Trends in Airport technology

The latest in customer service, operational efficiency, and terminal design


Another major trend involves migrating all stand-alone networks into one large virtual local area network (VLAN) — or group of hosts with a common set of requirements that communicate as if they were attached to the same broadcast domain, regardless of their physical location. A VLAN has the same attributes as a physical local area network (LAN), but it allows for development of a more robust system architecture at a lower cost due to the requirement of less switches and servers.

“When these systems emerged, they were bought individually and on their own LANs,” explains Varwig. “They all had separate workstations; airports are now looking at migration to more of a virtual environment. VLANs allow those who need access to certain data to attain that data quickly regardless of their location.”

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.”

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