All around the world, airports are keen to compete by placing themselves at the forefront of innovation.


Paris-Charles de Gaulle’s Innovation Hub

Paris-based international airport operator Groupe ADP, which builds, develops and manages Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Paris-Orly and Paris-Le Bourget, revealed last year its €16m Innovation Hub, as part of its Connect 2020 strategic plan.

The hub was inspired by technologies implemented at some of the group’s airports since 2010, such as an automated baggage drop-off, a transport comparison service, and the mobile software solution PRIMA, which enables frontline staff to better welcome and inform passengers.

It offers companies access to a 300-plus m2 space located in the heart of the new Groupe ADP head office at Paris-Charles de Gaulle, to be used as a hybrid space that can host showrooms, workshops, events and meetings with partners and staff. The showroom in particular is a place where new digital technologies, such as virtual reality headsets, drones and interactive tables can be showcased and put to the test, all financed by Groupe ADP.

In just a year, the space was used to host 250 events with 9,500 visitors, 15 experiments and welcomed five incubators partners.

One of its highlights was the “Play your Airport” project, which challenged start-ups, students, the general public, as well as Groupe ADP employees to imagine what the airport of the future will look like, in areas such as accessibility, services, security and customer service.

The hub also helped launch an automated parking valet at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport, the fruit of a partnership between Groupe ADP and Stanley-Robotics.


The Living Lab at Changi Airport

As the world’s sixth busiest airport for international traffic, Changi Airport is perfectly placed to break new ground.

At the beginning of 2017, Changi Airport Group (CAG) partnered with the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) to launch its Living Lab, a $35m programme to drive innovation over the next five years. The project came after a string of world-first innovations were implemented over the years at the airport, and helped cement its commitment to “increase its pace of innovation” and step up its competitiveness.

The Living Lab brings together CAG with innovation-driven companies and start-ups, while opening up the live airport environment to testing new technologies. In particular, the centre focuses on developing new solutions in four specific areas: automation and robotics, data analytics and the internet of things, non-intrusive security technologies and smart infrastructure management.

By entering the lab, companies would be able to tap into a “rich eco-system” of more than 55 million passengers passing through Changi Airport each year, generating over S$2 billion in concession sales.




Airport Innovation Accelerator

American Airports Innovation


Hartsfield – Jackson Atlanta International Airport Innovation Center –
Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport – the busiest airport in the world – is currently testing the waters and considering developing its own innovation centre. According to city documents, the airport recently reached out to companies that can “research and analyse the current and future potential of an Innovation Center (virtual and physical) across aviation. how it can be realised at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.”

Hartsfield-Jackson is already a member of the American Association of Airport Executives’ Airport Innovation Accelerator, the industry’s prime location to explore, discuss, and launch innovation in airports.

The tentative call for action follows last year’s ATL Thinks!, a two-month long hackathon organised by Hartsfield-Jackson, which brought together college students, professionals, and start-ups less than three years old from across the Metro Atlanta area to focus on the developing the airport of the future. The innovators designed solutions in response to four different challenges, such as enhancing the airport guest experience, attracting guests to airport retail locations, creating green airports and developing digital recognition software.




















SAN Innovation Lab – San Diego International Airport

San Diego International Airport (SAN) has been in operation since 1928, with the airport celebrating 90 years of service this year.

While SAN has been enjoying steady growth both in passenger numbers (which reached a record 22 million in 2017) and profits, in a recent report the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority identified a few barriers to innovation, such as long sales cycles and a highly fragmented market.

To counteract these trends, SAN founded its own Innovation Lab for companies to develop airport-related products and services.

The lab hosts two 16-week innovation programmes a year, which offer teams the opportunity to be guided step-by-step in their creative process, from prototype to presenting in front of the airport authority. Successful projects can then be implemented at the airport. In return, SAN keeps a negotiable revenue share from successful inventions implemented within airports and similar industries for the next five to ten years.

This year, the airport put forward two call-outs for participants interested in developing innovative parking and customer service solutions.

In the past, the lab helped deliver FuelRod, the first reusable, portable charging system that allows travellers to charge their mobile devices on the go, and AtYourGate, an airport-wide passenger mobile delivery app used to order food or retail items to a specific location inside the terminal.


















The San Francisco International Airport Innovation Hub

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco International Airport (SFO) today announced its newest amenity – a facility space inspired by the Bay Area start-up culture and dedicated to the exchange of ideas, where thought leaders, innovators, investors, and the travelers are encouraged to meet, greet, inspire and create. Dubbed “#Converge@flySFO”, the space is designed to allow travelers to meet and exchange thoughts on technology, shared economies, and ideas that could make the world a better place.

“San Francisco is the Innovation Capital of the World, and SFO reflects that spirit with the first airport facility dedicated to groundbreaking new ideas,” said San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee. “I am confident that SFO’s new #Converge@flySFO space will bring together great minds from around the world to collaborate and innovate on new ideas that will change the world.”

“With the #Converge@flySFO space, we’re giving our travelers another way to get connected, stay productive, and be inspired,” said Airport Director John L. Martin. “We’re excited to provide a space at SFO that could help the next game-changing idea to take flight.” The new space is already attracting interest from influencers in the technology and innovation sectors.

Commissioner Maureen K. Ohlhausen, of the Federal Trade Commission announced plans to visit #Converge@flySFO during her travels through SFO this week, and Mobile Future Chair Jonathan Spalter is also scheduled to discuss innovation in wireless communications.

How It Works

The #Converge@flySFO space is free and open to the travelling public. The 850-square-foot facility is equipped with tables, lounge-style chairs, power outlets, free Wi-Fi, and a giant erasable white board, with markers, covering an entire wall. Those wishing to use the space are encouraged to promote their intended topic of interest, date, and time on their personal social media channels using the hashtag #Converge, and where possible tagging @flySFO. SFO will then repost on the Airport’s social media channels. Learn about #Converge@flysfo.

Where It Is

#Converge@flySFO is located in the International Terminal at Boarding Area G, on Level 3 near Gate G93. Boarding Area G is joined by a post-security connecting walkway to Terminal 3, so guests in Boarding Areas E and F can easily access the facility without exiting the secure concourse.

Who Can Use It

#Converge@flySFO is open to any travelers holding boarding passes for flights in Terminal 3 or the International Terminal, Boarding Area G.