Airports as Smart Cities: Sensors, Safety and Security Combined Dramatically Improve Operations and Experiences by Aaron Allsbrook

February 25, 2020

Major airports in the U.S. and around the world are bigger than many cities, with millions of passengers, airline employees, airport employees, retail workers and more passing through seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day.

There are roads, public transportation hubs for rail and bus, buildings, lighting systems, security systems, dining, entertainment and retail locations, gas stations, electric vehicle chargers, parking lots, waste management bins, and so many other things one finds in a smart city, but with an even higher level of activity given that airports are often targets for attackers, and given the “air traffic control” on site and managing aircraft.

Industrial IoT solutions are rapidly becoming part of maturing and new initiatives, given that automation and robotics are also being employed to reduce costs and prevent damage and loss, thus leading to some of the most sophisticated and increasingly unified approaches to secure edge computing and connectivity.

The number of uses cases for IoT in airports is astounding, especially as software and AI that uses facial recognition, for example, are coming online to identify suspicious people. Biometric security is being used in immigration, including fingerprint and iris scanning, and people counting is being done in sensitive, high traffic areas and analyzed to help combat congestion (for example opening new security lines and redirecting passengers to different routes to their gates).

Smart airports are now more efficiently monitoring critical airport infrastructure, as well as assets including vehicles serving plane on runways, security and police vehicles, fire and other emergency equipment and more.

The application of scalable IoT and IIoT solutions can significantly enhance the value of an airport, including smart lighting, water management and more that save money through the use of “green” technologies while also making the airport more attractive to generations of travelers who care about climate change and respect sustainable spaces.

IoT connectivity also presents an opportunity to implement systems that offer deeper levels of integration between various departments, companies, roles, and collaboration s throughout an airport, with better-connected data and insights, enabling better decision-making and processes that ensure safe and on-time performance, while also highlighting where cost savings may be possible in the future.

As is the case with Smart City projects, paying close attention to the edge and how compute can be done with hyperlocal precision and speed without sacrificing security is essential. What good is a program, for example, designed to track luggage if that system can be hacked from the internet and that luggage is lost or stolen? What good is a program to enhance operations associated with reducing flight delays by ensuring the right vehicles are at the right place at the perfect time if the sensors on those vehicles are not connecting systematically for constant availability?

Thinking through the architecture of Smart Airports is similar to thinking through the architecture of Smart Cities; often there can be many different projects underway, with different networking protocols being used, different types of sensors, different antennae, different gateways, different platforms and operating systems, which can cause complexity and related cost to skyrocket.

Having a solid strategy for the edge and using the best edge management platforms to collect and operationalize (and even monetize) the data is key to the future of both Smart Cities and Smart Airports, as well as large public venues including malls, stadiums and public transportation stations.

There is no doubt over the potential that the IoT and IIoT can bring to the aviation industry, as a fundamental and eventually commonplace enabler for a wide range of operational improvements.

With connected systems in airports, airport operators and their partners can maximize the exchange of information to make much better decisions, inform all collaborators, be more efficient and offer better service. The key is facilitating collaboration and data exchanges among industry players and do so in a secure and consistent manner.

Airports will need to become more agile in order to respond to the enormous quantity of information generated by the IoT’s sensor and beacon networks, which will continue to skyrocket over the next few years. By starting at the edge – and understanding all that is possible and can be done more efficiently in a more unified IT environment – airport operators and those who conduct business with airports – will set the groundwork for future success, with a line of sight into the actual costs and benefits.

ClearBlade’s platform provides a single solution for rapid development of complex IoTs. From the edge to the cloud, on any protocol or solution, the ClearBlade Edge Platform is ready for deployment. ClearBlade is the only IoT software platform that can deploy a common software stack across the board.

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