The tech powered airport

The tech powered airport

Istanbul New Airport, İGA, is the largest infrastructure project in Turkey's history. A lot of IT is going into its making, explains Ersın İnankul, CIO of İGA Airport Construction. 

Some 30 kilometers north of Istanbul a new chapter in aviation history is taking shape. Brick by brick one of the world’s biggest airports is slowing rising out the ground.

The construction will be carried out in four phases. The first phase will be finalized in 2018 with the opening of three runways and a terminal with a capacity for 90 million passengers.

Ersin InakulOnce complete, the new airport will host airlines flying to more than 350 destinations with an annual passenger capacity up to 200 million.

But more than the sheer scale of the airport, it is the technology and systems needed to power it that will capture the attention. It is also focused on delivering innovation and solutions that make the airport attractive not only to airlines but to their passengers too.  

We spoke to Ersin İnankul, CIO of İGA Airports Construction, about what we can expect from the new airport and what their focus is on the next two years. 

 A lot of thought went into the airport’s design and architecture. What makes it unique? And from a technology viewpoint, what are the key considerations to ensure you accommodate future growth?

Building this airport is a big project and it is being built in four stages. We are currently in the first phase of the project that includes the biggest terminal building, three runways and capacity for 90 million passengers. 

In the subsequent two phases we will add three further runways, two additional terminal buildings and increase the capacity to 150 million before reaching 200 million passenger capacity in the final phase. 

From an IT point, we have put a lot of thought and planning to make sure the airport is future-proof. The most important piece of infrastructure is the new 4,000m2 data center which will provide and manage every single service we will provide to our customers. This is a separate building that has already been built and certified.

The Tier 3 certified data center is designed as a virtual solution where our customers will be able to access all their ICT requirements – from communication to passenger services – from a catalogue of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).  

At the end of the day we’re going to give these services to all our customers – they can select which they need to run their operations. This is our aim.


Looking at baggage, next June we have the deadline of IATA Resolution 753 – which requires the tracking and recording of baggage at key points in the airport. As this deadline coincides with the opening of the new airport, have you made the investment in new systems to help airlines flying to the airport meet the requirements?

We are trying to push all our airlines and ground handlers towards compliance of IATA Resolution 753 which requires them to track bags at key points in the journey, including check-in, transfer and arrival. 

By the time we open in 2018, it will be mandatory for airlines to comply with the resolution. Therefore, we plan to offer it as a free service to all our airlines from day one.

It is why we are working with you guys (SITA) to ensure we integrate a tracking solution into our Baggage Reconciliation System that will provide the airlines with the relevant tracking data required by the resolution. 

We are currently discussing its implementation with all the airlines and ground handlers that will operate from Istanbul New Airport to be sure we are ready by 2018.  


SITA’s most recent Passenger IT Trends survey shows that passengers increasingly expect to receive data on where their bags are at every step of the journey. Will you be making the tracking data provided to airlines available to your passengers as well? 

We will offer baggage tracking across various steps of the journey. Baggage is a critical item for us and we are looking to offer this concept of home to gate. 

Baggage tracking data provided by Resolution 753 will be crucial to providing information to passengers on where is my bag right now or how long it will take to reach the baggage carousel. It will help passengers find their bags far more easily. 

We have already taken some steps for providing this information to our passengers through our mobile application. We are discussing the use of an API to interface this information with our app and we have a roadmap to be sure we have it available when we open in 2018.



In terms of technology, what are the key challenges that are unique to this new airport?

One of the new things that has come into our life is cybersecurity. This is our number one priority and we are working to establish a cybersecurity center to keep us safe from outside attacks. We have already established a team to start designing the center to monitor and respond to threats internally and externally.  

We see this center offering three levels of service. At Level 1 agents that will monitor our own airports systems. Level 2 and 3 we will provide this service to other airport customers. In many airports, the airlines and stakeholders are responsible for their own cybersecurity but we see this as a service we want to provide to our customers. 

The other big challenge is managing parking. We will be building one of the biggest car parks in Europe with a capacity for 40,000 cars. For passengers finding your car could be a nightmare and take three to four hours. 

So, we are working on smart technology that will help you find your car using 4,000 cameras that will be installed in the parking and will help you search for your number plate. This will be integrated into our mobile app and help navigate you – step by step – to your car. 

On the airside, we will use a virtual Ramp Tower to monitor airside activity, from gate parking to take-off and landing. This will also provide our agents with a 360 view of what is happening at any time, making it easier to proactively attend to potential issues.

Our mobile app will be of vital importance in providing information to our passengers and enhancing their journey. We want to integrate our loyalty program and use it for campaign management with our retailers and food & beverage outlets.

We are also exploring virtual reality to enhance the shopping experience. We want to integrate this into the passenger journey through the app. 

Another key element is to use the Internet of Things (IoT) to allow passengers to request and receive information relative to their location in the airport. We also plan to use this to allow passenger to provide feedback in real-time. By knowing where the passenger is in the airport, our employees can provide immediate assistance.

Using the IoT and big data will be crucial to proactively managing passenger flow through the airport, providing a real-time view of queues at security, immigration and other touchpoints in the airport – information we can provide to passenger through the app. 


How important is Airport Collaborative Decision-Making to your airport? 

For an airport the size of Istanbul New Airport, Airport Collaborative Decision-Making (A-CDM) is critical and we are already working with Airports Council International to implement the program.

It establishes a single version of the truth and ensure all stakeholders operate using the same data, making for more efficient operations.  

The first step is to have the agreement of all the airlines, stakeholders and aviation authorities and we are working with them to agree that this is the way to proceed. We expect to conclude a Memo of Understanding within the next month or two.

Our next focus area is to collect all the data from all the stakeholders to understand their requirements and processes.

Once we have analyzed all the data, we will need to focus on agreeing the strategy of how do we collaborate with our airlines and stakeholders, what data is relevant and how we share this data. Between now and 2018, we will continue to work on this. 

In terms of tools, we are aware of SITA’s solutions and are in discussions with SITA to support the implementation of A-CDM at Istanbul New Airport. 


What are the key technologies you are watching and do they have a role in this airport?

Blockchain is an interesting technology for use in baggage handling where we can verify a bag’s identity and share that information securely with other stakeholders such as ground handlers and airlines. 

As mentioned, the IoT offers various use cases for us across the airport. In terms of passenger service, we want to use IoT to create a queue management system which will be able to give real-time information to our passengers such as the queuing time at check-in or the time it will take you to get to your gate. 

But this information – both in real time and historically – will be important to managing and planning our operations as well as assisting our customer airlines with their planning. Therefore, we intend to make this information available to our airlines through an API service, so they see the same information we do.  

Another area is the use of intelligent wayfinding for aircraft. Using artificial intelligence, we can optimize the “follow the green” light concept, where a pilot follows automatically illuminated taxiway lights ahead of the aircraft.

AI will allow more data from across the airfield to be analyzed and provide clearer, real-time instructions to the pilot as well as the shortest route to the gate. This will help optimize traffic flow and improve safety.

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