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Airport Security Redesign

 

SFO Airport Security Redesign: Effecting Change in Complex Systems

 
 
 

The Design Challenge

Understand the complexity of one of the given systems: transportation, water, food, housing and education, then develop a solution that could affect change in the systems.

It is a 4-week (2018 Spring) group project in the System course taught by Erin Malone.

Team: Claire Zhou (Most of the work was created collaboratively. Separate works are, concept model and ticket design by me, ecosystem map and user flow by Claire.)

Key Roles: Qualitative Research, System Thinking, Ideation, Prototyping

 
 

 

Project Overview

PROBLEM

  • The security clearance process is confusing, tedious, and dehumanizing

  • The security wait is always long, which makes people miss their flights

SOLUTION

Make the security clearance process quicker and smoother by:

  • Informing security restrictions beforehand by text messages

  • Providing clear navigation information on the boarding pass

  • Assigning passengers different time slots to avoid long security waits

 
 
 

Demo Video

 
 
 

User Flow

 
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Process Overview

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Research

Primary research

At the beginning, we went to San Francisco International Airport(SFO) to observe the surroundings and identify existing problems.

 
 
 

We interviewed staff from different departments to understand how each department merges into the system of air travel. The we interviewed air travel passengers to discover their pain points and turned them into insights.

 
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Secondary research

When our interviewees told us going through security clearance was their biggest nuisance, we did more secondary research.

 
 
 

system models

While doing research, we organized the information into different maps.

Concept Map

The information flows from left to right, and from up to down. Different colors indicate different locations in the airport.

The information flows from left to right, and from up to down. Different colors indicate different locations in the airport.

 
 

Ecosystem Map

The layers of the circle indicate different components from smallest to largest. The outside arrow indicates the user flow that corresponds with the geographical locations of the airport.

The layers of the circle indicate different components from smallest to largest. The outside arrow indicates the user flow that corresponds with the geographical locations of the airport.

 
 

Experience Map

It shows a complete user flow of passengers’ obstacles, feelings, and design opportunities.

It shows a complete user flow of passengers’ obstacles, feelings, and design opportunities.

 

 

Opportunities

Our findings are summarized into a reinforcing loop that shows how the vicious cycle is created.

 

Based on our research, we found passengers would be best served by education beforehand. A lot of dissatisfaction was because passengers didn’t follow the rules, staff got more impatient, which made passengers feel disrespected.

Hence, our challenge will be:

How might we increase passengers’ efficiency and their positive emotions by educating passengers about the required procedures beforehand, and guide them along the way to help them perform correctly at a security check?

 
 

 

Design

Ideation

we brainstormed lots of ideas that can increase experience at security checking point then picked two of them to make prototypes.

 
 

Prototype #1

At first, we thought signs on tables/bins could act as a guide during the clearance process.

 

However, we later discovered that it may make the process become even slower.

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Prototype #2

Then we thought of another solution—sorting cart.

 

But it still created more problems.

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Final Solution

Since changing physical facilities was causing as many problems as it solved, we instead aimed to come up with smaller-scale solutions that may still affect changes.

As we did more research on existing products related to airport experiences, the TSA app made us realize that peak time, based on flight departure time, also caused long waiting times.

 
TSA app shows the average waiting time for different time slots. If passengers don’t want to miss their flights, they need to constantly check the app to avoid peak times. It shows useful information but still doesn’t solve the problem.

TSA app shows the average waiting time for different time slots. If passengers don’t want to miss their flights, they need to constantly check the app to avoid peak times. It shows useful information but still doesn’t solve the problem.

 

Hence, besides:

How might we increase passengers’ efficiency and their positive emotions by educating passengers about the required procedures beforehand, and guide them along the way to help them perform correctly at a security check?

Then another challenge will be:

How might we help passengers avoid peak time to shorten waiting times at security checkpoints?

 
 
 

Inspired by the app, we thought of the queue management/calling system used by restaurants and amusement parks. The system assigns people a number/slot and they only need to show up when their time is called. We applied the same idea here—based on passengers’ departure time, the algorithm would assign them particular time slots that would minimize their waiting time and guarantee they catch their flights.

We had several ways to inform passengers of their assigned time slots and baggage security instructions. A day before passengers take off, we will text them messages about their assigned time slot and checkpoint location for security, as well as carry-on baggage security instructions so they are able to double check their luggage.

 
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Also, we put information on boarding passes because they are interfaces that passengers directly encounter in the first place.

 
We reorganized the information into 3 travel stages based on location. Under the security section, we listed the assigned time slot and checkpoint location again, as well as the carry-on restrictions at the back.

We reorganized the information into 3 travel stages based on location. Under the security section, we listed the assigned time slot and checkpoint location again, as well as the carry-on restrictions at the back.

Similar with the physical boarding pass, the digital version also categorizes information into 3 travel stages: general information ((on the paper boarding pass, this information is sectioned under “Check-in”, but passengers who use digital boarding pass don’t need to go through check-in process), security, and boarding. Passengers can tap info icons to learn more details.

Similar with the physical boarding pass, the digital version also categorizes information into 3 travel stages: general information ((on the paper boarding pass, this information is sectioned under “Check-in”, but passengers who use digital boarding pass don’t need to go through check-in process), security, and boarding. Passengers can tap info icons to learn more details.

 
 

We also show the current time slots at screens and signs at the security checkpoint. When passengers arrive at their assigned time slot and see their slot is announced, they can go through security without the long wait.

 
 
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Reflection

Discussion

  • What are the logistics of our “Time Slot” system if it got implemented in airports?

    Even though queue management system is proven to be a success in restaurants and amusement parks, can it actually be implemented in airports where the system is much more complex and unpredictable? While our system assigns passengers their security time slot based on their flight departure time, flights can be delayed for millions of reasons and there isn’t a solution that has alleviated all problems yet. In the future, we would like to do more research on how airports manage their flights.

  • Who will benefit from our redesign system besides passengers?

    Even though we did interviews with staff in SFO, TSA security, and airlines, the project is mostly generated from customers’ perspectives. Further research is needed to to know if business and companies will be benefit from our redesign system and be willing to adopt it.

Lessons

  • The importance of clear design process

    This project required a lot of work in a very limited amount of time. While going through design methods and process so intensively, I truly realized how important each process is, how they connect to each other, and how they eventually influence and contribute to our work. From the beginning, diagrams helped us understand the overall system, which provided clearer directions when doing primary and secondary research. The insights from research helped us develop our “how might we” statement, which further inspired brainstorm solutions.

  • Focus on small details that can make big impacts

    Since this is the first time we attempt to solve a systematic problem, which is really broad, we tended to think that only creating another large-scale system would be effective. However, after doing prototypes and receiving feedback, we suddenly realized that we overthought and over-complicated the situation. Later, inspired from the existing line waiting systems in restaurants, I realized that a true good design can be simple. In fact, a simple design decision can contribute to meaningful impacts. Echoing the topic of the project, effecting change in complex systems, I believe that everyone can execute their power to solve any systemic problem. No matter how minor our power may seem, we should keep trying and never lose hope.