In the past, airport passenger numbers were going in just one direction: up. Of course, there were spikes, particularly during holidays, and dips, typically in January and February. But year-on-year numbers increased reliably, especially at hub airports. With capacities stretched at the seams, authorities kicked off expansion projects.
Then the pandemic hit, and planes were grounded around the world. The previously dependable streams of passengers came to an unexpected halt. Hub airports, whose efficient operation requires huge volumes of passengers and flights, were suddenly oversized. The good news is that airports that were using cloud computing and employing Software as a Service (SaaS) models had a distinctive edge.
The cloud as a key starting point
Cloud computing technology implies a lot more than just decentralized data storage. It increases efficiency thanks to an on-demand provision of IT resources. Airports and airlines pay for and get exactly what they need – without tying up resources for purchasing and maintaining an on-site data center. Scalability is also served with open interfaces, meaning that any number of users may access data at the same time without compromising stability. Most importantly, cloud computing opens the door to an entire ecosystem of applications and services.
Individual stakeholders across airports already employ cloud computing – among others in retail operations, and in cargo and airline distribution via their traditional airline.com websites. However, baggage and cargo handling systems can also profit from it. When data from these and other sources is pulled together, correlations can be made between multiple functions to arrive at the most efficient operating model for the airport as a whole and for individual disciplines. That’s the theory. In practice, data is very often held in silos and comes in a whole variety of formats. Comparisons and data insights become impossible. Aviation Data Hub, a SaaS from Siemens Logistics, changes that.
Aviation Data Hub brings diverse sets of data together to provide airport stakeholders with a centralized, indexed, harmonized, homogeneous data source. Data is structured in line with industry-standard domain models such as IATA’s Airline Industry Data Model (AIDM) and ACI’s Aviation Community Recommended Information Services (ACRIS). Fragmentation becomes a thing of the past. The data opens the door to self-service dashboards that give stakeholders an overview of where processes stand. Information like this can help to deal better with irregular situations like the global Covid-19 pandemic.
A further advantage of cloud computing and Aviation Data Hub is that the highest data security standards are ensured through hardened security measures, while maximizing availability and optimizing IT operational costs.
Two example scenarios show what is possible during normal operations. First, airlines can notify passengers of delays in baggage reclaim, so passengers don’t have to rush to the carousel and might choose to use the extra time for shopping. Second, when ground handling has information on late passenger arrivals (because of blocked road or rail access to the airport, for example), it can prepare for a shift in the load profile. Other areas benefit too, like building and energy management. Plus, mishaps in anything from on-time performance to lost baggage can be avoided.
When the current travel restrictions are lifted, stakeholders will have the information they need to right-size their operations. This could mean reactivating parts of a baggage handling facility, powering up a building section or satellite again, or increasing the frequency of trains serving an airport. When passengers arrive at an airport, data can help guide them through operative points like security and baggage drop-off and reclaim, and thus help them avoid crowding and adhere to social distancing rules.
With cloud computing and SaaS in the form of Aviation Data Hub, airports can scale operations to the required levels. As for those hubs that are seemingly oversized for the current volumes, they can now be operated more effectively at minimum capacity.
In any case, cloud computing and SaaS support optimal use of resources. That’s good news during normal times – and very important in the ongoing pandemic, where every cent counts. As passenger numbers move either up or down, hubs can get ready more effectively. Best of all, because real-time data is being employed, there are no delays and no guesswork.
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