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Building the Connected Airport with APIs

SFO's enterprise architect discusses digital transformation
olaf
Jan 20, 2017

"Digital transormation is a required course, not an elective, for airport operators."

But, as a Boston Consulting Group report explains, a passing grade won't be easy for even the most tech-savvy airports. It requires the digital orchestration of many constitutents and partners: airlines, vendors, security, taxi and rideshare services, and, of course, travelers.

"The airport is like a small city," said Isaac Inkumsah, enterprise architect at San Francisco International Airport. "What it's going to take to scale our services delivery capability to support that entire infrastructure is going to be quite massive."

We spoke with Inkumsah about what's required to help SFO become a "connected airport"—one that improves the passenger experience, increases operational efficiency, and boosts revenue, all via digital technology.

A key to accomplishing this at the scale required for an organization like SFO? APIs and API management.

"We want to be an airport that responds quickly, and with agility, effectively to our passengers, in terms of security, travel experience, and so on," Inkumsah said. SFO aims to break the old landlord-tenant relationship that airports have with airlines and become more of a data broker between the airport, airlines, passengers, and other consitutents. 

SFO is off to a good start; it has developed API-driven solutions to monetize rideshares and optimize taxi queues. But with 30,000 employees and 50 million passengers per year, the airport requires technology that enables the simple and fast sharing of digital services, at scale.

"We expect a fully connected airport to be completely running on services in the future, and APIs are going to be a big part of that," he said. 

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