A Summary of the Xovis webinar of May 6th, 2020


Earlier this week, we held the first webinar of our series “Xovis Presents: Physical Distancing at Airports” where we discussed what the future holds regarding passenger safety and what we’re doing to help current and future customers.

The topic is one that has been discussed quite a bit in recent weeks, especially when we talk about re-opening efforts and what it will take to get the economy back on track. Xovis’ very own Research Scientist, Flurin Hanseler, PhD, has been researching and analyzing physical distancing in airports for the past two months. The work he completed was published as a whitepaper and can be viewed here.

The main question we knew we had to answer when thinking about future plans is ‘How can we keep airports safe?” After we started hearing from customers in the Asian market a few months ago, we knew we had to get moving on developing a solution.

The clear answer for us is 'Physical Distancing'

It’s a unique problem in airports because there is a lot of queuing by nature. Restrooms, busses, security checkpoints, and passport control; all of these spaces where people line up makes it more difficult to ensure and monitor physical distancing compared to a retail shop or other facility.

Hanseler and his research team identified three factors to help with physical distancing; measure people flow, calculate distance, and identify hotspots. Thankfully, our sensors can already deliver the first two items, the challenge, however, lies with identifying the hotspots. The first thing we looked at is population density but physical distancing can easily be breached with this method. We knew the focus had to be on the 2m/6ft distance between individuals. The idea is fairly simple - the greater the distance, the lower the risk.  By generating a “contagion heat map” over time (could be a few hours, days, weeks) airports are able to visually see the areas of interest where passengers are breaching the physical distancing guideline. 

A prototype of a Xovis contagion heat map, the darker colors represent higher risk areas

A prototype of a Xovis contagion heat map, the darker colors represent higher risk areas

Some options we presented in the webinar to help with preventing breaches were; Turning off every other kiosk in the self service kiosk areas, setting up social distance stickers on the floor (this seems to be a common starting place for most airports), making turning points in queues wider, cutting off access to an area for a certain period of time until the risk area reduces, or triggering alerts over the PA/intercom system to send security personnel to help safely separate individuals. The value in such contagion maps for airports is that you can constantly optimize your operation – minimize the risk while avoiding blocking off precious terminal floor space unnecessarily.

Of everything we discussed, the two topics that we’re most excited about are live and historical detection. Live detection can be used to trigger alarms/alerts when high risk contagion groups are identified in real-time. Historical detection allows airports to A/B test and see what measures are working more effectively (Is it the stickers on the floor? Changing queue layout?). This is extremely important because you need to be able to see and measure your results to make sure they are effective.

The good news is if you have Xovis sensors installed, you can start to implement this as soon as we roll it out in the next month. It’s as simple as updating the software. If guidelines and regulations change, all we need to do is adjust the algorithm input remotely.

The webinar closed out by identifying the two groups that have the most influence on shaping the future of travel; Customers and policy makers. Customers need to confidence to trust that the airports have taken the necessary precautions to keep them healthy and safe. Policy makers will be held accountable so they will be strict in making sure these regulations are adhered to.

As always, we’re here to help and we’re always open to feedback and suggestions on how we can improve our product to better suit your needs during this difficult and challenging time.

Contact us

Stay safe and email airports(at)xovis.com