xBridge Takes Command of Airport Evolution

PIT’s new innovation center to be proving ground for industry-changing ideas

By Matt Neistein

Published November 9, 2020

Read Time: 2 mins


The next step forward at Pittsburgh International Airport will lead the airport industry into the future from inside the Airside Terminal.

PIT’s latest transformative venture is the xBridge, a 10,000-square-foot innovation center custom-built to nurture the evolution of the industry and inspire creative solutions to aviation’s many challenges. 

“The xBridge is a physical manifestation of the innovative mentality we’ve been cultivating here at PIT for years,” said Katherine Karolick, Senior Vice President of Information Technology. “This will be a proving ground for new technology that will benefit the airport, our airline partners and the passengers we collectively serve.” 

Commonly found in the tech sector, innovation centers bring various aspects of the product development process together into one space devoted to maximizing brainpower, resources and testing new ideas in real time. For example, the xBridge will contain maker space, an open design studio, and mockups of the various parts of an airport, such as concessions and the arrivals area. 

“Innovation centers spark creativity. You can’t plan innovation,” Karolick said. “You need to create an environment and ecosystem to make it happen.  This space has everything we need to tap into the collective brainpower of our industry and region, design innovative solutions, and accelerate the development of those solutions.” 

PIT has been at the cutting edge of the industry with several recent initiatives, including Neighborhood 91, the first development in the world dedicated to industrializing the additive manufacturing industry; a first-of-its-kind microgrid that will power the entire airport via onsite natural gas wells and solar panels; and automated floor scrubbers augmented with UV lights to set the standard for maintaining clean and healthy terminals.

Like those milestones, the xBridge will be an integral part of the airport—in this case, at the end of Concourse B. The focal point of the center will be the xGate, a functional boarding gate that will operate as a working lab to test out concepts to improve air travel, Karolick explained. 

“The xGate will be able to simulate a real, active gate and holding area,” she said. “And then we can actually test innovations on pilot flights coming in with our airline partners.”  

Working in tandem with other companies on initiatives will be a key part of the xBridge’s success. As the airport itself has become a testing ground for new technology, including robotics and AI, this innovation center will focus those efforts into a space custom-built for ideation, experimentation and collaboration. Partner companies will be announced in the coming months. 

“Not only does that environment breed ideation, it also creates targeted solutions at a lower cost with a quicker development schedule,” Karolick said. 

“I’m really excited to see how the solutions we develop in the xBridge will directly impact passengers and make for a safer, more enjoyable experience for them,” she said. “But I’m also excited to see how those ideas set new standards and spread through, and even beyond, our industry.” 

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