Smart Airport Technology of the Future | Corning

Smart airport technology needed to meet the demands of today’s travelers

Shirish Nagaraj 
Published: November 9, 2023

Navigating travel plans without reliable connectivity is a challenge to say the least. Like everyone else, I’ve experienced that moment when the plane lands, you try to call a loved one waiting in the pick-up line and can’t get cell service. Why? Because it has been historically challenging for carriers to install the necessary cell service equipment inside and outside the terminals.

Similarly, public access Wi-Fi has been useful for travelers in need of internet access but is often bogged down when too many devices connect to the system. Naturally, this is a less-than-ideal solution for busy public facilities like airports.

Not to mention, airports are currently experiencing higher travel volume rates compared to pre-pandemic traveling rates. Travelers are back and they are coming with higher expectations for customer service, automated conveniences, and a lower tolerance for connectivity troubles like slow Wi-Fi and dead zone cellular spots.

To overcome today’s challenges and establish a future-forward network foundation, airports need a fiber-backed network composed of a Local Area Network (LAN), Fiber to the Edge technology (FTTE), and Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS solutions).

Smart Airport Technology

What is interesting about this digital transformation story compared to other industries is that I don’t see the airport of the future being driven by a single app. Instead, it will be a multitude of high-bandwidth and interconnected technologies that create a seamless flying experience.

To overcome the most recent industry challenge -- labor shortages -- management authorities are beginning to implement modern self-service applications and higher network bandwidths to meet the demands of the modern traveler. For example, select airports have implemented facial recognition and biometrics technology to expedite the check-in and security scanning process without a human having to manage it manually. That is right! Say goodbye to mile-long waiting lines and scrambling to find your passport and ID. Now, patrons can walk, scan, and move closer to their destination. Airport bound stores, restaurants, and lounges are also incorporating self-service shopping applications including contactless shopping and “grab and go” automated shops. From check-in to dining and ridesharing, customers expect to manage it all from their smartphones. Now, airports can fulfill that expectation tenfold by installing fiber-backed network solutions.

Technology to Transform Airports

There are several cost-effective Corning solutions that can help airports transform into the airport of the future. Starting with a fiber optic Local Area Networks (LAN), a geographically designated network intended for the local transport of voice, data, and video. A LAN contains interconnected electronic devices and cabling throughout three physical proximities of a facility (inside, outside, and throughout a facility). Think of LAN as the heart of your network. Thanks to fiber optic LAN connectivity, airports can have the capacity it needs to enable future technologies.  

FTTE technology serves as the vessels of a network. FTTE is the architecture for LAN that uses optical fiber to enable reliable connectivity throughout a facility from end-to-end. These network end points provide limitless network bandwidth to support traveler devices (laptop and cell phones), as well as management devices like self-service kiosks, security cameras, and other building management systems. FTTE will ultimately lower the total cost of ownership (TCO) and provide the connectivity power for smart airport technologies.

And finally, no airport would be complete without a reliable cellular network. That is where Corning’s Distributed Antenna Solutions (DAS) come into play. Within the DAS portfolio, customers have several Corning® Everon® solutions to choose from depending on the square footage and bandwidth need. For large facilities with significant user traffic, the Everon® 6000 is the ideal solution. Not only is the Everon® 6000 cost-effective but also offers flawless performance, limitless capacity, power efficiency, and incredible speed. Adding C-band to an existing DAS system will allow airports to enable the improved connectivity of 5G to a network. To put it simply, C-band takes coverage to another level. Imagine driving on the highway in rush hour traffic with only two lanes of traffic. C-band technology expands that highway to six lanes, allowing the road to make room for more drivers and faster speeds.

Digital transformation is coming to airports caused by accelerated by post-pandemic pressures and a public that demands a mobile-first flying experience. With a future-proof fiber optic connectivity, airports can enable endless efficient technologies. Click here to learn more about Corning’s fiber-backed connectivity solutions for airport facilities.

Shirish Nagaraj

Shirish Nagaraj leads technology development for Corning Optical Communications’ Wireless business unit, which delivers world-leading in-building cellular products for Tier-1 operators. He has been instrumental in conceptualizing, architecting, and developing the 5G mmWave small-cell system that is now deployed commercially at high profile stadiums, private enterprises, and other such venues. His team develops radio access network (RAN) and distributed antenna systems (DAS) software and hardware, with development centers in the U.S. and India.

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