automated border control equipment and how the new devices are speeding up the passport process at the border. Finnish border authorities at Helsinki airport were among the first ones in the world to implement these devices.

Looking at the situation now, the automated passport process is quite widely used globally, wherever allowed by regulations and laws. Improved automated border control devices are presented to the market constantly. In general, this process is becoming more developed and secure at the airports, thus forming a smoother passenger experience.

Finnish snow how

I also wrote about one of my specialities, snow excellence, the snow how, that Helsinki Airport masters. At a Nordic airport, with up to five snowy and icy months every year, it is a must to be able to deal with harsh winter conditions. the airport infrastructure must be operable also during the winter season.

Looking at the situation now, the past ten years have changed the climate and the weather predictability has become harder. Also various weather phenomena are much stronger today. When it is cold, it is really cold and when there is a storm, it is a strong one. The winter conditions may last for one month or they can last for six months. Budgeting and planning winters has become very challenging.

The green runway approach

The Continuous Descent Approach (CDA) alias the green landing, was a big thing at Helsinki Airport ten years ago. It was possible to save up to 70 % of the fuel during landing by making the runway approach in a continuous angle instead of steps.

Today this process has become extremely important since the environmental sustainability is a question of life and death for the aviation industry. Ten years ago it was merely about saving fuel costs but now the focus is on CO2 emissions. However, the result is the same. If the fuel cost savings also drive environmental sustainability and vice versa, then it is a win-win and good results can be expected.

Personalized passenger information

The biggest leap forward has probably happened in the handling of personalized passenger information. Back then, we had a test project with a local college on a personal information card for passengers. The card carried information about boarding time and gate, time available until boarding, changes of flight details and distance to the gate. The technology was based on RFID and wireless data sharing technologies.

Needless to say, that we are today on a totally different planet concerning these services. The test was still a very good project and it taught all stakeholders involved a lot. Looking at pictures from the project and of the cards it is clear, how intensely digitalisation has developed during the past ten years. And it will continue to do that and thus, dramatically change the aviation industry for the next ten years.

The aviation industry has been suffering due the pandemic. Now it is also taking a hit due to the geopolitically unstable situation between Russia and Ukraine. But the aviation industry is like a cockroach – it may be hit, but it always survives in some way and sooner or later.

We will certainly see nice changes happening in the world of aviation in the coming decade. These changes will surely lead to an even more digital and sustainable future.