2018 has been a great year in technology with thousands of innovations in different sectors. The travel and aviation industry is no different. Sure, new airplanes are designed with mesmerizing features for comfort, convenience and better travel experiences. However, people often overlook the fact that airports are places where flying journeys begin and end so they are just as much part of the journey as flying.

Airports are now more than just a port that people travel through on their way to their destination. Today a great airport is one with the latest, unique or most facilities for passengers. Travellers are often looking forward to shop, eat, rest and get basic facilities as simple as phone charging spots. It is safe to say that the Dubai International Airport revolutionized the duty-free shop experience and today its duty-free shops take in more revenue than any other duty-free airport malls in the world. Amsterdam’s main hub is better known for its viewing deck and art installations more than shopping which serves as the initial tourist spot for many travellers.

Moreover, there have been great innovations in technology and facilities at airports in the last decade. These innovations include smoother processing, better security and cutting-edge utilities. Let’s look at what unique additions some airports have made;

1. Sleeping pods

Sleeping pods

Long flights can be stressful and transit flights often require long waiting hours. For some people, this is an opportunity to explore whereas, regular travellers find it exhausting. Some airports have started to accommodate these passengers while making some money in the process. Companies have started acquiring space at airport lounges inside terminals for sleeping spaces in the form of capsules and pods. For example, Minute Suites LLC has retail spots at Atlanta and Philadelphia where you can book a sleeping pod by the hour or for the night. Instant payment methods allow users the freedom to simply walk to a pod, pay and sleep.

Another company in Mexico by the name of izZzleep opened a sleep capsule charging $8 per hour. Sure, you’ll be paying money to sleep which is unusual but we have paid for things that don’t really make that much sense. Besides, passengers regularly travelling for work can use the shut-eye for a few dollars. Rumors suggest that the next generation of pods will have Netflix so another great method to cash in because watching Netflix at home gets old.

2. Smart Gates

Smart Gates

This is perhaps the best thing that has happened to an airport in a long time. Its frustrating to be standing in long queues waiting for our flight and also checking out after reaching your destination. Dubai International Airport launched a new Smart e-Gate system for faster and more efficient flow of passengers. It is a gem of biometric technology that captures and matches a passenger’s biometric and passport information in less than 15 seconds. The system works using high-accuracy camera for retinal scan and facial recognition and process such information in a record time of approximately 15 seconds. Though this technology is very new, airports of different countries are playing catch up and when biometric technology is globally active, we can see experience much smoother processing at the checkup points plus, it’s a great innovation for security as well.

3. Self-service bag drop off

Self-service bag drop off

Delta Airlines launched a self-service bag drop off in 2017. Customers who have some extra luggage can head over to the self-serve machines powered by facial recognition. The machines will utilize biometric innovation to match travelers with their passport photographs through ID check. Delta Airlines introduced the main machines at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport last year and have expanded all the way to New Zealand along with other countries in a year.

Self-service bag drop off

4. Biometric Boarding Pass

Biometric Boarding Pass

Delta Air Lines introduced biometric boarding devices to various locations worldwide following tests of the technology at two of its other main international gateways, New York-JFK and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta. Delta partnered with several other airlines including JetBlue and Lufthansa, to test biometric technology that scans passengers’ faces to speed up the boarding process.

Biometric Boarding Pass 1

Say cheese and pass in 1, 2, and 3. It’s as simple as that.

5. Augmented Reality Wayfinding

Augmented Reality Wayfinding

It’s easy to get lost at airports especially at huge airports like Dubai, Heathrow, Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta, Tokyo, and Los Angeles International Airport. Augmented reality has perhaps the most immediate potential in the air transport space. Gatwick Airport unveiled blue dot navigation and augmented reality wayfinding last year. This allowed passengers to use their smartphone camera to view AR directions to their destinations within the airport. You can use it to find Atms, restaurants, check-in counters, gates and even the closest restroom. Airports usually have complex layouts and AR is a pretty handy tool to ensuring a much smoother travelling experience.

AT the Heathrow Airport, the AR app is titled Around the World with Mr. Adventure. This app is like an adventure game for children and adults which uses smartphone cameras to scan ‘digital badges’ that have been hidden throughout the terminal buildings. Data scientists are also using this technology to monitor which places at the airport is visited the most. They can use this data to improve the facilities of those specific places at the airport.