Vancouver International Airport green highway sign
Japan Airlines plane departing from Vancouver International Airport (yvr)

Vancouver International Airport (YVR)

Streamlined visitor authorization process

The ask

The innovation department of YVR sought to streamline the airport's visitor authorization process with leading edge technology.

The solution

After conducting stakeholder interviews and field research, TTT Studios ran an in-depth discovery session with YVR to help streamline their visitor authentication process.

The outcome

Using Design Thinking, TTT created a solution for YVR over a two month period by looking at user needs, business requirements, and change management. Extensive stakeholder interviews and field research fueled the discovery sessions, which yielded a comprehensive blueprint for YVR to move forward with.

Baggage loading during airline turnaround time
We had a challenge in an area of our operations in how we process people through certain checkpoints. We wanted to look at all the issues in that process to come up with a software solution to address them all.
Robert Leung
Manager, Innovative Travel Solutions

Our approach

Research and preparation

Research and preparation are key to running a successful discovery session. Before taking off with the discovery workshops, TTT took a series of steps to ensure we had full context of the problem and all the necessary supporting information. To guide the discovery process, we conducted multiple stakeholder interviews, ran on site field studies, and mapped out the existing user journey for visitor authorization.

Man standing in front of a white board adding a sticky note to the board participating in Discovery
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Stakeholder interviews

To begin with, we held meetings with multiple stakeholders at YVR. This included GSOC (Global Security Operations Center), Airside Security Personnel, Product Owner, different levels of security personnel, and the Office Administrators. We spoke to each of these individuals to understand their current process in-depth and get a well-rounded perspective. This information later became crucial in building out our persona profiles.

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Field studies

TTT’s design team made several visits to YVR to better understand the flow from the visitor’s perspective. We went through all the different checkpoints that a visitor would go through during the process and made note of all the steps currently involved. We also looked at which stakeholders were involved in each specific part of the authorization flow. After studying and analyzing the current tools, and the surrounding environment, we used the information to map out the user journeys of the typical YVR visitor.

A secure but lengthy process

YVR’s existing visitor authorization process was developed with multiple layers of authorization with many steps still involving a combination of technology and pen and paper. Since the onset of this process, there have been rapid technological advancements particularly in the mobile space that could be taken advantage of to make the process more efficient. The innovation department at YVR wanted to upgrade the process to allow airport personnel to easily issue, track, and continue to keep a record of visitor passes — all on the same platform.

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Lift off with discovery

We conducted a series of workshops in the discovery session using the information we gathered in the field during our research and preparation stage. These workshops included:

  • Product vision
  • KPIs
  • Personas
  • Feature generation
  • User journeys
  • Business & technology impact

Workshop outcomes

Product vision

The product vision was split into two sides: the Front end app, and the Admin portal.

Admin (for YVR staff)

The admin portal should allow YVR staff to have full visibility of YVR visitors, view all active passes, easily report passes that have been lost or stolen, and allow for self-serve printing of passes when they visit. It should also be easy to manage and cover all access use cases for YVR, and be completely customized to the airport’s needs.

YVR security check-in sign
Close-up of person swiping identification card for door access
Front end app (for visitors & escorts)

The front end app should serve as a digital experience. It should continue to allow visitors to receive a temporary pass to meet with corporate members, do temporary work, and attend special events being hosted at the airport. It should be intuitive to use, allow visitors to check themselves in/out, and collect more data on different entry points of YVR visitors for reporting.


The aim in this workshop is to determine the KPIs, which metrics should be emphasized, and how to measure success. After running the KPI workshop, we identified a series of long-term KPIs, as well as short-term KPIs.

Examples of short-term KPIs:
  • Automatic pass reconciliation
  • Paperless system
  • Digitize access control
  • Easy printing of passes
  • Centralized pass distribution system
  • Reduce staff workload by 80%
Examples of long-term KPIs:
  • Scalability
  • Ease of use for security staff
  • Reduce wait time for visitors
  • Maintain YVR’s brand image as a modern airport
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From the persona workshop, we identified 5 “Admin” and 4 “Front End” personas.

Admin personas
Sara profile image
Super Admin

Senior Manager who is responsible for airport security.

Smith profile image

Handles pass applications and printing, and manages passes in use.

John profile image

Signing Authority who manages 10 construction companies.

Colin profile image

The admin for his company who is a contractor for YVR.

Steven profile image

Security Operations Center mainly in charge of surveillance.

Front end personas
Gordon profile image

Visitor who had regular meetings at YVR with corporate staff.

Greg profile image

Consultant who regularly visits the airport.

Eddie profile image

Security guard employee who is mainly in charge of escorting.

Natasha profile image

Security guard who works at the gate and deals with contractors.

User journeys

We mapped out unique user journeys for each of the 9 personas identified in the persona workshop. The following is an example we can share of “Colin” the contractor.

Colin (Contractor) and Steven’s (SOC/Security) user journey map

Feature generation

From the workshop, we identified 4 main categories of features. It’s a very comprehensive list, but here are some highlights from each category:

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Visitor management
  • Create companies
  • Create delegates
  • Review visitor applications
  • Ability to approve applications
  • Issue different pass types
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Tracking & visibility
  • View reports
  • Export reports
  • Visitor analytics
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  • Pair devices
  • Revoke access to users
  • Receive notification if failed to return pass
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Ease of use
  • Minimal training/onboarding
  • Mobile friendly
  • Self-serve
  • Accessible/Inclusive
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Business & technology impact

The goal of this workshop was to identify which roles and legacy systems would be impacted by the new solution.

We created a matrix between the app’s features and the roles in each department to map out which roles would be affected by which specific features. We then analyzed each of the issues to make sure all the stakeholders involved would have all the onboarding and training necessary when the app is implemented in the future.

They brought a toolset to workshops that was robust, light, and thorough. Their team ran all activities with us smoothly. TTT Studios' skillset isn't found in other companies. They applied a new approach to software development that went well. Their team knew what to do and presented their ideas well. They were open to any changes that we had in mind which made it easy to work with them.
Robert Leung
Manager, Innovative Travel Solutions

Services provided

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Digital Consulting
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Research & Insights

About Vancouver International Airport (YVR)

Located in Richmond, B.C., Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is the second busiest airport in Canada, and has been named the Best Airport in North America for a record 11 years in a row. Since its opening in 1931, YVR has gone from serving 1,072 passengers, to a record 25.9 million in 2018. It is managed by Vancouver Airport Authority, a not-for-profit, community-based organization. Under this unique business model, the Vancouver Airport Authority is able to reinvest any profit made back into innovative solutions fro the airport.

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