Leveraging digitalization for a top-down approach to improving airport sustainability

By John Kasuda 

Across North America, airports – as gateways to the world – stand at the forefront of decarbonization commitments and strategic initiatives. Today, 75 North American airports have achieved accreditation from the Airport Carbon Accreditation program, which independently assesses and recognizes airports’ efforts to manage and reduce their carbon emissions.

Still, there is more work to be done to achieve net-zero carbon emissions goals by 2050. Embracing digitalization and the emerging technologies it enables promises a path forward to integrate sustainability into every facet of airport operations, from electrifying operations and reducing the carbon footprint to enhancing the passenger experience.

The role of digitalization in decarbonization

The delicate balance between prioritizing investments in decarbonization measures and the need for operational continuity remains one of airports’ more pressing challenges on their path to Net Zero. At the same time, airports have a unique opportunity to capitalize on innovation and transformation.

Digitalization serves as the cornerstone in crafting top-down approach for airport sustainability, and the impact is significant. When airports weave digitalization into the fabric of their daily operations, they can unlock new ways to monitor, manage, and optimize energy consumption, waste management, and resource allocation in real-time – paving the way for a more sustainable, less carbon-dependent future.

For example, internet of things (IoT) devices provide a real-time overview of airport operations, from energy consumption patterns to asset utilization, facilitating more informed decision-making. AI and analytics help predict maintenance needs, optimize resource use, and reduce energy consumption, directly contributing to decarbonization and sustainability goals.

But airport infrastructure is aging fast. Every year, operators depreciate approximately $8 billion worth of airport assets. Supporting the digital transformation means investing in core infrastructure at airports, starting now. Platforms and infrastructure that enable data analytics can not only leapfrog traditional limitations, but also generate value for current assets.

Planning for airports of the future

Global decarbonization targets cannot be achieved without increased contributions from airports. The time to strategize and plan for airports of the future is now:

Benchmark and establish the baseline. Get a handle on current airport operations and levels of optimization and understand these metrics in the context of overarching goals. This step will help lead to a strategy that means future investments are aligned with the bigger picture.

Define future needs and direction. With a baseline assessment, define your airport’s future needs and strategic direction; consider how future growth plans and industry disruption (such as the advent of advanced air mobility) will have an impact on investments both today and tomorrow.

Engage with experts who understand smart airports and decarbonization. The landscape has never been so conducive to enabling digital transformation and decarbonization, and airports have a broad array of options. Engaging with experts who understand not just digital technologies, and not just decarbonization, but also smart airport operations can help deliver the highest level of precision for optimization, productivity, ROI, resilience, and more.

Look for solutions and platforms, rather than products and devices. Previous approaches to tackling decarbonization and energy consumption may have been focused on standalone components. Today, however, digitalization demands a much more holistic, systems-oriented approach to ensure interoperability, monitoring, measurement, verification, and so on.

Today marks a pivotal moment for airports, and by acting now, we can together shape a more sustainable and efficient future. This journey will not be without challenges, but with a strategic focus on digitalization as an enabler for decarbonization, airports will be well on the path toward decarbonization. To learn more about how smart airports can lead the way on sustainability, efficiency, and innovation, visit usa.siemens.com/smart-airports




This article was provided by a third party and, as such, the views expressed therein and/or presented are their own and may not represent or reflect the views of Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA), its management, Board, or members. Readers should not act on the basis of any information contained in the blog without referring to applicable laws and regulations and/or without appropriate professional advice.