Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Improving the security experience at Gatwick?

We hear that Gatwick is planning to significantly enhance the passenger experience when it opens its new South Terminal.

New technology is coming including automated barcode scanners replacing boarding-pass checkers.  We understand that the new security lounge will use state of the art crowd-measuring technology to identify the shortest queue. According to the Time to Wander blog, the airport said “we’re going to use colour-coded lighting.  A queue with a waiting time of a minute or less will be one colour, and we’ll use others for two, three and four minutes. And we’re getting rid of the queueing system we inherited from BAA. You’ll come into the hall, join the shortest queue, and if it slows down, you can go and join another. We’re trying to do things differently.”

There are plans to have 19 colour-coded lanes in place when the new South Terminal fully opens in August, one of which will be reserved for families and those requiring special assistance.

Great to see airports starting to compete to offer a better experience than others. 

These sound like some interesting ideas to help passengers.  The colour-coded lighting might be a really good way to help people understand the dynamics of the various queues that face them - we will wait to see if it works.  It could see a better distribution of people and a positive sense of choice for the passenger.  It'll be really interesting to see if firstly passengers understand the coding and then how responsive the system is to the dynamic changes in queue.

We certainly applaud the shift to allowing passengers some sense of freedom rather than current stressful more controlling approach.  Being able to change lanes seems interesting but will you see a chaotic movement of people when their lane changes colour!  We shall see...

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Tuesday, 19 April 2011

What will airports of the future look like - a passenger perspective

Following on from the last post is this video from the BBC on the airports of the future:

The piece is based around the premise that in 20 years time passenger numbers will double to pass 12 billion so airports and cities will have to cope with more people using and working in them.  One suggestion has been the "aerotropolis" - a city with the airport at its centre rather than on its fringes as they are at present.

The video raises lots of interesting possibilities but for us we are most interested in the human side of how passengers will use these changing, growing airports.

One of the keys seems to be the notion of airports that are designed to be big rather than what we have at the moment which are airports that grow incrementally or remain too small for the passenger numbers.  An interesting challenge to keep an airport still feeling manageable and navigable.  Maybe you need will need to divide the space up into many more smaller terminals and keep the distance from your arriving transport to plane as small as possible.

Clearly technology will play its part.  One can envisage technologies like electronic paper providing a ticket or boarding card that is interactive and actually helps direct you from entry to gate.

New ways of providing transit for people across and around the airport will be required as the walking distances will be too big.  Again this might mean lots of different ways into the airport whilst providing an environment that isn't too confusing - not easy!

As the video pointed out if we think the hassle of security is bad now one can imagine that it won't get better without a step change in the technology.  New scanning technologies that can speed up the security process will emerge but need to well designed to be usable by staff so that the human interaction isn't something that slows it all down again.

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Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Airport terminals for people

We came across this really interesting design for the new Terminal 2 at San Francisco International which will be mainly used by Virgin Atlantic.  So much of it seems to have been designed for the people who actually use it - the passenger.

We loved the "recompose zone" as you emerge from the stress of security...

...other neat features like hydration stations to help people fill their own bottles rather than have to buy expensive bottled water

 ...local food outlets rather than the usual chains and desk space in the waiting areas

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London Ambulance fallback failure

Some readers may have seen the article in the London press about the London Ambulance Service having some problems with maintaining effective control during fallback when there was a fire in their control centre.

The fire was an electrical fire in a UPS.  The fire meant that operations had to move to the fallback control room in Bow.  However the report into the events revealed a number of failings in their procedures, when they got to the fallback control there were problems with glare on screens and problems with technical language being used in the control room that hampered communications.

Clearly operational effectiveness during this event were significantly degraded and LAS has learnt some harsh lessons including deciding to keep their fallback control room "live".

This event features many common issues for control centres when looking at fallback arrangements.
  • The procedures for moving out and setting up the new control are rarely exercised or tested.  
  • The switching of the technology is not well designed to be reliable.
  • It is difficult to determine the duration of the fallback and therefore to what degree the fallback control room has to match the main control room functionality.
  • The fallback control room often suffers from a lower level of design - it's often not really designed at all.
Many of these issues arise as a fallback control room is seen as a facility which is rarely used and therefore investment is made elsewhere.  As LAS perhaps found out, this is fine until you need it and find it doesn't work or doesn't work well enough.

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