Atlanta’s Airport Flies Ahead


10 miles south of Downtown Atlanta, Georgia, you’ll find 4,700 acres that carry a long history in providing mobility for the city and its inhabitants. Before gaining fame as the world’s busiest airport, it was known as the Atlanta Speedway and home to performance motor enthusiasts. 

In April 1925, Mayor Walter Sims signed a five-year lease with the intention to turn the race track into an airfield. Only one year later the first airplane was greeted. 

Originally operating as Candler Field, named after the landowner, the 41st mayor of Atlanta and founder of the Coca Cola Company, the airport doubled in size during World War II, serving as an Air Force base and training facility. In 1971 the airport was renamed to Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport. William B. Hartsfield was the longest serving mayor of Atlanta and credited with the success of the airport’s expansion. In 2003, Atlanta’s City Council announced that the airport will additionally carry the name of Atlanta’s former mayor Maynard Jackson, honoring him and his role in modernizing the airport. 

From its inception until today the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) has played a critical role as a connecting hub. Located within a two-hour flight distance of 80 percent of the US population, the Atlanta Airport is an essential entry point into the country and gateway to the rest of the world. On average the airport moves 275.000 people per day and counts as many as 2,700 arrivals and departures on a daily basis. The Atlanta Airport serves  150 national destinations and more than 75 international destinations in 50 countries.

Atlanta’s airport has been serving passenger needs since the dawn of aviation. To assure that ATL can maintain its position as one of the most important airports in the world, it has to keep up with the ever-transforming landscape of mobility. Atalanta’s Department of Aviation (DOA) therefore provides a master plan that outlines a roadmap on how to accommodate aviation demand throughout the next twenty years. Under the name “ATLNext” a new, updated master plan was unveiled in 2016. ATLNext secured a budget of $6 billion dollars to renovate, expand and accommodate the forecasted growth in commercial aviation. 

Forecasting growth and evaluating the relationship between demand and capacity is especially complex due to the many factors that are part of the equation. Not only does the airport environment provide an extreme wealth of data, it’s also a setting that is extremely time sensitive – at the airport a non-functioning elevator can easily make us break a sweat and five minutes have never seem longer than when you’re waiting in line hoping to catch your connecting flight.

Now the Internet of Things (IoT) promises a whole new world of opportunities to make the airport experience more efficient and enjoyable. IoT is not a new technology itself, instead it’s an architecture allowing different technologies to come together to create value. Sensors, devices, analytics and data can be employed to predict traveler behavior and to increase operational efficiency overall. For example, sensors could be installed on bathroom assets, transmitting real time data to the facility management in case of shortages or breakdowns. 
The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has partnered with GISinc, a company providing IoT solutions, to become one of the first smart airports. Some of the improvements that can be tackled with the help of IoT include (a) improved screening and security measures identifying security concerns through behavior observation, (b) detection of smoke, chemicals, voice and noise levels with the help of networked sensors and (c) tracking and visualization of real-time movement to allocate resources more efficiently.

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