start-ups to renovate Barcelona airport


Located 12 km southwest of the city center, Barcelona-El Prat Airport is the main international gateway to the popular tourist region, serving 33 million travelers per year, making it the second-largest airport the busiest in Spain.

As pandemic travel restrictions begin to lift, Barcelona-El Prat Airport prepares to welcome passengers again, with a host of new tech start-ups.

The international airport technology development program aims to promote innovation and technology within the airport to act as future solutions as well as the current challenges facing the airport.

From improving the passenger experience to sustainability initiatives, the five companies involved are working on next-generation technology ideas to help the airport now.

Start Selection

The busy airport control tower serves as the headquarters for the start-up accelerator program and the five selected companies.

The accelerator is expected to operate until October, and will end with the start-ups presenting their achievements on the last day of the event called “Aena Ventures Demo Day”. The demonstration day aims to assess the feasibility of the start-up’s applications of their technology at the airport.

Companies from 33 countries have submitted projects to participate in the acceleration program. A total of 254 projects were submitted, which made the selection process difficult for those involved.

Amparo Brea, Director of Innovation, Sustainability and Customer Experience of Aena, said: “The call was for start-ups around the world who are invited to register for this first initiative. . The program will address five strategic challenges for Aena: agility in procedures and travel to the airport, passenger experience, communication with passengers, sustainability and baggage.

“After an exhaustive selection process, the projects that will be part of our first acceleration program have been chosen, aimed at solving the five challenges posed. A start-up has been chosen for each of these challenges in order to participate in the acceleration process.

Each of the start-ups received funding of € 50,000 (£ 43,000) to implement their ideas at the airport, while being mentored by industry professionals on site. The acceleration program aims to find technology – presented by selected start-ups – that can help the business model, airport infrastructure and develop systems that improve the customer experience.

“We want to integrate this reality into our management, by working with this type of company to set up digitization and innovation actions, among others. “

Brea explained, “Aena promotes innovation and technology and is committed to accelerating start-ups that match its strategic business areas. We want to integrate this reality into our management, by collaborating with this type of company to set up digitization and innovation actions, among others.

The famous five

The UK’s only start-up is Airport AI, which provides AI technology for communication between airports and passengers to improve connectivity through a multi-channel chat solution.

Pierre Cuquemelle, CEO – Airport AI (left) Meep CEO and co-founder, Guillermo Campoamor (right) Credit: Airport AI and Meep.

The integration of this technology at the airport will bring many benefits, including a better experience for passengers. Airport AI technology allows passengers to contact the airport around the clock, through a user-friendly interface, allowing them to receive information on flights, reservations and services.

Pierre Cuquemelle, CEO – Extended Airport AI: “The Airport AI platform brings many advantages to airports such as saving time for customer service teams: more than 85% of passengers’ questions can be answered automatically, freeing up time. for officers to deal with more complex cases. ”

“Another benefit is revenue generation: the platform can be used to better understand passengers and send targeted marketing messages at the relevant time of the passenger’s journey, which increases non-aviation revenue. “

Sustainability, a priority topic on Aena’s agenda, is covered by the French company Carwatt, which presented an initiative that sees the conversion of internal combustion vehicles into electricity, in order to reduce harmful gas emissions at airports. .

Dubz, a company from the United Arab Emirates, will take care of the baggage portion of the initiative. His team has developed a solution to simplify baggage claim, check-in and drop-off at the passenger’s home or hotel.

Meep presents a technology that enables route planning that combines all modes of transport. The Spanish start-up’s technology also includes integrated ticket purchasing and analysis of the least congested routes, allowing passengers to select the trip they prefer to take.

The technology will bridge the gap between airports and urban areas, allowing passengers to travel to and from the airport at a time that suits them, according to their preferences, where multimodal travel is an accessible option.

Meep CEO and Co-Founder Guillermo Campoamor explained, “We believe our Mobility as a Service (MaaS) solution, a smartphone app, can change the way people come and go from airports, and change the mindset of airport travel which is commonly associated with stress. Meep reflected on typical travel issues like crowds, delays, and cancellations, and focused on the root of the problem.

“Accurate flight information is provided by the airport authority through very specific channels which often require passengers to be in the terminal. This does not allow users to better plan their journey to the airport and can create unnecessary waiting times – which also leads to congestion.

“This can be dramatically improved by matching real-time information on flight times with external transport. In doing so, we will guide the user from door to door.

Another Spanish company, Chinaspain, was also selected to participate in the initiative. The company will seek to promote tourism experiences between China and Spain through the development of an app that will facilitate flexible communication for travelers from China.

Covid-19: a catalyst for change

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way many industries now operate when it comes to contactless technology, social distancing guidelines and reducing crowded spaces. For industries such as aviation, the pandemic has also acted as a catalyst for the development of new technologies.

Covid-19 has also identified areas within the airport industry that are now being addressed, such as passenger confidence and the importance of communication.

“One of the impacts of the pandemic is that passengers have many more questions about the airport experience. Airports must answer these questions and reassure passengers.

Cuquemelle said: “One of the impacts of the pandemic is that passengers have many more questions regarding the airport experience. Airports need to answer these questions and reassure passengers, but with current budget constraints it is virtually impossible to do so using the same human-intensive customer service processes that were in place before the crisis.

“This is where AI and automation can play a major role and pave the way for a rapid recovery in the industry. Aena has clearly identified this challenge, and that is why the decision was made to invest in new technologies that make existing processes more efficient.

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