Reinventing FIDS

June 8, 2004

Tech Bytes

Reinventing FIDS

By Jodi Richards

June 2004

FIDs aren’t just for airlines anymore.

The technology that allows us to transmit text messages is moving forward and airports and suppliers have found ways to integrate and utilize the technology in ways that go beyond the norm.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is embarking on a $16 million Passenger Information and Paging System (PIPS) project. The system is being developed by the airport with ARINC and is designed to provide an array of services.

According to the airport, the system features passenger paging, FIDs, and baggage information displays (BIDs).

When airport passengers are paged, the message will be announced over the audio system, but their names will also appear on monitors at Passenger Assistance Locations (PAL) kiosks located throughout the airport. The PALs will be designed to be accessible for passengers of all abilities. Telephone handsets at each PAL can be used for retrieving messages, and instructions for use will be provided in Braille. Also, PAL displays will be available in English, Spanish, and German.

The FIDs displays will be designed to meet ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessibility requirements, while the BIDs system will be added to baggage carousel areas in all terminals.

The airport’s goal is to have PIPS operational in Terminal 4 by year’s end.
Com-Net Software has developed a similar system called Digital Paging, which interfaces with the FIDs system, offering airports a completely integrated Audio/Visual Passenger Communication System.

Montee Fiely, director of sales and marketing, explains the major benefit of systems like this is ADA compliance because audio pages can be synchronized with visual pages. Because it is integrated with the FIDs system, Com-Net’s solution allows the visual pages to appear on FIDs screens throughout the terminal, along with flight, baggage, and advertising information.

Using an Ethernet LAN (local area network) to distribute audio, the digital paging system allows users to schedule announcements at set intervals, synchronize audio messages with flight-related events, and isolate messages to just the gate, concourse, or cover the entire terminal.

Fiely credits the move away from analog to digital in making this technology more mainstream. “Analog has been around for decades,” he says. “The price point of PCs (personal computers) and PC computing equipment has come down, bandwidth has increased ­— all of these technological advances are really pushing things to be digital.” He calls this a move to the “digital age.”

The integration of these technologies also gives administrators the benefit of monitoring the status of the system from a centralized control station, making it easy to detect and repair possible failures in equipment.

This “need for integration,” says Fiely, is what prompted Com-Net to invest in a solution. In the past, he explains, separate systems for FIDs, audio, etc. were installed. Now technology allows businesses to install one common backbone from which other systems operate, which Fiely says eliminates redundancy, costly cabling, and also enables a move away from proprietary equipment. “Bringing in a software solution that runs on common, off-the-shelf components is a huge benefit,” he adds. “Anytime you have competition, you have lower costs.”

Jodi Richards, Associate Editor, [email protected]