Heathrow eyes Microsoft technology to help manage passenger numbers

Leisure & Tourism | South East | Technology

Heathrow is using Microsoft technology to assist the hundreds of thousands of passengers that travel through the hub airport each day.

Around 78 million passengers travelled through Europe’s busiest airport in 2017, and the planned expansion is expected to increase that number by up to 130 million.

Data and analytics technology are key to Heathrow’s strategy and it is a heavy user of the Microsoft cloud, including Azure, Power BI, Office 365 and Windows 10, to gain an overview of how the airport is running and help the 200,000-plus passengers it handles daily to move through its terminals smoothly and efficiently. However, it wants to go further to avoid disruptions.

Stuart Birrell, Chief Information Officer at Heathrow said: “I’m looking at how to build the capability to run an airport that’s significantly busier than it is today. How do we become more digital, more data-driven and more predictive? How do we get teams to use data more? That operational data will give us confidence when we start modelling the flows and behaviour around our airport when we design a new one.

“Power BI helps us enormously today, but Skype-based bots is something we are looking at for passenger interaction, as well as machine learning and predictive technology on flight scheduling and passenger flow. People behave differently depending on the destination they are flying to. How many are going to check in three hours, two hours or 45 minutes early?

“That has a huge impact on our security colleagues – how many lanes do we have to have open at security? It also has an effect on retail and the departure lounge. Using machine learning on all that is proving really productive because we can anticipate passenger flow and stay ahead of disruption.

“The next stage will be using artificial intelligence. Microsoft is a critical ally in our digital transformation.”

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