While the need for intelligent airports is well established like explained in a previous blog by my colleague, most IT investments in airport infrastructure are taken with a piecemeal approach. An airport today is a conglomeration of disparate IT systems ranging from passenger check-in systems, baggage tracking, air traffic control, congestion management, airline booking systems and numerous government and security agency applications. Most of these operate in silos with no holistic framework combining them into a single, fail safe architecture.
A framework for a modern smart and digital airport is envisioned to serve 3 key domain functions:-
- Air Side: Air traffic control, cargo and flight systems as well as systems for fuel and maintenance of aircraft.
- Terminal: Passenger check-in, baggage handling, boarding gates, customs and immigration, retail, and building operations.
- Landside: These include systems for parking, mass transit, rental, hotel and accommodation as well as perimeter security.
The IT architecture itself should be envisioned as 4 layers – all seamlessly connected to each other:-
- Intelligent and Shared Services: To enable better operational decisions through providing the right information at the right time. This enables services like smart building services, customer intelligence, payment services, eCommerce, passenger self-service, mobile workforce etc.
- IT Application and Technology services: The objective for this layer should be to enable connectivity and collaboration between stakeholders. This layer will define the technology architecture, data migration and mobility systems as well as system integration and data intelligence.
- Airport IT Systems: This layer helps in improving passenger experience and increase efficiencies by bringing together airport operational systems with partner systems, airport security systems and other smart systems that are in play.
- Airport IT Infrastructure Systems: An airport is a 24x7x365 operation. There can never be any downtime. This layer ensures full availability of all systems through network security management, smart device management, application management as well as server and data storage management.
While the move to such an architecture might seem like a gargantuan task, it’s possible to make continuous incremental improvements to reach the level of a fully efficient airport. It is recommended to quickly move to an efficient level with a scalable and highly available IT setup and shared services platform before looking at a truly intelligent level of operation which enables self-learning systems, predictive process outcomes and even touch-less experience with minimal human intervention.