The digital revolution
in Infrastructure

By Mathias Burghardt, Head of Ardian Infrastructure & Pascale Bonnard, Founder of Amano

Why does digitalization change the way infrastructure owners must think?

Pascale Bonnard: Twenty years after the beginning of the internet, there’s a revolution happening. It’s like electricity: the revolution wasn’t so much inventing electricity as such, but it was more electrifying every single piece of industry which was revolutionary. The same impact is happening with digitalization. What Ardian has recognized is that its infrastructure portfolio contains data that has value, but nobody is organizing it. That’s the opportunity.

Mathias Burghardt: Data changes everything. Digitalization lets us understand the‑people using our assets better and manage our business more effectively. It can tell you where your risks and opportunities are; how different groups of users rate your service. It is changing businesses like ours very quickly and therefore it’s something we must embrace.

Which areas are your two companies focusing on first?

Pascale Bonnard: We are starting with the airports that are owned by Ardian. AMANO is a progressive web app, which means travelers don’t have to download and install anything. As soon as you log onto the airport Wi‑Fi, or connect with a Beacon*, you are inside a web‑based app that tells you everything about the terminal you’re in: the services, real-time flight information, the shops and restaurants, and it can deliver personalized promotional offers. It allows travelers to discover the things they want and it tells the airport operator a huge amount about them.

Mathias Burghardt: I’m convinced that web apps are the future – nobody will download an airport’s app to get the information they want. It’s too much work. It’s obvious that AMANO’s technology is a natural fit for airports.

* Beacon: Small radio transmitter that repeatidly transmits a signal that other devices can see.

Alt text “Digital is not just a new technology, it’s a different approach to business.” Mathias Burghardt

How does this change the user’s experience and what does that mean for the asset owner?

Pascale Bonnard: For the user it’s super - simple and it works five times faster than anything else. It just makes your experience better by putting everything that you’re looking for at your fingertips. We improve that constantly. The next big step for us is to be able to give indoor directions because it’s one thing to be searching for a restaurant but it’s another to be able to say ‘take me there’.

Mathias Burghardt: Until now, airport managers have been in the dark in terms of what they know about their users. They could see the flow of people and the transactions but they knew little about them. AMANO brings light – you can see ways to develop your business and be much more efficient in terms of costs and investment. Infrastructure managers are starting to fully understand the value embedded in their data.

Why are partnerships like yours so important to understanding the possibilities of digitalization?

Pascale Bonnard: I think we are both humble about what we know and what we don’t know. We are experts on technology but we do not manage airports. No matter which tech company you bring into an airport to gain insights through data, at some point the real added value – the ability to look at the data and draw valuable insights – will come from airport people, not from external tech experts like us.

Mathias Burghardt: Digital is not just a new technology, it’s a different approach to business. You develop a service to address people’s needs. Determining the right business model to monetize it usually comes once you reach critical mass. For Ardian, what matters is the ecosystem, the entrepreneurs, our ability to stay at ‑ the forefront, to adapt and co‑operate with others to make things happen.

Why is it important for Ardian to look at this at the portfolio level?

Pascale Bonnard: If they don’t, what will happen? Each management will do their own thing and it will be impossible to reconcile the data across the portfolio. Only the shareholder can think about the bigger picture and the value that comes from being able to handle data from multiple sources seamlessly. You can’t ask an individual airport or railway to consider who else is in the group. It’s not the way they think.

Mathias Burghardt: Obviously, we look at the portfolio and we see a lot of possibilities for digitalization. I think the AMANO product can be adapted for many different kinds of infrastructure – airports are first but I’m sure we’ll also look at rail and road infrastructures in the near future. Digital technology will also change the game in energy.

Alt text “Digitalization changes the kind of people that infrastructure owners hire.” Pascale Bonnard

How hard is it for infrastructure owners to adapt to this new environment?

Pascale Bonnard: Digitalization can help them connect with their users. But the real challenge is to know how to address them, what to tell them. The moment you deploy something that captures data, what do you do with the data itself? How do you cross-match it with other sources? And how do you make all this information look like something a marketing person can understand and use?

Mathias Burghardt: The challenge for people like me who have always worked in infrastructure and taken a very long‑term view is the speed of change today. We need to be much more agile, to bring new blood and change the organization to help it adapt. Partnerships are crucial in helping us to do that.

What new skills will owners require?

Pascale Bonnard: Digitalization changes the kind of people that infrastructure owners hire. The moment that one of the airports in Ardian’s portfolio recruits a data scientist who has the tools to analyze information from multiple sources, they will start to have far better information about their customers, and to be able to create marketing campaigns that target the relevant people.

Mathias Burghardt: Again: data changes everything. We’ve been working with a group of university students as part of our program on digitalization and the first thing they said was: “You need a chief digital officer who reports directly to the CEO and you need data scientists.”

AMANO was created to deploy progressive web apps, mobile apps with no download and no upgrade needed. AMANO currently serves airports, shopping malls, hotels, public venues, sports and cultural events, etc, and operates in Europe, the USA, Brazil and the Middle East, with an office in Dubai. AMANO is a tech company which is currently building machine learning algorithms which will provide smart monetization capabilities while dramatically enhancing the end‑user value proposition.

Pascale Bonnard is a French entrepreneur who created AMANO in 2013. Pascale started her professional career in consulting, with an initial focus on business and competitive intelligence, moving onward to management and strategic advisory activities as a Partner at Eurogroup Consulting. Her work in the telecom sector led Pascale to observe that mobile phones, apps, point of sale digitalization and customer journeys needed simplified processes, improved performance and meaningful user experiences.

Mathias Burghardt joined Ardian in 2005 and founded the Infrastructure group. Prior to this, he was Head of HSBC Advisory and Project Financing in France. Mathias started his career in 1989 with Crédit Lyonnais in Media Telecom. He has developed extensive relationships with European industrial and financial infrastructure sponsors, public authorities and regulators. Mathias has over 25 years of experience in the infrastructure and energy sectors globally.