CORDIS - EU research results

Feasibility Study for HUTI – the Human Traffic Assistance System

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - HUTI (Feasibility Study for HUTI – the Human Traffic Assistance System)

Reporting period: 2016-07-01 to 2016-12-31

Currently passenger flow in airports is managed through a combination of advanced IT software solutions (data analysis, passenger flow analysis) and the use of physical barriers (wall-mounted retractable belts, post and panel barricades, swing gates, or portable stanchions). The deployment and management of physical barriers is a costly and time-consuming procedure that is slow to react to people flow changes and, relies on expensive and often inefficient manual human labour. Staff needs to deploy and reposition the barriers at least a few times each day.
Currently there are no commercially available crowd management solutions on the market that could replace the use of expensive and outdated physical barriers.

Huti (TRL 6), developed by Blue Ocean Robotics (BOR), is an intelligent swarm of robots that will replace the physical barriers and barrier management personnel by providing a better flow of people, enhancing experience for travellers and decreasing costs for airports. This solution reduces labour costs needed to manage large crowds, provides better experience for the traveller and allows to quickly address changes in passenger flow or temporary closures.
Huti was developed in collaboration with Vilnius International Airport, which showed interest and demand for such a solution. Blue Ocean Robotics is further working closely with the airport, which intends to be the first launching customer. The robot is the first innovative physical barrier that can work with minimal human intervention, providing queue management, guidance and entertainment functions. Huti robots creates a new market for robotic crowd management solutions.
To ensure successful commercialization, in Phase 1 of SME Instrument, Blue Ocean Robotics intends to develop an elaborate feasibility study for Huti robot commercialization that would include: a thorough analysis of market and user needs, redesign of the product, and a business plan with an extensive financial, pricing, and IPR strategy.
The main objective of the application for SME-Instrument Phase 1 was to develop an elaborate feasibility study for Blue Ocean Robotic’s Huti robot commercialization that would include: a thorough analysis of market and user needs, redesign of the product, and a business plan with an extensive financial, pricing, and IPR strategy. The successful implementation of the project showed a great potential for the solution. Despite the market growth and favorable conditions identified in the market research, there are no comparable solutions replacing expensive and outdated physical barriers currently on the market. Thus European airports interviewed for the user research expressed their interest in adopting Huti robots as it would lead to higher traveler satisfaction, shorter waiting time, reduced labor costs and possible additional non-aeronautical revenue streams. As most of the airports have to serve increasing passenger numbers with limited possibilities to increase their infrastructure, the need for Huti is steadily increasing. Taking in the account the expressed support of the airports, the commercialization strategy developed in the business plan is to engage in pre-commercial agreements or public procurements of innovation enabling upgrading the solution to fully meet the needs of the end users before standard and custom versions of Huti will be sold on the market. The future developments as well as the strategy for intellectual property protection has been outlined while performing the tasks of “Redesign of product and technical specifications” and “IPR strategy development” respectively.
The tasks performed during the SME phase 1 project showed that Huti robots can be commercialised profitably. As the passenger traffic in the airports is expected to grow at the annual rate of 4.9% globally, the need for the solutions such as Huti robots is increasing. The demand was also validated by the extensive user research.However a few steps have to be taken so the Huti robot could successfully enter the market. First of all, new design for manufacturing is needed based on the feedback collected from the airports. Additionally, Huti has to be further upgraded improving and adopting the features identified in the chapter “Redesign of product and technical specifications”. Therefore, prior to applying to the SME instrument Phase 2, Blue Ocean Robotics is planning to apply for a number of pre-commercial procurement or public-private partnership projects with public European airports so that solution could be developed in cooperation with its key users while getting necessary financial support (the application for Lietuvos oro uostai has already been submitted).
Blue Ocean Robotics have invested more than €150K into the development of Huti during the last 2 years. Currently the solution is at TRL 6 – the product has been demonstrated and validated in a relevant environment. Huti is a completely new product for an already existing market. It is also a disruptive innovation because there are no equivalent commercially available solutions on the market as well as no publically known developments of similar technology creating new possibilities for interaction with passengers.

Airports globally are experiencing a rapidly increasing flow of passengers, which requires new crowd management approaches. Innovative crowd management software solutions have provided an important boost, but physical crowd management is still done using innefective and inneficient human labour which raises significant expenses. Most commonly used physical barriers cost around €300 for a single piece, which together with human labour expenses (€22500 per year in Lithuania and around 4 times larger in WE) make it a very costly solution. In airport industry almost 70% of all players lose money, so it is essential to effectively cut operational costs. This is particularly crucial for airports in the developed World (Europe, North America) where labour costs are high. Ecspecially because airport salaries are on average higher than in other segments. Huti robots will be able to display advertisments, generating airports additional revenue. Huti can be managed with minimal staff involvment and allows significantly reducing human labour costs while also generating additional revenue.