In this blog, we’re looking at how you can best future proof your airport IT infrastructure and the steps to consider.

What’s important to know from the outset is that future-proofing is not a quick or easy task. Airports are open 24/7 and changes to certain technologies or infrastructure cannot impact wider operations. That means that each new implementation has to be thoroughly tested.

Use your expertise

This leads us nicely to our first, and perhaps most important, consideration – the importance of collaboration throughout the process. This refers not only to internal colleagues, but also external stakeholders and third parties.

Internally, airport IT managers handle all the day-to-day processes of the IT infrastructure and typically have the best overview of what that infrastructure looks like and/or how it should look over the next 10-20 years. So, tapping into their knowledge and expertise is a logical first step! Bringing IT managers into the conversation early means that fewer problems will be encountered in the long run.

This goes for other parties including airlines, ground handlers and retailers as well. Understanding what these groups need and want from an airport will help shape how the airport is built. Ensuring each party understands new processes, infrastructure or technologies being implemented means that they’re involved and engaged from the outset.

Build a common network

Airports are massively collaborative hubs, bringing together large communities of different organisations under one roof – government, retailers, security, airlines, ground handlers and air traffic control to name a few.

This is a unique situation in today’s world which in a way, could be compared to the operations of large shopping centres or perhaps ports. But even then, an airport is a combination of both these things. The vast complexity of an airport’s operations means that what might be completed in a week at a port must be done in hours or minutes in an airport – from processing luggage, to dealing with high passenger throughput. All require extremely quick turnaround times.

These stakeholders are often accustomed to having their own networks (telephones and internet connections). But with the growth of connectivity, it is now unmanageable to create large, separate infrastructures for each stakeholder – and this trend will continue to grow in the future.

To prevent separate infrastructures, airports have started to create common use networks and infrastructures which can be used by multiple airport stakeholders. In some instances, airports act almost like telecommunications providers – adding to the ever-extending list of their duties.

One of the latest trends we are now seeing is airports not only sharing common physical infrastructure and network connections with multiple stakeholders, but now also sharing data between parties. A big factor in all of this is the security required, which will also become a necessity due to the increased digitalisation of society. So understanding these trends now and setting future-proofing as a goal will position airports ahead of the game.

The importance of Airport IT Health Checks

At NACO, we’ve developed an Airport IT HealthCheck to give operators, directors and IT managers a deeper and clearer understanding of the status of their IT infrastructure.

Taking stock of where you stand today may seem obvious, but it’s an easily overlooked yet important step in beginning this process. By doing this, strengths, areas for improvement and opportunities for improving operations through innovation can all be identified.

Understand the peaks – and manage them!

Anybody working in or operating an airport knows that certain periods of the year see change-freezes, where no new technologies or infrastructure can be introduced. These are largely during the summer and winter peaks, when airports are at their busiest. It is of course important that forward planning for changes, upgrades and maintenance takes these peaks into account, and that the IT infrastructure should be designed to cope with them. This can often be based on an extrapolation of historical data for example.

If you want to dig into the details of how these approaches could work in your airport, then don’t hesitate to get in touch.