In order for airport operations to run smoothly, even the smallest processes must be coordinated seamlessly. Bernd Rijsdijk, senior project manager and consultant in the Airport Management chapter at T-Systems International, explains how increasing automation is changing the infrastructure of “Airport 4.0”.
MOB: Mr. Rijsdijk, what do you think makes the airport so special as a “microcosm”?
Bernd Rijsdijk: To operate an airport, thousands of people and countless processes are necessary. The complex freight and passenger processes must be orchestrated effectively. Mastering such a complex ecosystem makes every airport special.
MOB: What is a “Smart Airport”?
Rijsdijk: The smart airport predicts results in order to allocate resources in a tactically sensible way from the start. This avoids possible bottlenecks, processes are designed efficiently and the greatest possible comfort for passengers is achieved. A smart airport converts reactive measures into proactive ones. For example, while nowadays new security checkpoints are only opened if the waiting time is too long, the networked systems of the smart airport can predict the waiting time at the gate for the next few hours by incorporating various factors. In this way, further checkpoints can be opened proactively, so that there are no long waiting times.
MOB: T-Systems implemented its solution at the Beijing Daxing Airport – one of the largest airports worldwide. What were the special challenges here?
Rijsdijk: Beijing Daxing is one of the largest and most comprehensive airport digitization installations by T-Systems worldwide – almost all relevant processes between landing and take-off are planned and controlled in real time. During the implementation, up to 80 colleagues and several subcontractors worked together smoothly on the project at peak times. The project was completed within 19 months. Customizing, for example, the following solutions was a particular challenge:
- The resource management system (RMS) to support complete resource planning
- The Flight Information Display System (FIDS), which combines real-time passenger information with other media
- The Enterprise Service Bus, which integrates over 110 partner systems into the existing infrastructure
All of these networked systems were completely redesigned according to the greenfield strategy and had to function immediately after “switching on”.
MOB: The IT infrastructure of an airport must not fail under any circumstances, but it is also a “dream destination” for many hackers. How can security be ensured here?
Rijsdijk: Cyber attacks pose ever greater challenges to airports as digitalization progresses. Hackers try to steal business-critical data or digital identities every day. Increasing, all-round connectivity requires ubiquitous security measures. That is why we offer our customers the same solutions with which Deutsche Telekom as a group is protected worldwide. The smart airport solution can be seamlessly integrated into the highly protected infrastructure of airport customers.
MOB: Analogous to the customer experience in retail, the “passenger experience” is now also used – can you briefly explain what this is about?
Rijsdijk: Similar to the customer journey, there are certain touch points that influence the travel experience. This starts with the planning of the flight, goes to the trip to the airport, the search for a parking space, the security checks and the boarding of the aircraft. Passenger Experience aims to make all possible and influence able touch points consciously tangible and thus create a good travel experience. The entire travel time should be made as pleasant as possible through precise information and simple processes.
MOB: How will the new 5G mobile communications standard affect airport management? Will there be more IoT applications in this environment?
Rijsdijk: Capturing real-time data from a large number of sensors and incorporating it into regulation is one of the future challenges in airport management. To do this, huge amounts of mostly mobile data have to be transported, which is only possible with the help of a powerful mobile network, the 5G network . This can only be achieved through consistent use of the IoT. A lot of data can be created using edge computing but can already be processed in the network to relevant information by enriching it and directly relating it, thus supporting decisions quickly and efficiently.
MOB: What could differentiate the “airport of the future” from the classic airport?
Rijsdijk: Process automation will continue, and the area-wide use of biometrics could play a role in this. We will also see individualization and autonomy, such as handling with self-driving vehicles . We are also working on a passenger experience based on the so-called “seamless travel”, a journey without media breaks.