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Cincinnati International Deploys IoT to Improve Passenger Flow

The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) hopes to run more efficiently by gaining insights from Internet of Things (IoT) tech. One expert says success will depend on passenger trust in IoT.

CVG Airport
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is partnering with Veovo to better understand how passengers move from various areas like security checkpoints, boarding gates and baggage claim.
A new network of sensors and other technology will aid in the flow of passengers, luggage and more at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG).

The system is built on an Internet of Things (IoT) flow management technology developed by Veovo, a London-based technology company, to better understand how passengers move from various areas like security checkpoints, boarding gates and baggage claim.

“Over the course of this year and into next, we intend to deploy sensors in the ticketing area, followed by the Concourse areas, so we can understand our departing passenger journey when in our facilities," explained Stephen Saunders, director of IT and innovation at CVG, describing the phased approach the project will take. "Eventually we plan to expand to roadways. And then there is the arriving passenger."

CVG was the first in the United States to use IoT tech in its security screening area, starting in 2014. In that deployment, sensors pick up on passenger Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals, marking when individuals enter and leave the Transportation Security Administration area.

The same Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology is at the heart of the system now being deployed in other parts of the airport.

“Each sensor is tuned to understand the proximity of the emitting device so we can understand where that device — anonymous passenger — is within our facility and where they are moving throughout the facility, including their wait times and queuing times,” said Saunders in an email.

The objective behind the project is to get a better understanding of passenger movement in the airport in order to inform the design and programming of spaces, as well as help the airport operate more efficiently, say officials.

For example, with a better understanding of how passengers move through boarding gates, the airport can adjust the timing of its gate-boarding announcements to prevent overcrowding in some areas.

“This technology paired with several other solutions are producing data and insights for our teams to make daily operational decisions as well as plan long term to improve the customer experience and our facilities,” said Saunders.

Improving the passenger experience benefits not only passengers but also the airport, said Karen Lightman, executive director of Metro21: Smart Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

“The airport wants you to have a good experience. They want you to be relaxed. They want you to spend money,” said Lightman, who leads the university on research that develops and deploys 21st century solutions to challenges facing metro areas.

“Non-aeronautical revenue is really precious," she added. "So if they can improve the customer experience at the airport, the idea is they can increase revenue. Because then people can say, 'Yeah, I can chillax. I have time to have a nice lunch.' I see airports definitely investing in technology, to help that customer experience.”

Important in the deployment of IoT technology is transparency and trust among passengers that they won't be unknowingly and unnecessarily tracked, said Lightman, who co-chairs the World Economic Forum Trustworthy IoT Coalition, charged with building confidence in IoT.

“I think there’s a great opportunity, but it needs to be done thoughtfully, intentionally," she stressed. "There needs to be transparency."
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.