Digital Transformation Helps Airports Soar

Sept. 1, 2022
Remote alarm notification software ensures ongoing operations.
The Shanghai Airport Authority uses an ABB MicroSCADA system integrated with remote alarm notification software to monitor its East zone network of power transmission and distribution systems.
The Shanghai Airport Authority uses an ABB MicroSCADA system integrated with remote alarm notification software to monitor its East zone network of power transmission and distribution systems.

Airports are finely orchestrated logistical operations, moving people, planes and products safely, securely and without delay. Being digitally connected keeps things running smoothly and prevents any unplanned downtime. However, while awareness of IoT across the aviation ecosystem is high, its knowledge of how to harness and maximize IoT’s capabilities within an organization is much lower. In a survey of the industry by Deloitte, only 12 percent of airport representatives reported that their organizations are very prepared to benefit from IoT applications, and another 10 percent felt that they were not even exploring IoT yet.

Digital Technology

Smart digital investments demonstrate an attractive business case for airports, offering the potential to increase revenue and lower costs. Digital tools like robust supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems help streamline processes to achieve better efficiency in ground activities such as security, ground handling, runway and maintenance operations while reducing operational risks that could cause potential delays or incidents. This technology also monitors operations in real time to quickly deal with issues and anticipate situations. And the use of artificial intelligence platforms automates proactive measures for irregular operations caused by weather, political events, and technology outages by carriers.

This digital transformation will help airports upgrade their day-to-day operating systems, allow them to look further into the future, and provide new and better experiences for passengers, staff and other customers. It will also help them address staffing issues. The national trend that has challenged businesses trying to fill jobs is even more acute at many airports. In an interview with NBC News, Earl Heffintrayer, senior airport analyst at Moody’s Investors Service said, “Airports, even in normal times, have tremendous difficulty getting people to want to come [to the airport] to work.”

Power Critical and SCADA

SCADA systems are commonly used to monitor and control critical infrastructure (CI) such as airports and power plants. The primary benefit of SCADA is to reduce efforts and subsequent costs of monitoring dispersed facilities that require frequent and immediate intervention but present extreme logistical effort to visit regularly. SCADA systems serve a multitude of uses in geographically widespread industries like airports. SCADA systems can provide advanced automation of the power distribution network and enable reliable and efficient power supplies to airports – optimizing the use of resources and minimizing disruption to passengers.

SCADA systems enable remote monitoring and control of complex systems. They can be combined with a data acquisition system to acquire information about the status of the remote equipment. These computer-based systems help monitor and control industrial, infrastructure and facility-based processes and are extensively used in applications like electrical power transmission and distribution.

Remote Monitoring

Investing in technology for areas with worker shortages can keep operations efficiently. For example, adding sensors that monitor if machines like baggage conveyor belts are working properly instead of having someone possibly crawl under equipment to check out a problem. Another way is by integrating remote alarm notification software, which allows fewer people to monitor many more assets using devices that people already have, such as smartphones and tablets. Uninterrupted remote availability is essential to ensuring systems can be continuously monitored, even without staff onsite or with fewer people working at the airport. 

Remote monitoring of critical systems has been extended beyond email, texts and phone calls to include apps that feature time-saving tools like real-time alarm acknowledgements, team chats to troubleshoot and resolve plant problems, and detailed reporting for preventing future incidents. Not only does this mean fewer emergency shutdowns, but also fewer resources spent on overtime and maintenance.

A mobile alarm notification app is software that seamlessly integrates with the SCADA or HMI software, allowing an employee to monitor, receive and acknowledge plant and machine alarms on their smartphones or tablet, freeing them up to work from home or any other remote location. Hardware and software are available that can constantly monitor equipment and, by applying machine learning to historical data, warn when a breakdown or other problem is imminent. Bolstered by wireless technology and IIoT, these customizable systems have the potential to bring predictive maintenance to a new level.

The benefits of utilizing a remote monitoring and notification software system via a mobile app include:

  • Streamlines decision making. Push notifications let users quickly see what is wrong, send an acknowledgment, and monitor alarm condition changes in real-time, right from smartphones.
  • Promotes team problem solving. Chat helps the entire team converse, brainstorm, and share solutions on-the-fly, from anywhere — whether in the plant, at home, or on the road.
  • Work more efficiently. Team Visibility shows who has seen an alarm as well as who has acknowledged it, reducing guesswork and redundant responses.
  • Multiple communication channel support.  Ensuring resiliency through voice notification and SMS messaging in the event of internet connectivity issues.

Remote Alarm Notification Software In Action

Hongqiao International Airport


Shanghai’s second largest airport, Hongqiao International Airport (SHA) serves more than 40 million passengers annually. Like all large airports, energy stability is paramount. But the sheer scale and complexity of SHA— with over a 1000 different alarms monitored — adds significant operational risks that need to be deftly managed. That makes early response to alerts crucial, so that problems don’t turn into crises.

To ensure a safe, continuous operation, the Shanghai Airport Authority uses an ABB MicroSCADA system integrated with remote alarm notification software to monitor its East zone network of power transmission and distribution systems. In the event of any alarms, this software sends SMS texts as well as voice call notifications directly to on-duty staff as well as management. Escalation paths provide redundancy and added protection. The system monitors ABB switchgear, and feeder and control relays for overcurrent, quick break, ground, and trip alarms at various substations. 

“Integrating remote alarm notification software with the SCADA system provides reliable and early notice that is a key component for achieving Hongqiao Airport’s safety and efficiency goals,” said Mr. Zhai, project engineer, whose company, Shanghai Yixun Automation Technology, led the installation and integration effort.

Steve Szabo is director of sales and operations for Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Asia Pacific regions for Austin, TX-based WIN-911 and may be reached at The company helps protect over 19,000 facilities in 90 countries by delivering critical machine alarms via smartphone or tablet app, voice (VoIP and analog), text, email, and in-plant announcer, reducing operator response times, system downtime, and maintenance costs.