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New digital platform to improve YVR operation efficiency

Vancouver International Airport looking at ways to share data with travellers.
Vancouver International Airport launched the Digital Twin platform in 2022.

A new digital tool at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) - that shows its entire operation in real-time - was created to make travel smoother for the millions of passengers who move through the airport.

Two years ago, YVR launched a platform called Digital Twin – a real-time interactive map of YVR’s terminal and airfield – to improve the efficiency of day-to-day operations.

The Digital Twin collects historical and real-time operations data into the platform and then presents the information in a visual format for planning, problem-solving and upgrades.

The tool is currently used for internal planning purposes, but, now, YVR is looking at how they can share data from the Digital Twin with travellers as well.

YVR is one of the first airports in the world to create a fully digital version of its site, according to Alyssa Smith, manager of communications at YVR.

Mapping out the terminal and airfield digitally allows YVR staff to alert different teams when there is a problem and reallocate resources when needed, she said.

For example, the Digital Twin platform can let staff know when there are delays in getting luggage from an airplane to the baggage carousel.

Smith explained certain teams will be alerted when a particular timing threshold is triggered.

“These sensors alert our team that they’ve got a delay over here with baggage X and we can then put more attention on that to make sure we’re clearing up whatever barrier there is to get those bags up on the carousel,” she said.

While the virtual map and data through the Digital Twin is still exclusively used by staff, YVR is looking at how to make the data accessible to travellers to give them more "insight and control over their journey through the airport," Smith said.

The platform was built in-house and was launched in March 2022.

“Data for us is just so critical in terms of getting our hands on the information that we need on what’s happening across the airport,” she said.

This includes the number of people checking in, moving through security and “getting through to the other side.”

“The more information we have on the different flow (of people) across the terminal buildings, the more we can fine-tune where we need to improve on when it comes to those pinch points.”

Smith told the Richmond News that they are constantly looking at making improvements to the digital platform, just like any technology.

“It really is about making data and technology accessible, making it usable and ... human-centric, because a year or two years from now it will certainly evolve,” said Smith.

“It’s designed to be accessible and functional … with the foundational pieces, we can take it in many different directions.”

Not only is the Digital Twin a platform able to help improve the airport but it can also be used as an educational tool, Smith added.

YVR also worked with the Musqueam and the First Nations Technology Council last year to teach students about the digital platform.

A cohort of Musqueam students were taught about airport operations, how the Digital Twin was built and how it's used to improve the work of all the staff at YVR.

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