Opinion: A wireless world

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Thanks to continuing advances, wireless connectivity, cloud-based data and cell phone apps are well placed to support the rapid growth in the airport sector, explains John Newbury, product innovation and marketing director at Ramtech Electronics.

IATA predicts that airline passenger numbers will double to around 7 billion by 2035. The challenge for airport operators is how to cope with this huge expansion, which will require larger, more efficient airport estates while maintaining the overall passenger experience.

Thinking about airport safety and security conjures up images of passenger check-ins, biometric verifications and baggage scans. Important though this is, it also relies on efficient airside operations, most of which go unseen by passengers. A key element of this is the airport’s response to emergencies, and an effective airside emergency response system for fire, security and medical alerts is essential to supporting an efficient airport and coping with increased numbers of passengers.

The sheer size of many of the world’s airports will add to the challenge, although advances in wireless technology mean that it is now possible to scale up coverage across large geographic sites. When this wireless connectivity is integrated with internet-connected devices, cloud-based data and intuitive apps, it has the ability to create a highly effective facilities management system.

Wireless technology
Innovative wireless technology, cloud-based data and an easy-to-use cell phone app can combine to create a fully integrated airport-wide fire, security, medical, flooding and major spillage emergency response system. That means that the airport’s facilities team receives real-time alerts regarding site emergencies and an instant connection to key personnel who need to act on specific alerts.

Systems such as Ramtech Electronics’ REACT transform smartphones into the ultimate safety tool, with welfare check-ins and escalations, GPS location tracking and advanced ‘lone worker’ feature. This integrated approach establishes a simple and secure means of communicating emergencies to affected personnel, both on- and off-site.

Other practical benefits include, for example, the ability to alert emergency response teams when an intruder or unauthorized member of staff is detected opening a security door on-site. The system will send an alert to the facilities team, indicating that there has been an unauthorized entry. It can equally be applied to lone workers. In this situation, security patrols can raise a medical alert in the case of an emergency, or alternatively a ‘welfare check-in’ function can be set that requires personnel to send a signal every 10 minutes, confirming that they are okay. This can be useful when accessing confined spaces or other locations that present a known level of risk.

These systems are also capable of delivering real-time alerts to all relevant personnel, along with emergency response information such as site plans, evacuation routes and emergency procedures.

Other platforms enable the collection of data from a wide range of airside devices – it is then used to drive management decisions. The platforms provide real-time alerts, data and information about security coverage, energy metering, fire safety, equipment failure, occupancy monitoring and staff management. This data can be stored, processed and transmitted via cloud applications, providing valuable management information. For example, it enables operators to wirelessly monitor security, fire alerts and equipment failure.

Data and information is now regularly gathered on airport sites in this way, so that it can be cloud-based and used by the people that require it, when, where and in whatever format is appropriate. The ability to integrate all these wireless technologies is helping make airports safer and more efficient.

The future
Over the next few years there looks set to be a digital transformation in the airport sector. Wirelessly integrated solutions that offer access to big data have the ability to deliver insights into airside operations that will result in more efficient deployment of support resources.

Combined with this will be a revolution in the Internet of Things, predictive data analytics, advanced diagnostics and artificial intelligence, long used in other industries, which will enable airport facilities teams to optimize their operations. The future for airport operations will therefore be about better management decision making – wireless connectivity is an essential foundation for achieving this.

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