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Finding your way at Zurich Airport with Google Maps

Mark Schwarz, Head of Digitalisation and Business Excellence at Zurich Airport, explains how in partnership with Google Maps Live View, augmented reality and wayfinding will improve and ease passengers’ airport experience, as navigation guidance is superimposed onto the user’s camera’s live feed.

Many travellers have experienced this scenario: you have just landed at a foreign airport after a long flight. You are tired and can’t wait to get to your hotel as soon as possible. You suddenly remember that you forgot to pack your toothbrush and need to find a shop on your way to catch an airport taxi. Things are not off to a good start, and finding your way is even more frustrating as the signage at the airport is not very helpful.

Finding what you are looking for is essential when travelling; but what can airports do to make the journey a better experience?

The integration into Google Maps was pivotal and ensured reach, which would not  be possible with any other application on the market, as it is the most used smartphone app in the world”

Wayfinding challenges

To find solutions we first must break down the challenges of indoor navigation and understand them from the traveller’s perspective.

Airports are very large venues with countless shops, restaurants, check-in counters, security screening facilities and gates in different buildings and on different levels.

This is challenging from a signage perspective, as you need to find a balance between cluttering the airport with too much signage or taking a minimalistic approach, which will satisfy the primary navigation (Check-In, Gates, Screening, etc.). Either way it is impossible to please everyone as every journey is unique in terms of wayfinding.

2D maps are an additional tool and can be placed at strategic points at airports. They offer a wealth of information and can be helpful. On the other hand, map literacy is a skill: who hasn’t walked in the wrong direction after consulting a map or forgot the second or third turn to reach the café you were looking for?

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