The ‘Transforming passenger experiences with continuous decision intelligence’ Catalyst uses the industrial metaverse to optimize processes and resources in airports helping to avoid disruption, and facilitating immersive, contextual, and intelligent control
Simulated digital twin airports chart course for stress-free air travel
Across the globe, travel – both domestic and international – is booming again. According to Forbes, 49% of US citizens intended to travel more than they did in 2022 – the World Tourism Organization cites similar trends, and reports that in Q1 2023 there were double the number of travellers than the same period the year before. As demand rises, the travel industry faces increased pressure to improve operations and customer experience. This is particularly true for air travel, which faces its fair share of disruptions that subjects both consumers and the industry itself to acute stresses and wider knock-on effects.
Thankfully, these pressures coincide with an advance in metaverse technologies which can fundamentally improve a range of ways in which the travel industry operates. This is the purpose behind the Transforming passenger experiences with continuous decision intelligence Catalyst, which is tasked with finding methods to improve travel, starting with air travel.
Creating a modern, smart airport relies on creating a digital twin in an industrial metaverse that is dynamically connected to its real-world counterpart. In this Catalyst, the objective was to underpin the digital counterpart with an overall ‘system of systems’ comprising as much data and collective intelligence as possible. With enough data, the project team could create a state of awareness based on the data and operations of all systems (or agents) and how they work together. This in effect provides a continuous simulation of the airport which, subject to the capacity of the airport, can then provide intent optimization (e.g., rerouting passengers in real time), and a continuum of customer recommendations and service options based on their intent, preferences, situation, and available time.
Real-time information is exchanged between systems and services using an atomic event model coupled with a cross-domain ontology to ensure contextual interoperability. The top-level ontology is based on alignment of concept, capability, and information models across several industry consortia, including:
Application and wide value
Adopting these cross-industry models has helped maintain interoperability between systems and has made it possible to merge the infrastructure of physical and virtual worlds to create loops of continuous, event-driven, context-based, intelligent decisions. This is crucial to smart travel for the aviation industry. According to SITA’s Megatrends report, by 2030 metaverse operations will be commonplace at leading airports. They will be vital in optimizing processes and resources, avoiding disruption, and facilitating immersive, contextual, and intelligent control, to meet increasing demand. With this Catalyst, airports across the globe have charted the course for realization of smart airports.
For Linda Schucroft, Director of Innovation at YVR Airport in Vancouver, the advantages are clear: “the biggest opportunity for airports is to leverage emerging technologies such as the metaverse and the digital twin to transform the passenger experience from one fraught with anxiety and stress to one that is seamless, transparent, and predictable.” Research bears this out too – ACSI have found that that wait times are among the top drivers of customer satisfaction. Customers who wait longer than expected are 18% less satisfied with their overall experience. With intelligent, intent-based operations derived from connected digital twins, wait times across every facet of airports will fall dramatically, which will lighten the burden for any traveller. With ACI research finding that a 1% increase in passenger satisfaction generates a 1.5% average increase in non-aeronautical revenues (NAR) – making happy fliers is a commercially sound objective that the whole ecosystem can get behind.
Airports, passengers, and retailers are not the only beneficiaries though. In piloting the solution, the Catalyst’s model has proven flexible enough to support a growing and cost-effective marketplace of data services and scale to more complex digital ecosystems such as cities and county infrastructure. In this respect, the Catalyst is a beacon for other industries considering similar implementations. This is important given how quickly the market is set to grow – for example ABI Research forecast the industrial metaverse and digital twins market to grow to US$100 billion by 2030.
Reflecting on the Catalyst’s success, Project Champion Kostas Alexandridis (GIS Analyst, OC Survey Geospatial Services at Orange County Public Works) said that “from the perspective of a public institution such as Orange County Public Works in California responsible for managing critical public county, cross-city and regional infrastructure, the project has the potential to transform the ways we deliver citizen and community benefits. More specifically, how we establish resilient and robust organization of operations, management and systems, how we improve and streamline visual intelligence and decision-making, and how we work with industry partners to embrace innovation and promote agile and cutting-edge technological digital transformation for our societies.”