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Avalon Airport deploys touchless kiosks, CT screening

Australia’s Avalon Airport has rolled out touchless check-in and bag drop systems that passengers can control using speech, head gestures and eye gaze

At Australia’s Avalon Airport in Victoria, the coronavirus outbreak in the state has presented opportunities to speed up its digital transformation efforts.

With all its passenger flights cancelled or postponed, the airport – located between Melbourne and Geelong in Victoria – has been using the downtime to roll out new systems before it opens its doors again in the next month or so.

Speaking at media briefing organised by Amazon Web Services (AWS), Avalon Airport’s CEO Justin Giddings said computerised tomography (CT) security screening has been implemented in both international and domestic terminals, enabling passengers to keep their laptops and liquids in their bags at security checkpoints.

“You can simply leave everything in the bag, put it through the system and get out of there as quickly as possible,” Giddings said, adding that this will shorten queues while ensuring safe distancing between passengers.

Giddings said the airport has also introduced touchless check-in and bag drop systems supplied by Melbourne-based technology provider Elenium Automation, which designs, develops and manufactures self-service and automation technologies.

The systems were designed to minimise physical contact by enabling passengers to navigate user interfaces using head gestures and gaze estimation, according to Aaron Hornlimann, CEO of Elenium Automation.

Hornlimann said parts of those systems were initially developed to help people with disabilities control and access devices without having to strain themselves. “But we realised that it’s not just going to be for people with accessibility issues, but also the public who don’t necessarily want to touch common surfaces.”

Another piece of technology that Elenium Automation has been working on together with AWS is voice recognition that enables passengers to interact with a kiosk or bag drop system through speech. Hornlimann said the technology has been rolled out at the Abu Dhabi airport and has been presented at conferences in Las Vegas and the UK.

“You can control a kiosk or bag drop with up to 85 decibels of background noise and still be able to tell the kiosk that you want to change your seat or that you want an upgrade,” Hornlimann said. “It’s another means to have more natural interaction with a device without having to touch it.”

Hornlimann said the kiosk also uses omnidirectional microphones and cameras to ensure a passenger’s speech is picked up even though he or she may be wearing a mask. Real-world tests also revealed that people who wear masks tend to articulate their words more clearly, he added.

Giddings said the touchless systems will ease congestion in check-in areas while instilling traveller confidence and improving the passenger experience amid the pandemic.

“I would imagine that a lot of domestic passengers will be checking in online and probably won’t even go to the kiosks; they’ll go straight to the backdrops if they’ve got bags,” he said.

“And that’s good for airports because that means we don’t have to invest in large check-in areas which are not where you make your money – you really want people in the lounges and retail shops, so that was attractive to us.”

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