In part one of this blog, we discussed how San Francisco International Airport’s Terminal 1 project represents mass transportation trends as it rolls toward its 2022 opening. For part two, we sat down again with Senior Design Engineer Rob Friend, RCDD, RTPM, and Design Engineer Paul Herget, ECSE, to envision the future beyond. What will travel look like in 2022?
Paul Herget: We’ll see more and more robust location-based apps and GPS that support the entire travel sequence, from waking up and checking into your flight, to getting an itinerary, to getting on a flight at a certain time.
Rob Friend: Like a FlyWaze instead of just Waze: The traffic is here, the security line is this long, you’re going to need to allow this much time. So if you need to be on the flight at 2:30 you need to leave your house at X time. You’ll get a warning if there’s an accident or security line has increased. That kind of real-time positioning information is going to be really useful to people.
PH: SFO is starting to put this in place. They’re doing wait-time technology at the screening line, so they can see how long it takes the typical person to go through TSA. They’re trying to come up with real-time wayfinding types of applications once they get to the airport based on location.
RF: The experience already exists in pieces. In the future it will be integrated and personalized: the tech will know if you’re going to have to check bags, how much time you’re going to have to spend in customs, how much time traveling in the terminal and the boarding areas. That’s probably going to mean more to anybody than whether the airport has enough bookstores or coffee shops.
PH: The airport constantly needs to think, “How do we efficiently get people who might be hungry to a place they need to eat? Even if they’re not hungry, how do we bring them in?” The wayfinding experience integrated with clever advertising might be a possibility.
RF: Remember “Minority Report,” where the personalized ads popped up while you were walking by? That’s not ridiculous. There’s competing interests here… airports need people to spend more time there, but people generally want to spend less time. What is it that generates revenue? Entertainment. Music, videos. There may be a place for virtual reality. A place where people could go into a VR room and ski the alps, or walk around Rome. The airport might be the ideal place for this. Pay $50 and get half an hour.
PH: One of the challenges SFO faces when it comes to revenue generation is the language barrier. It’s a very international airport, a hub. So maybe the future is signage or displays with ubiquitous translation capabilities, or augmented reality solutions such as Google Word Lens or Pixel Buds.
RF: SFO has the silent airport initiative, in which they try to reduce or eliminate the amount of audio paging going on, the constant barrage of paging. It’s so annoying when you’re sitting in one gate and the gate next door is announcing it’s time to board. There is a push toward decreasing the audio overload. There’s a lot of info that needs to be conveyed and not everybody uses phones. What do you do? Have a monitor that displays it? What about people who are visually impaired? There are a lot of challenges around how to achieve a paging-free environment.
In the future the tech will know if you’re going to have to check bags, how much time you’re going to have to spend in customs, how much time traveling in the terminal and the boarding areas.
Another concept coming from broader society that’s influencing transportation is shared use passenger processing, or trying to maximize the use of space so different entities can use space at different times. Instead of gates being assigned, this would be a more flexible approach so that an airline needing a gate could jump in there. There’s a lot of hurdles involved, technically, but that is something every transportation center would be interested in.
PH: It’s a revenue enhancing opportunity for the airport as well, because they own the infrastructure. Airports are already so embedded at most airports that it’s a hard sell, but at SFO Terminal 1, which services so many smaller airlines, there’s an appeal to push toward a more frequent, flexible system.
RF: They don’t have to lease a space, they lease a time. It’s around the corner. It’s just so expensive to build these infrastructures. You have to make it more attractive for these smaller carriers.
PH: You’d have to make every aspect a shared use: the signage, the gates, the ticket counters… at what tier do we start this?
RF: Ultimately your smart device will link up to tell you everything. It will tell your Uber driver where to drop you off. It’ll be a large scale integration but it’s going to have to happen.
PH: It’s a matter of making those initial investments.