The Evolution of Wayfinding Within Airports

Research output: NRELPresentation


The process of navigating within airports has evolved over the years, with various technologies emerging to complement static signage. Historically, wayfinding began with static signage and airport staff members providing personal guidance, before progressing into digital signs, interactive kiosks, and displays. In recent years, wayfinding has continued along its digital path using mobile applications, indoor positioning technology, and even robot guides. With ever- larger airport facilities and a growing number of travelers, the future of wayfinding will likely be heavily linked to further digital developments such as facial recognition, augmented-reality technology, and autonomous vehicle navigation. This report delves into the history of interior wayfinding in airports, its present state, and the anticipated future. Key wayfinding technologies are discussed in detail, with an emphasis on emerging smartphone applications. Other considerations such as traveler stress, legal issues, pandemic safety, and language barriers are included. A wayfinding framework is proposed, with static wayfinding technologies serving as the base upon which dynamic and personalized digital technologies are built. In this framework, electronic wayfinding technologies do not replace - but rather augment - traditional methods. These technologies can be integrated into existing wayfinding systems for a seamless traveler experience.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages20
StatePublished - 2024

Publication series

NamePresented at the Transportation Research Board (TRB) 103rd Annual Meeting, 7-11 January 2024, Washington, D.C.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5R00-88433


  • airport mobility
  • airport terminals
  • augmented reality
  • interior navigation
  • wayfinding


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