flexiblefullpage -
billboard - default
interstitial1 - interstitial
Currently Reading

How the Internet of Things will transform airport environments


How the Internet of Things will transform airport environments

By Scott Gorenc, AIA, LEED AP, Senior Designer, Gensler | Gensler | May 20, 2019
How the Internet of Things will transform airport environments

Auckland Airport — Auckland, New Zealand. Photo courtesy Gensler

As everything from our phones, to our watches, homes, and cars get smarter, airports are striving to keep pace. From motion sensors that turn lights on and off depending on human presence, to radio frequency identification (RFID) tags that accurately track baggage through the airport and on to its final destination, the Internet of Things (IoT) has matured significantly over the past two decades. 

In the competitive scramble of airlines and airports to differentiate themselves by improving operations and customer service, IoT has emerged at the forefront of strategic development.


How does the Internet of Things work?

The Internet of Things is an overarching concept that describes multiple technologies working seamlessly in concert to improve a collective system.

In the aviation industry, this means “connected airports” are quickly becoming a reality. Like other “smart” spaces, a connected airport is essentially a terminal environment in which devices sense and transmit data that can be used to generate insights and continually improve airport operations and passenger experience.

The FAA’s Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) recently issued Research Report 191, which gives airports a holistic introduction to the Internet of Things. The report lays out the foundational framework for how the Internet of Things operates:
1. Strategically placed sensors capture data about the physical environment.
2. The information is communicated and aggregated.
3. The data is analyzed for key insights.
4. These insights result in implementations for improvement.


Where are we seeing IoT make the biggest impacts?

In the airport environment, connected devices and their wealth of data have led to significant improvements in operational efficiency. Much of the passenger experience is defined by issues such as baggage transportation and loss, security checkpoint experiences, and reliable high speed WiFi. IoT will be critical in alleviating airport-associated stresses on operators and travelers alike.

At DFW International Airport, for example, sensors monitor the number of people in the security queue at any given moment and extrapolate real-time wait times. This data is automatically streamed to overhead monitors that keep passengers informed and reduce anxiety. Ultimately, this information empowers passengers to plan their own experience, allowing them to assess wait times for different security checkpoints as they arrive and plan their path to the departure gate.



At Miami International Airport, beacon technology is being utilized to pinpoint every passenger’s location within a terminal. With a smartphone app, passengers are able to receive turn-by-turn directions to their gate or the closest amenity, like a bookstore, airport lounge, restaurant, or restrooms. As more airports turn to similar technology, passengers will only have to turn to their smartphones to gather their bearings and seek out their destination no matter where they are located.


Design Insights

There are two areas where airports will need to improve in order to maximize the return on investment promised by a fundamental reliance on IoT.

First, airports will need to find more ways to increase seamless communications and share information with passengers in real time. Whether through dynamic signage, interactive monitors, or smartphone technology, airports will continue to upgrade technological systems and develop creative ways to keep passengers informed of the important details of their impending journey. The ultimate goal, after all, is to find ways to enhance the passenger experience through retail opportunities and increase concession revenue.

Second, airports will need to become more agile in order to respond to the enormous quantity of information that is continuously generated by the IoT’s sensor and beacon networks. The data collected can inform a variety of critical business and operational decisions, from staffing assignments and concession offerings to even larger, airport-wide infrastructural changes. The industry will have to be flexible, both from an operational and facilities perspective. As airports and airlines continue to evolve, adapt, and grow, the competition for passengers (and thus, revenue) will hinge on the convenience and ease they can offer. So focusing on elevating the passenger experience is critical to success.

In recent years, we have made vast advancements in how we collect data. The next step in the progress of IoT is how we use it. It is crucial that we continue to make strides in speed, and become far swifter in analysis of the data, making decisions based on the evidence and insights generated by our findings, and finally implementing those decisions quickly and efficiently, without disrupting the enormous complexities of a functioning airport environment.

About the Author
Scott Gorenc, AIA, LEED AP, is a Senior Designer based in Dallas, Texas and specializing in aviation architecture. He has experience at all stages of the design phase, with a focus on passenger experience and process innovations. He is considered a thought leader on the trends informing the airport of the future. Scott has been involved with multiple airport designs, expansions, and renovations throughout the world, including LAX, DFW, and Shanghai Pudong International Airport. Reach him at scott_gorenc@gensler.com.


More from Author

Gensler | Mar 16, 2023

Three interconnected solutions for 'saving' urban centers

Gensler Co-CEO Andy Cohen explores how the global pandemic affected city life, and gives three solutions for revitalizing these urban centers.

Gensler | Feb 16, 2023

Insights from over 300 potential office-to-residential conversions

Research from Gensler finds that, surprisingly, the features that result in an unpleasant office often make for a superlative multifamily product.

Gensler | Sep 4, 2020

The office building of the future should be an essential part of its community

When the dust settles, the office is going to look and feel like a different place than the one we left in March.

Gensler | May 12, 2020

Understanding the touchless workplace

In the workplace, digital solutions and platforms have eliminated some of the noise by improving guest check-in, conference room booking, company communications, wayfinding, food and beverage service, and more.

Gensler | Mar 27, 2020

Designing healthcare for surge capacity

We believe that part of the longer-term answer lies not just with traditional health providers, but in the potential of our cities and communities to adapt and change.

Gensler | Mar 18, 2020

We are in the midst of a paradigm shift for higher education

The question for higher education is, what will the university of the future look like?

Gensler | Mar 15, 2020

Designing office building lobbies to respond to the coronavirus

Touch-free design solutions and air purifiers can enhance workplace wellness.

Gensler | Mar 15, 2020

In the face of the coronavirus, workplace wellness is key

Here are a few considerations employers should keep in mind in creating plans for a healthy and effective work environment.

Gensler | Feb 11, 2020

Want your organization to be more creative? Embrace these 4 workplace strategies

Creativity is the secret sauce in the success of every business.

Gensler | Oct 17, 2019

Doubling down on our commitment to resilience

With hundreds of millions of square feet of buildings and interior design projects in the pipeline annually, we believe our impact and role in reducing energy demand is critical.

boombox1 - default
boombox2 -
native1 -

More In Category

How open is too open for you office?

Our data reveal what is truly going on in the current workplace, with insights on how workplace design can deliver new value to organizations.

halfpage1 -

Most Popular Content

  1. 2021 Giants 400 Report
  2. Top 150 Architecture Firms for 2019
  3. 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing
  4. Sagrada Familia completion date pushed back due to coronavirus
  5. Top 160 Architecture Firms 2021


Magazine Subscription

Get our Newsletters

Each day, our editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.


Follow BD+C: