Selecting FIDS

Sept. 8, 2001


Advice for identifying display needs, finding the products that meet them

By Lindsay M. Hitch, Assistant Editor

September 2001

With the recent influx of companies offering flight information display systems (FIDS) and related products, sorting the good from the bad can be a challenge. Consultant Les Bohush of Apple Designs, Inc. offers some tips for airlines and airports to consider when reviewing new systems.

"No matter how beautifully your airport is decorated, one of the most important issues, what every passenger wants to have is: How do I get to my flight, is it on time, where [in the terminal] is it going from, and all those kinds of things. There is never enough signage," explains Bohush, a senior associate with the Orlando-based consulting firm.
Bohush helps evaluate way finding and information display systems. The first step in a new project, he says, is to try to understand the architecture of the building. Second is, get involved in the operation of the airport. "By understanding their operations, we do a way finding analysis for all different types of passengers: the greeters, the departing passengers, the arriving passengers," says Bohush.
The third step is to work with the airlines to find out how they update flight information, what they expect of the system, and how many flights they prefer to display at a time.
One other issue that Bohush says is often overlooked is determining how to meet ADA compliance.
Once those needs are layed out, Bohush says, "We come up with a system performance which would match the criteria we just discussed with all the participants.
"We do the document, which describes hardware and software specifications, and also we do the actual documentation which shows the location of each display: how it’s going to be mounted, where it’s going to be installed. And we also show the typical block diagram called the data-line diagram: how those things are connected with the server and with the info device."

According to Bohush, with information management systems the options are essentially Windows- or Unix-based systems.
"It’s either Windows or Unix. And there is really not an advantage; it’s like when you choose between white and red wine," says Bohush.
"The selection’s only based on the support. If the airport already has other Windows-based systems, it’s go for Windows. Unix is still a more reliable system, but it’s less popular with the vendors of FIDS than Windows."

"Displays — it’s a very long subject," says Bohush. "It’s very difficult to compare displays as apple to apple because each one is different." As a result, when comparing display media he recommends evaluating ...
• Life expectancy
• Reliability — Time before failure; Time to repair
• Contrast ratio
• Viewing angle
• Colors available
• Relative cost per pixel
• Energy consumption
• Operating cost
• Matrix capabilities — line-oriented, character-oriented, or "electronic chalkboard"
• Message and graphics verification
• Display modes — video display capabilities, etc.
• Maintenance costs
• Environmental restrictions — Indoor vs. Outdoor, Direct sunlight
• Airport application — Ability to run 24 hours/day, seven days/week
• Longevity of technology — Will it be obsolete next year?
The list ranges from most to least important, with life expectancy the most important.
Display technologies available include: CRT, fiber-optic, liquid crystal, LED, incandescent lamp, reflective disk, liquid cell, plasma, scroll signs, rear-projection, light reflecting capacitor, vacuum florescent, electro-polymer, and high-intensity florescent discharge — to name a few.
"There are too many choices," Bohush says. Looking at the growing list of companies with FIDS products, he adds, "And they’re growing like wild mushrooms. But you know what happens with wild mushrooms ... you buy the wrong ones, you get poisoned."
For more information, email [email protected] or call (407) 566-2775.