Airport master systems integration
As airports rely more on technology, it makes sense to plan early for IT in any new terminal or airport constructions.
Not just for the short and medium-term but as a way of future-proofing new airport environments so they can cope with ever rising passenger numbers and expectations.
This upfront planning for IT has never been so critical, given technology’s all-pervasive role in creating intelligent airports. And with booming construction as the industry expands hub airports, develops new markets and upgrades infrastructure, it’s clearly becoming a top-of-mind business imperative to tackle IT at the early design stages. CAPA values airport projects currently in progress globally at around US$ 385 billion.
Even so, as the industry undertakes the complex task of building new airport terminals, IT can sometimes be a late or even last minute consideration in construction programs.
That’s despite the central role IT plays in transforming airports from simply providing space for airlines to land and take off, to being the massive commercial operations that we see today.
“An airport’s integrated technology has become the essential underpinning of today’s modern, efficient, and profitable airport operation,” says Ned Macesic, Vice President, Airport Business Development at SITA.
“IT has proven its role as an ‘efficiency catalyst’ – capable of uprooting airport processes, transforming operations and delivering whole new levels of experience to passengers.
“In fact, it’s impacting every key metric of airport operations from passenger and baggage throughput, to aircraft turnaround times, through to the whole passenger experience.
Advances at Baku Airport
The new SITA systems incorporate the industry's most advanced technology, and align with all IATA recommendations as well as the latest industry trends.
Jahangir Askerov, President, AZAL Airlines
“Airports need a robust and reliable IT infrastructure to bear the increasingly heavy workload. Estimates are that IT can bring a 20% increase in airport throughput above and beyond investment in bricks and mortar. That’s why we’re seeing increasing IT investment,” he says.
According to SITA’s Airport IT Trends Survey 2014, most of that airport IT investment goes on improving the passenger experience (68%), followed by reducing the cost of business operations (39%).
These investments aim to speed up passenger check-in and boarding, optimize aircraft servicing and loading, embrace digitally ‘connected passengers’, create a personalized airside retail experience, and more.
“For airport operators, the construction boom provides a great opportunity to deploy the latest airport technology at the outset,” says Macesic.
“It makes economic sense to address not just the immediate needs, but also the future needs of the airport and its tenants at the design and construction phase, otherwise there can be disruptive and costly consequences.”
Those consequences of retrofitting modern technology into an existing terminal are leading many airports old and new to consider Airport Master Systems Integration (MSI).
Airport MSI helps airport operators minimize the business risk of delays in airport construction. SITA’s Airport MSI incorporates a full range of airport technology. On top of that it includes program management capabilities, bringing together all the technology suppliers into a single program of works as part of the construction contractor’s master building plan.
“This guarantees an end-to-end integrated approach and helps reduce delays, a not uncommon feature of the complex task of modern terminal construction,” adds Macesic.
“It explains why, at SITA, we’re seeing a stronger collaboration between architects and IT specialists. It’s reached the point where running a modern airport efficiently is so reliant on technology that choosing the right partner for the role of Master Systems Integrator has become a critical success factor.
The Airport MSI payback can’t be ignored. It’s been shown to allow airports to access new capacity on average six months earlier than expected and to mitigate the risk of a typical US$1 million run rate a day that delays can cost construction companies. That’s not even taking into account the costs and hassle of retrofitting.
“There’s a significant cost-benefit to be realized by deploying IT into a terminal while it’s being constructed,” says Macesic. “It’s why we find at SITA that more and more we’re being brought in at the early stages of terminal design to ensure an integrated approach to IT infrastructure.”
GRU conquers challenges
This was something that Brazil needed. This was important for our people and society. There used to be a big difference between us and other airports around Europe and other parts of the world. There is no difference any longer.
Luiz Eduardo Ritzmann, Chief Information Officer, GRU
MSI in action
Recent examples include Azerbaijan’s Baku Heydar Aliyev International Airport, for which SITA provided technology integration and consulting for a new terminal.
Its aim was to make world class IT services an integral part of the infrastructure for the terminal’s completion in 2014, to support passenger processing and airport operations.
SITA deployed a common network infrastructure across the terminal. A single IT platform makes integrating the different airport systems easier, allowing collaboration between many different stakeholders and boosting efficiency.
Macesic again: “Such has become the complexity of integrating the different technologies that just managing all the different vendors has become a critical role. At the new terminal at Dublin Airport, for example, 14 different suppliers and their different technologies needed to be deployed and fit for purpose from day one.”
“But such airports often have another thing in common too,” he adds. “Their use of MSI comes as part of major transformational programs. That’s certainly been the case at Azerbaijan and Dublin. It’s also the case at another airport SITA works closely with, Brazil’s São Paulo’s Guarulhos (GRU) Airport.”
With airport privatization, ever increasing congestion and the pending 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, GRU needed to transform fast. MSI lay at the crux of its major program (see box).
The success of the project led GRU’s CIO Luiz Eduardo Ritzmann to say: “This was something that Brazil needed. This was important for our people and society. There used to be a big difference between us and other airports around Europe and other parts of the world. There is no difference any longer.”
So it is that Airport MSI is increasingly taking its place high on the agenda of airport operators as they embark on the design of transformational new builds. As it does so, MSI will play an ever more vital role in putting into place modern, efficient and intelligent airport operations where collaboration between many different stakeholders becomes second nature.