In Italy, tourism is serious business, with over 90 million international tourists visiting the country each year and the industry contributing about 11 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Aeroporti di Roma (ADR), the Italian fixed-base operator, manages two international airports in Rome: Leonardo da Vinci Fumicino, the largest airport in Italy; and Ciampino. Fumicino was awarded the Best Airport Award in 2018 by the ACI Europe (Airport Council International) thanks to the strategic investments in infrastructure, quality of services offered to passengers and technology used.

Driving quality for passengers at scale

Passengers have great expectations of airports today. When they walk into an airport, they expect to walk into a smart city, regardless of the amount of time they are spending there. Who wants to be stuck at a gate today without advance information about a delay? Are there WiFi and comfy chairs if you need to spend a few hours or an entire day there while in transit?

Expectations are changing as new technologies change our daily habits. Following these changes in demand, ADR decided to advance digitally to improve passenger experience, and at the same time open up new commercial opportunities. The company set a road map and embarked on a digital transformation journey to deliver higher-quality services based on real-time operational insights, as well as provide new data-driven products and services.

Creating new insights and opportunities

The first step was integrating the existing data services from across the organisation. By bringing together data, ADR is able to better understand whether passengers are arriving early or late for their flights, if they are moving quickly or slowly through the terminal, and where they are on the premises (e.g., at parking, in a shop, at security, etc.) – the data is used with the highest respect and protection of passengers’ privacy. Using this data, the team discovered it could classify passengers into different segments, which allowed it to look at the business from another dimension, thus introducing new opportunities to improve commercial value and optimise operations.

The next step on the digital journey was deploying technologies across all airport facilities to improve tracking and engagement with passengers. ADR launched streaming analytics technology, connecting nearly 3,000 beacons across the airport and delivering high-speed wireless connectivity to manage high-volume WiFi data. This allows ADR to better count the number of connected passengers, understand traffic and organise business properly. The airport offers two freemium WiFi options: one with a normal bandwidth and another with “premium” bandwidth, which is accessible only after downloading the native airport app. The airport app is used to push advanced services as well as handling flight tracking, wayfinding, park booking, and notifications, and is used to allow retailers to engage with passengers through push notifications and navigation features.

 Rome Airport mobile app
Aeroporti di Roma mobile app

Gaining passenger insights introduced a wealth of new opportunities. These insights (enabled by data from internet of things [IoT] devices, network devices, databases and business applications, geographic information systems [GIS] maps, flat files, etc.) have been able to increase the commercial opportunity for retailers, organise operational teams more effectively and reduce passenger waiting times.

ADR believes it has only scratched the surface in terms of outcomes. Going forward, the company is investigating how the airports can use the data and insights to bring together an ecosystem and become a marketplace for value-added services.

This article is part of the IDC series “Your pathway to digital success,” written to inspire business leaders to overcome common challenges along their organisations’ journeys.