Trends in Airport technology

Heading into the American Association of Airport Executives’ annual conference, AIRPORT BUSINESS probes the industry for the latest and greatest in airport technology, from wireless solutions to video security. Today’s industry buzz-phrases include...


Ron Mathieu, executive director at Little Rock National Airport (LIT), says the airport budgeted some $150,000 for its “IT Masterplan,” which includes design criteria for implementing a VLAN architecture. Faith Group is helping LIT develop its IT master plan, and the airport is budgeting to refresh the plan each year. However, says Mathieu, “This really goes further than just a conceptual masterplan.”

Little Rock National

“The first phase was an analysis of the existing technology systems,” relates Mathieu. “Faith Group conducted a high level inventory of primary technology systems at the airport to gain an understanding of the airport’s current technology; the inventory focused on defining system type, age, use, ownership, and overall condition.

“Next they reviewed current and near-term construction projects to determine the impact on current systems and recommended changes or improvements.”

Going forward, Mathieu says the next step is to develop a “Basis of Design” (BOD) document, which articulates program goals and objectives, provides a summary of existing equipment, and provides preliminary design information including integration recommendations and cost projections.

“The BOD will include diagrams and drawings depicting existing equipment locations, existing and proposed infrastructure, configuration of the communications center and server rooms, and existing LAN equipment,” explains Mathieu.

The Basis of Design will establish design criteria for:

1) Enterprise network functionality;

2) Campus-wide fiber optic infrastructure;

3) VLAN architecture;

4) CCTV architecture;

5) Equipment room locations and configurations; and

6) Command center requirements.

The BOD will also define the airport business objectives and requirements for the network concept of operations and shared tenant services, relates Mathieu.

Finally, he says, “The BOD will address methods of procurement, and create a roadmap which ties all ongoing technology related projects with a clear plan for implementation.”

In terms of specific technologies, Mathieu comments, “We have put some fiber backbone throughout the facility in preparation for what is coming next; we have also created some new server environments.”

On the security side of things, “We were one of the first small hub airports to have biometrics capability for our security access system; and we are the only small hub airport that has taken that and expanded it to the general aviation side of the airport.”

The cost of expanding biometric technology to the GA side, including badging everyone, was some $150,000, relates Mathieu.

LIT is also installing a new flight information display system (FIDS) on a platform that will allow the airport to have distributed video in order to sell advertising space or implement other marketing initiatives on the displays.

“We have also launched our new website,” remarks Mathieu. “We used to mail out flight guides to groups and corporations on a regular basis, a service that cost us some $40,000 annually.

“Now the guide is in PDF format on our website, and we’ve invited people to sign up for our e-mailing service; that alone paid for the new website and then some.”

LIT’s website now allows passengers to book flights on its homepage, which produces revenue for the airport, says Mathieu. “We also have links on our website, and that’s producing revenue as well,” he says. “And we’ve created a mobile site which gives customers easy access to general information about the airport via their cellular devices. We are also active in the social sphere, with links to our Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Facebook profiles on our website.”

As the airport progresses through its capital project, Mathieu’s team will be putting what they call ‘vignettes’ on the website that will provide information, photography, and video of each construction project that takes place during the airport’s development program.

Regarding additional tech projects, “We want to incorporate the AODB (airport operating database) concept where you have all ERP (enterprise resource planning) elements such as finance, purchasing, project control, inventory control, property systems, etc., all tied together with one main interface,” says Mathieu.

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