Earlier this year, Dubai International officially surpassed London Heathrow as the world’s busiest airport with over 70 million passengers. IATA followed this up with a report predicting that passenger numbers would continue to grow in the UAE at 5.6% annually until 2034, meaning that the airport could surpass the 100 million mark by 2020. Mohammed Fouz, CEO of Smartworld, believes that airports must embrace smart systems if they want to cope with such unprecedented growth.
“Technology is the only way ahead to enable all stakeholders to achieve their goals,” said Fouz. “Governments want to bring in more visitors while enhancing security. Airports want to accelerate travel and generate more revenues while reducing the costs. Airlines want to differentiate themselves and keep their customers happy. Passengers are looking for a stress-free journey with diversified options and seamless experiences. All stakeholders want to be efficient, fast, cost effective and secure. Without a strong and modern IT infrastructure, all those plans and scenarios will just be wishful thinking.”
Smartworld is a system integrator and ICT service provider founded by telecoms firm Etisalat and Dubai World Central (DWC). They formed the company as a joint venture in 2008 to cater for the telecommunication needs of the DWC business park. Due to the economic downturn, the company changed strategic direction and went into airport systems.
“The demand for smart technologies will skyrocket in the next few years,” added Fouz. “All airports will be transformed into intelligent, adaptive and responsive environments. Changes in the way we travel are coming at us faster. New technology promises to make travel even easier, more efficient and safer. Some changes are right around the corner and others are decades away.
“Many airports still operate in a traditional way, but the future is about smart airports where the customer experience is prioritized without jeopardizing safety or security.”
As well as managing the IT infrastructure in the DWC business area and Al Maktoum Airport, Smartworld has also integrated a number of different systems in terminals 1 and 2 at Dubai International Airport. Maintaining these systems is an ongoing task, especially when faced with sudden peaks in passenger numbers.
“Our major challenge is working with these technologies on a live airport, upgrading all types of systems, from the network, to the FIDS, to the building management system. On top of that, we have to integrate and provide services to multiple networks.
“It all depends on the customer’s requirements and the best solution for them. In some cases we end up implementing multiple solutions, but at the end of the day it’s our responsibility to make sure everything works together,” said Fouz.
Fouz believes that Dubai and Al Maktoum airports have set the standard for smart technology adoption and that other airports must now follow suit or be left behind: “Going forward, these airports will want to make sure that the passenger experience is as high as possible and that high levels of security have also been maintained. Dubai Airport already has a lot of automated gates. Even international passengers can scan their passport or iris and walk through without having to deal with an immigration officer.
“The airports are also working hard to attract all different kinds of passenger. In Dubai you have Dubailand and will soon have Hollywood, Bollywood and Lego theme parks close to the airport. In Abu Dhabi they have Yas Island with Ferrari World and other attractions. They’re always innovating and always looking for things to entertain the public. It will be hard for other airports to catch up and I think Dubai Airport will retain its lead in passenger numbers for some time to come.”
February 27, 2015