Airports of the Future: an old interview and current work

Way back in January, I was interviewed by Gerry Gaffney on UXPod, the User Experience Podcast about the early stages of work in the Airports of the Future project. I spoke with him about our early research which was mostly about security screening.

One of the first things we did was look at how the queue forms at security, and when the queue forms, in terms of going from no people there to having a queue of people there.   And the thing that we were able to say was that the queue forms not only because it takes time to unpack your gear and put it in the plastic tray and send it through the X-ray machine, but because you have to wait, you have to ask a question, especially internationally with the liquids, aerosols and gasses rule.   “Do I need to take this out?   Is this something that you are going to confiscate?   Can I keep this in my bag, or does it need to be out of my bag?”   If you’re the first person that’s fine, there’s no-one behind you.   But if you’re the second or third person you have to wait not only for those in front of you… not only to unpack but to also ask the question, and it’s the asking the question that takes time.   So the thing that we said was that you need to de-couple those two things.

We’re a lot further along now. Several  papers that I spoke with Gerry about, but couldn’t describe because they hadn’t been published, are now available publicly.

The first, by Phil Kirk, provides a new taxonomy of the things that people do in airports. This new taxonomy is important because it is the first step in giving us new ways to think about how airports work, and how the different things that people can do in airports (checking in, looking for a new book to read, waiting at the gate) are interrelated. Phil is almost done with his PhD and, if you’re in Brisbane in late November you’ll be able to come to his final seminar.

The second, by Alison Livingstone, is about how people use the shops in international airport terminals before they move into the secure parts of the airport. This is the first paper from Ali’s PhD and she’s since completed further analysis of how people shop in the secure areas of international terminals. Ali’s in the middle of her second field study which looks at questions that we had after her first fieldwork.

The third, by Anna Harrison, draws on a lot of literature to examine how time, services, spaces and things contribute to passenger experience. Anna is currently analysing her first two field studies with this integrated framework.

We’ve also got two PhD students who have just begun their research. Andrew Cave has recently been in the news for his research on how people navigate in airports. Andrew will be using eye-tracking glasses to help him see what passengers look at. Levi Swann will be using eye-tracking to investigate differences in how novice and expert security officers look at baggage x-ray images.


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