These Tech Teams Just Hacked Their Way To Improving the World’s Busiest Airport

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport employs more than 63,000, takes up 4,700 acres, and sees an annual foot traffic of more than 20 times the population of metro Atlanta — though it is an undisputed global leader, it’s quite a behemoth to innovate within. That was the challenge embraced by 22 teams in the ATL Thinks! Airport Hackathon, organized by social impact consultancy Amplify 4 Good, that wrapped up earlier this month. Now, the four winning teams will focus on developing and deploying their solutions, each of which addresses a different challenge faced at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, to actually pilot it at the busiest airport in the world.

Each team was made up of five developers, technologists, students or creatives. One winning team was built off of an already-existing product and company, while the rest were developed wholly during the two-month process of an ideation lab, hackathon, and pitch day.

That existing company was Goodr, a food rescue app that tracks uneaten food and can deploy collection units in real-time to donate it to the hungry. Goodr had come out of a former Amplify 4 Good ideation session, that one focused on gentrification.

Since conception, Goodr’s founder Jasmine Crowe says they have rescued over 20,000 pounds of food. Now, as the winners of the ATL Thinks! “greening” challenge, they get to make a dent in the over 10 million pounds of food (as of 2014) thrown out as waste at Hartsfield-Jackson.

“When we talk about food waste and hunger it’s paramount that we take action. For Goodr to have the opportunity to work with the worlds largest airport to reduce food waste is very exciting. After I read the 2015 sustainability report I knew there was great opportunity to test out rescuing edible food to reduce overall food waste at the airport but fight hunger,” says Crowe.

“In College Park, which sits right next to the airport, 64 percent of children live in poverty. We have a real chance to use tech for good and help families,” she continued.

Another winning team addressed gaps in the airport’s retail businesses. In some international airports, retail is a major source of revenue. But Hartsfield-Jackson officials say the current setup of the retail sections at the airport is less-than-optimal.

“How do we increase and impact (travelers) journey, while we can provide them with amazing services? And I think retail is one of the places where we can do a better job of promoting that,” said Jai Ferrell, airport director of Marketing and Creative Services.

Enter FlyCart, an on-demand shopping app for airport shoppers that allows travelers to buy retail items on the marketplace app and deploys personal shoppers to deliver the items directly to them at the gate.

FlyCart has an interim website and looks to launch a product soon.

The winner of the mobile app challenge, which asked how teams could improve the airport app, came up with solutions including showing estimated security line wait times, displaying photos of food choices at terminal restaurants, and a geolocation-tracking tool for wheelchair-bound travelers to request assistance when they need it.

Finally, the winner of the Delta-sponsored challenge was team Passenger Connect, which created a wearable wristband that could track the 220,000 unaccompanied minors that pass through the airport.