Singapore’s Changi Airport has announced a new a tech innovation lab which will help develop applications which would improve the journey and foster further growth.

In partnership with the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), Changi Airport Group (CAG) has launched the ‘Changi Airport Living Lab Programme’. The S$50 million 5-year programme will see CAG collaborating with innovation-driven companies and start ups, to develop and demonstrate new technology solutions, in a live airport environment.

Changi Airport has been a pioneer, embracing technology and introducing many new and first-in-the-world facilities and services to enhance the airport experience, and believes further investment in new technologies would help CAG increase its pace of innovation and strengthen the airport’s competitiveness.

“This is imperative in an increasingly complex operating environment where travellers’ needs are fast changing,” CAG group states in the announcement. “CAG hopes to partner companies and start ups to capture the many opportunities emerging in the burgeoning air travel market. With the support of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, the Living Lab Programme is a platform for CAG, and partners in the airport community (including government agencies, ground-handlers, concessionaires, security providers and cleaning companies, etc.) to co-create, test and demonstrate new solutions to future proof the airport.”

Dr Beh Swan Gin, EDB’s Chairman said, “We are pleased to partner Changi Airport Group on this new programme which will see them collaborate with industry players to develop and test next generation airport solutions. The Living Lab is aligned with EDB’s goals of fostering a vibrant eco-system of technology providers driving innovation and creating new businesses from Singapore.”

Practical Applications

CAG has identified four specific categories of technology which are best suited for innovation and adoption by the airport:

1. Automation and robotics — opportunities to optimise scarce manpower resources and empower the airport workforce to operate at higher efficiency and productivity levels.

2. Data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) — opportunities to enable a more accurate and real-time perspective of airport operations. This will allow Changi Airport to better optimise its operational processes, and power smarter decision-making. Consumer analytics will offer deeper insights into travellers’ habits and preferences, thereby strengthening the airport’s lifestyle product offerings.

3. Non-intrusive security technologies — opportunities for Changi Airport to greatly enhance the passenger experience and reduce the stress of undergoing security clearance, while strengthening safety and security standards.

4. Smart infrastructure management — opportunities to leverage new technologies such as sensors, IoT, smart controls; to optimise infrastructure resources.

Changi Airport says it has already identified and started working with partners to test solutions in some of these areas.

As one example, the airport has run prototype trials for autonomous cleaning robots, to clean the vast tracts of floors in the airport terminals.

Changi is also exploring the use of automated guided vehicles to ferry passengers between terminals.

Another example of applied technology Changi Airport is reviewing is taxi queue analytics.

If you’ve flown through Changi lately, you know that taxi queues build up quickly there. The airport does a great job of keeping the line flowing, and advising passengers when they should advance to another taxi queue with fewer customers waiting. I’ve even seen Changi staff handing out water bottles to passengers waiting in long queues (which I thought was a nice touch).

But Changi is looking at new sensor technologies which could be used to determine the number of people waiting and calculate the estimated wait time. This technology has already been applied at some airports to better manage queues at security checkpoints, and proven very effective.

Changi says it would use the queue time data to give travellers better advice on ground transport options during peak periods, and to alert taxi drivers about upcoming demand for taxis at the airport.

Rich Ecosystem

Through the ‘Changi Airport Living Lab Programme,’ Changi Airport aims to forge mutually beneficial collaborations with its innovation partners.

The airport hosts more than 55 million passengers each year, generating over S$2 billion in concession sales.

CAG believes that this is a rich eco-system of consumers for companies to test, refine and demonstrate their solutions.

Start-ups participating in the Living Lab Programme can collaborate with Changi Airport to develop and ultimately deploy their solutions.

These successful collaborations would give companies a head start in accessing new market opportunities and exporting their solutions internationally.

Mr Lee Seow Hiang, CEO of CAG said, “Building innovation today is critical to transforming our business and operations for the future. We look forward to partnering established companies and enterprising start-ups to develop cutting-edge technologies for the airport. Through our Living Lab collaborations, I believe that we can add value to our partners in helping them scale up their solutions for real-world applications.”

With a record 55.4 million passengers from around the globe in 2015, Changi Airport is the world’s sixth busiest airport for international traffic.

It houses more than 360 retail stores and 140 F&B outlets across three terminals, and serves over 100 airlines which offer connectivity to 320 cities worldwide.

Changi Airport handles about 6,800 flights every week, or about one flight every 90 seconds.

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