Globally almost all industries are suffering in the COVID-19 crisis. It is forecast that the aviation industry will need up to three years to recover from the shutdown. Airports and airlines need to react with new health and safety concepts. The challenges for airports are how to observe social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus and how to minimise the need to touch surfaces and reduce the risk of possible infection.
In order to restore passenger confidence, Materna IPS believes we need touchless touchpoints and assurance of safe distancing. At airports, self-service options should be made available and utilised as much as possible to limit contact at all passenger touchpoints. Airlines should proactively guide passengers to self bag drop options to minimise the interactions between passengers and check-in agents. A general move towards greater use of touchless technology and biometrics should also be pursued.
Self-service kiosks such as self bag drop devices (SBDs) already provide user interfaces which are fast and easy to use, and they require minimal passenger interaction. However, they do require some touchscreen contact to confirm details, accept the Dangerous Goods Regulations, and to confirm receipt of the bag with a tag correctly affixed.
Materna initially looked at the ‘obvious’ changes it could make – gesture sensors, voice control, etc. However, all of these are far from elegant and would require hardware changes and re-certification. They might also confuse passengers. Materna’s philosophy was to change as little as possible and keep the passenger experience almost the same. This was achieved by replicating the touch experience on the passenger’s own smartphone. The company’s product and development teams have incorporated technology that will allow the passenger’s smartphone to easily access a website controlling its SBDs, meaning there is no need to use the SBD touchscreen. Materna calls this Touchless.Connect.
For passengers, this means their airport experience is just modified slightly. After scanning the QR code on the SBD kiosk, passengers can use the web-based application. They can easily control the kiosk via their smartphone and don’t need to touch the display. With Touchless.Connect, Materna aims to help passengers regain a bit of trust.