Information Technology

Information Technology

ABI tests Web-based FIDS system

Jordanna Smida, Assistant Editor

May 2000

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport recently purchased a new FIDS system from gcr & associates, which operates through the Internet (WebFIDS). gcr & associates had developed a financing and property management program, Airport Information Management System (AIMS), for the airport, and was later contracted to develop the webFIDS system, explains Phil Brodt, director of aviation services for gcr.

The company developed a prototype, which is currently employed in two gate areas for United Airlines at the airport. The WebFIDS system integrates with the AIMS, which compiles property and operation information such as lease management, concession contracts, daily aircraft operations, property management, and acquisition systems.

"This system allows Austin quite a bit of flexibility from an IT management standpoint," says Michelle Moheet, network manager and acting information systems manager. "It's a non-proprietary, open architect written, sequel seven which makes troubleshooting for IT staff easier when they're assisting the end-users," she explains. The html-based system is more user-friendly and connects to an underlying MUFIDS database that will display arrivals or departures for the day, she explains. The system is operated in real-time and is updated every 30 seconds.

Moheet says the system enhances the airport's level of customer service. Travelers can access the FIDS system via the web.

The system also allows the airport to track statistical information. "The WebFIDS can integrate with the gcr financial package and provides statistical information for arrivals and departures for landing weights and passenger counts," Moheet states.

Prior to this system, the airlines were the only group reporting this information to the airport. "This allows the airport to make sure it's getting the right information from the airlines," she says.

The WebFIDS system gives the airport, as well as the airlines, some flexibility in gate assignments. "This system allows for dynamic changing of airlines per gate. With this system we can change which airline is where, whenever," states Mike Flores, principal of gcr & associates. The system also allows an airline to remotely monitor any concourse and any gate from its headquarters.

The WebFIDS system also has the ability to carry video advertising on screens not in use. Ads are displayed in two to five minute clips on the MUFIDS monitors that are not being used for flight information, during off-peak times, or when a gate is not being used, explains Brodt.

According to Moheet, the airport is still in the testing phases, but the system is expected to be completely deployed by the end of May. For more information, visit gcr's website at www.gcr1.com.

RFID prompts seamless service
Computer Sciences Corporation's Airport e-volution is a program designed to create a seamless experience for passengers, utilizing a centralized database and RFID (radio frequency identification) technology to automate passenger transactions.

The program would allow passengers to be identified and tracked once they enter the airport through automated customer recognition technology (ACR), which would most likely come in the form of a frequent flyer card, explains Alan Gregory, business development for Airport e-volution.

The system would include a centralized customer database available to the airlines, which recognizes passengers' cards as they enter the terminal and displays their information and preferences. As a result, before passengers reach the ticketing desk, an agent can identify who they are and any special needs, Gregory says.

The ACR also allows an airport to personalize its customer service. "You can have roaming agents with hand-held readers that allow agents to read a passenger's card and help them if they are lost," says Paul Seaton, ventures manager for Airport e-volution. The database for the ACR can also give airlines operational efficiency in the baggage process. If an airline is sure a passenger will not board a flight in time, it can retrieve the loaded baggage immediately, allowing the plane to take off on time, Seaton says.

The ACR can also benefit an airport's concession program, by tracking where passengers spend their time in the airport. "There's an opportunity for the airports to actually see where the passengers are spending their time, the actual retail units they are visiting, and the time they spend in the retail area," Gregory states.

Though the identification cards would make passenger travel in an airport easier, security is a concern. "We've looked into biometric authentication because reading a card at a distance means you have identified a card but you have no knowledge of who's carrying that card," Seaton explains. The group is reviewing biometric measures, such as a retina scan, to authenticate the card.

For more information, visit www.csc.co.uk/nowwhatif/airport.html.

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