Putting Passengers First

Given that many airport systems are IT network connectable, this ability to share information and sharpen spatial awareness makes for a new operational philosophy. (All-Honeywell)

Jim Bujold, VP Honeywell Building Solutions explains how intelligent technologies help airport operators put passengers first.

Given that many airport systems are IT network connectable, this ability to share information and sharpen spatial awareness makes for a new operational philosophy. (All-Honeywell)

Change is afoot.  In March 2009, the British Government made clear its intention to bring about regulatory reform that will improve the flying public’s lot – that will force UK airport operators to put the passenger first.
Transport secretary Geoff Hoon set the agenda when he declared the need to: “put passengers at the heart of how our airports are run.  This will help ensure we (the UK) get the most efficient and competitive aviation sector possible.”
He has charged the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) with making it happen and, at once, cleared up any uncertainty as to who should come first in the context of airport users – passengers or the airline operators?  Now there is no doubt; it is the passenger.
Harry Bush, the CAA’s director of economic regulation, welcomed the clarification.
“Giving the CAA a primary duty to passengers reflects the growing consensus that passengers need to be put at the heart of airport regulation – to support the increase in competition for passengers and airlines with a flexible and clear regulatory framework.”
Airport operator, BAA, which runs seven British airports also welcomed the government’s direction, saying: “we support the key policy objectives of the review and will fully engage in the consultation process.  It is important that future regulation improves customer service at every stage of the passenger journey, provides strong incentives for appropriate and timely investment in additional airport capacity, and addresses the wider environmental impacts of aviation and airport development.”
With the upcoming sale of Gatwick and Stansted, the announcement could not have been better timed.
But how can you make it happen?  How do airport operators improve passenger service and still deliver on productivity improvement in the face of growing demand for air travel?  How do they provide for a safer, more secure, more comfortable passenger experience in an operationally efficient environment?  In short, how do they set themselves apart from the competition and establish a competitive edge in an industry where budgets and revenues are under ever-increasing pressure and passenger expectation growing?
Intelligent technologies hold the key.  Integrating core automation controls – flight management/airport operations with building, energy, security and life safety management and business systems – delivers an enterprise-wide view and with it, tangible benefit to the travelling public, staff and all stakeholders alike.  This ‘big picture’ insight enables an unprecedented level of situational awareness and with it, total control and visibility into your surroundings.
The ability to pull many seemingly different airport applications into a single, streamlined system – a data management engine if you like – with a common set of procedures and point of control, supports information sharing and enables automated processes to perform, as intended, on the basis of all the data contained within those different systems.  It makes for an empowered workforce and a more efficient business operation with reduced costs (installation, energy and operating) and risk.  It makes for a smoother, more timely experience all round.  Heathrow T5 is a great example of this.
Compare this to multiple, standalone systems that inevitably restrict information.  Non-integration blurs the facts and slows response times in an emergency.  It is characterised by lack of data exchange and fails to tap the full potential of all the data available.  It limits the airport operator’s ability to make the facility function as a whole and makes it nigh-on impossible to implement the control strategies essential to a better airport experience.
 
The way forward
The way forward for UK airports lies in managing the many different airport functions as one integrated – IP converged – solution.  Forward-thinking operators around the world – at Barajas in Spain, Incheon in Korea, Dubai in the Middle East and Hyderabad in India for example – already work this way.  They have brought their automated airport operating and building management control systems together to enable proactive management of the airport – land and airside.  They have harnessed all the key elements of best practice work flow processes – aircraft, landing/take off, people, processes, facilities, equipment, documentation and regulatory compliance – into one common solution for optimal monitoring and control.
This is the mechanism by which to implement effective risk mitigation and productivity strategies – to enhance passenger experience and address the wider issues of airport capacity, development and environmental impact.  It supports effective management and use of all data essential to driving safety, competitive advantage and innovation.
Given that many airport systems are IT network connectable, this ability to share information and sharpen spatial awareness makes for a new operational philosophy.
In the event of an emergency, shared insight makes for improved safety management.  It protects the public because it enables a swifter, more appropriate response.  Should a fire break out, for example, an alarm would sound and CCTV cameras would pan/tilt/zoom in to validate the source of the alarm.  A voice alert would sound and access controls automatically unlock/open doors to allow safe escape.  The gate allocation system would stop aircraft docking in an unsafe zone and the people tracking system would alert essential personnel.  The heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) would adjust to smoke/fire mode and lighting would come on to expedite safe evacuation.  Duty operators would get onscreen prompts to ensure the right and timely course of action and all activity/actions would be electronically logged for subsequent review, training and possible legal evidence.
Emergency or atypical events are not always catastrophic however.  Power failures, operational disruption of a chilled water plant or problems with an adjacent structure can fundamentally threaten the environment in an airport facility.  That said, they too constitute situations where the use of an integrated platform would positively impact response times and support business as usual.

UK airport operators are not alone in constantly seeking new ways to improve the flying public’s lot against the need to tighten security and become more competitive. In a bid to avoid severe under capacity the US has earmarked $500 billion for investment in airport upgrades and developments over the next decade.

