2018 Thales Report: Transformational Mega Trends reshaping the future of airports

Mega Trends are transformative, global forces that define the future, with far reaching impact on businesses, societies, economies, cultures and personal lives. These trends are driving the future of airports globally, as governments, cities, operators and leading service providers together co-create the future.

Thales and Frost & Sullivan identified five Mega Trends: Connectivity and Convergence, the Advent of the Cognitive Era, Social Trends, New Business Models, and Innovating to Zero.

Connectivity and Convergence is the fundamental driving force of the Digital Transformation reshaping mobility from door to door, transforming all transport modes and hubs, including airports. Frost & Sullivan predicts that the roll out of 5G wireless services will hyper drive the speed of connectivity, with less than 1 millisecond of latency, 90% energy savings, and zero perceived downtime for service provision. Furthermore, 7 trillion M2M wireless connections will drive a level of convergence and integration never seen before, enabling the digital transformation of airports.

The implications of Connectivity and Convergence are far-reaching, bridging to new domains such as Space and Cyber. In Space, the number of new satellites launched from 2018-2030 is forecasted to be 11,600. Multiple spaceports will be operational globally as well, with several European countries at advanced stages of legislation and business planning. Threats to Cyber Security are increasingly organized and transnational, driven by ever more sophisticated syndicates of cyber criminals. The total number of compromised records containing personal/sensitive data from Jan. 2017 to March 2018 was a staggering 1,946,181,599. With an average data breach costing $3.62M in 2017 and taking 191 days to identify the breach, it is easy to see why the new GDPR regulation is so necessary to drive companies and operators to take Cyber Security seriously and combat it aggressively.

However, the explosion of Connectivity and Convergence driven data can also be mined for Data Productisation and Monetisation opportunities, across a host of newly emerging business models, from bartering, brokering, and simple list selling, to high-end data analytics for trends forecasting and predictive modelling. This represents massive opportunity for operators, since next generation aircraft will produce massive quantities of data to be analysed and leveraged to continuously improve flight operations and fuel management.

Connectivity and Convergence: so, how will these trends impact aviation and airports?

- Big data and analytics will improve operations

- Cloud based operating systems

- Data sharing to improve airport performance

- Expanding IoT and data security

- Blockchain for security

- Seamless Journeys

The Advent of the Cognitive Era will see the widespread deployment of AI across the travel sector, including airports. The six critical Cognitive Technologies powering the AI revolution will be computer vision, natural language processing, machine learning, rules based systems, optimization, and planning and scheduling systems. While all six are important, computer vision, natural language processing and machine learning are the main drivers, with natural language processed via Alexa, Cortana, Siri and Google Now slotted to replace keyboards in the near future.

Social Trends driving the future of airports emerge from underlying global population and spending dynamics. A marked increase of travelers is forecasted, particularly from emerging markets, as the growing discretional spending of middle income wage earners drives increased travel. There will be new airlines, especially in emerging markets, to cater to this growing traveler segment, such as Air Asia. Access to new destinations will follow, driving increased traffic flow from developed markets to emerging markets, with increasing airport connectivity across regions such as Africa and Asia.

As this Digital Transformation gathers steam, there will be an increasing emergence of New Business Models. Creative new business models will arise, with OWNING TRANSACTIONS and OWNING INTERACTIONS supplanting OWNING ASSETS as the fundamental approach. Many of the most exciting and high ROI-generating new business models will be platform based, as platforms such as smart phones, kiosks, cars, and planes will have multiple services/apps/products bolted on and made available to an increasingly demanding customer base.

Innovating to Zero is more of a Mega Vision than a Mega Trend, inverting the innovation pathway by starting with a zero goal that is good for humanity and then backward chaining operationally to plan the necessary steps to achieve the goal. Examples of Zero Goal initiatives include the City of Copenhagen planning to be the first Carbon Neutral City by 2025, and Atos’ Zero Email goal in order to streamline communications. Airports and operators can adopt zero goals as a way of spurring innovation that galvanizes their teams and removes societal harms for the good of travelers.

In conclusion, Professor Howard Stevenson of Harvard Business School said it best: “Make your own luck … if you want big business, build a business that responds to big trends.” As governments, cities, operators and leading service providers innovate to co-create the Airport of the Future, partnering with Global Thought Leaders such as Thales, the next generation airports will respond to and incorporate these global Mega Trends for the good of countries, cities, societies and travelers globally.