How to cope with growing demand
UK airport operators are not alone in constantly seeking new ways to improve the flying public’s lot against the need to tighten security and become more competitive.  In a bid to avoid severe under capacity the US has earmarked $500 billion for investment in airport upgrades and developments over the next decade.  This is in relation to 1.6 billion passenger movements per year – a figure that is expected to more than double by 2030.
Not all airports are so lucky.  Many cannot expand their current capacity to meet new and growing demand.  Environmental impact, fixed physical boundaries, fixed gate allocation to tenant allocation airlines, passenger segregation (inbound/outbound, domestic/international, Schengen/non-Schengen) legislation, landing/take-off slots and constrained operating timetables all contribute to this issue.  Infrastructure development also has a part to play but is expensive and, from concept to operation, time consuming.  Lack of space hampers development.  London Heathrow had to divert a river before starting on T5 for example.  And that is before security alerts and bad weather.
Here again, smarter ways of working can drive efficiency gain and go a long way to overcoming these constraints.  New technologies provide the means for airport operators to handle more passengers and aircraft as quickly and cost effectively as possible, all the time with a view to minimal risk.  This includes validating all alerts that threaten the integrity of airport infrastructure and occupant safety.  By using the power of integration to assess an emergency situation – real or perceived – building managers can improve their response and better influence the outcome.  Benefits range from mitigating risk to people and property in a real emergency, to avoiding unnecessary and costly shutdowns, interruptions and evacuations.
In short, integration ensures that data and automated processes come together to enforce procedure as originally intended.  It provides the means to reduce cycle time with more automated monitoring and control and less reliance upon human interaction.  (It is proven that even rigorously trained operators under stress do not always react in a predictable fashion.)  The upshot is coherent, real-time operation between systems – a vital consideration given that it is not unusual to have more than 100 systems integrated together to achieve this, including:
 
Required Navigation Performance – precision flight corridors/landing and take off
Runway lighting
Pier/stand management
Aircraft video docking
Automated stand billing
Baggage handling
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning in the terminal building
Energy management systems
People movers – lifts, escalators, walkways
Access controls
CCTV and digital video management
Fire detection
Public Address Voice Announcement
Voice/data systems
Large format video screens
Planned maintenance

In an industry where budgets and revenues are increasingly being squeezed, payback will come from empowering the (reduced) labour force and lower operational and maintenance costs over life span.  The enabler for this is productivity gain from intelligent technologies improving an airport’s functional processes, bringing with them comprehensive insight, operational efficiencies and effective strategic control of business operations.
 
Delivering a measurable return on investment
Experience from around the world shows that careful planning for systems integration is instrumental in delivering improved passenger experience and measurable efficiency gain.
As for choosing the right integration partner, it is important that the players in the value chain – the consulting engineers and the contractors for example – understand the true meaning of integration: that they understand your business objectives and can factor in critical variables, such as desired financial outcomes, business drivers and the need for regulatory compliance.  Your chosen partner must be able to translate these imperatives into business process re-engineering, in particular new ways of working aligned to the way in which information flows.  But it isn’t a one size fits all solution.  Airport processes must be optimized before integration becomes viable.  Entering into contracts before defining these needs is false economy and detrimental to the outcome.  It risks wasted resources and investments as inefficiencies are replicated in perpetuity.
It is also vital to look to the long term; to implement automation controls that support flexibility and provide for future expansion.  With this holistic approach in place, airport operators can expect to accrue five big benefits – management, operational, economic, technical and competitive/passenger edge.
 
Management: Integration ensures relevant and timely information is provided to the right people at the right time and to the right place.  It allows operators to quickly make sense of a lot of data and, from this, informed decisions for onward communication. It also supports a swift and defined escalation process so that issues can be quickly identified and resolved.  Information provided in this way supports inter-departmental co-ordination and ultimately, a better quality of service to all airport users – to passengers, staff, airline operators and tenants alike.
 
Operations: the ability to better plan, allocate resources and implement change processes supports optimal airport operations, air and landside.  Incident management is improved, as is the ability to monitor and control changes to airport procedures and maintenance regimes.  This leads to improved equipment availability and better services.  It enables multi-purpose pier utilisation and more use of those stands closer to the terminal building, freeing those at the far end for shutdown or essential maintenance.  For the passenger, this approach means a short walk to the gate and more time for shopping!
 
Technical: Integration supports regulatory compliance and risk reduction, in particular the potential pitfalls associated with system modifications and the introduction of new applications.  It also allows new measurement and management processes and tools to be developed for airport-wide deployment.  The introduction of an integrated solution at Brussels International for example, provides the means to adapt the delivery of technical services to the demands of passengers and to the changing needs of the airport as a whole.  It creates the opportunity for the airport operator to learn about and control changes that may be required to improve passenger experience in the face of increased capacity.
 
Economic: Integration supports improved productivity and deployment of limited resources; a clear understanding and better management of energy consumption for example. It saves wasted resources, providing them only as and when needed.  Likewise, the ability to implement an automated billing system based on measured consumption of utilities is another contributing factor to cost reduction and better cash flow/generation – revenue that can be reinvested in further improvements.
The business case for putting intelligence into an airport facility is clear; it provides a measurable return on investment over life span.  Honeywell’s Enterprise Buildings Integrator (EBI) for example, is designed to give complete control of airport terminal buildings and the facilities within them, while offering unrivalled integration with business processes.
Through a networked PC it brings all the knowledge and control required to reduce risk and deliver on seemingly conflicting goals – enhanced passenger experience, performance improvement and reduced operating costs.
Total system integration enhances exponential business and operational benefits.  Bringing an airport’s core automation controls together into one common platform sharpens situational awareness and with it, strategic control of workflow processes.  Critically it helps to resolve potentially life-threatening situations safely and efficiently and address the wider environmental impact of airport development.  More than that, it delivers on the need to put the passenger first – without compromising the needs of other stakeholders.  It is key to making UK airports more competitive in a global marketplace.