A system recently deployed at Cancun International (CUN) is centralizing the operation and management of passenger information displays at nine southeast Mexican airports. Currently in full operation, the system is simultaneously delivering multiple benefits to the traveling public and the airports' operator.
Grupo Aeroportaurio del Sureste, S.A.B. de C.V. (ASUR) is the first privatized Mexican airport operator with concessions to operate, maintain and develop the airports of Cancun, Merida, Cozumel, Villahermosa, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Huatulco, Tapachula and Minatitlan. It is also a 50% joint venture partner in Aerostar Airport Holdings, operator of the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in Puerto Rico.
Project: Centralized Management of Passenger Info Displays
Location: Airports in Cancun, Merida, Cozumel, Villahermosa, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Huatulco, Tapachula & Minatitlan
Airport Operator/System Owner: Grupo Aeroportaurio del Sureste
Content Management System: Air-Transport IT Solutions
Key Benefits: Decreased operating/maintenance costs; increased ease
Adrian Sanchez, the company’s corporate manager of information technology, explains that ASUR was specifically in the market for a solution that would allow it to manage the flight information displays at all nine of its airports through its own headquarters IT department at CUN.
“We wanted to manage what we display and make it easier for the users,” Sanchez explains. “Now, we can manage this information from our local site here, and the new system can manage all the airports from the same software.”
The software he refers to is a content management system from Orlando-based Air-Transport IT Services (AirIT). ASUR supplied the hardware for its new system, with support and software provided by AirIT.
The two companies began working together in 2012, and ASUR’s new content management system was fully deployed in 2013.
Managing the digital content for nine airports from one set of servers at CUN provides ASUR with economies of scale. Deploying separate content management systems at each airport would be cost prohibitive in terms of hardware, software and staffing, Sanchez explains.
“Given the advancements in network technology and in application development, you can host these types of applications and manage multiple sites anywhere,” says AirIT President and Chief Operating Officer Chris Keller.
The airport operator saves personnel expenses, since one system administrator can maintain multiple locations. A scheduling tool, as part of the system, allows ASUR to automate the displaying of messages and content at each facility. An airport can “schedule and trigger certain displays or content based on events and based on times,” Keller explains.
The system allows ASUR to manage the display of flight information, weather, special announcements and advertising.
“It’s easier for us to manage [content] and provide quality service,” Sanchez reports.
Keller notes another advantage: “It not only provides for a more automated system, but it also provides for a much more intelligent and holistic system, because you’re tying content to flight activity or other events within the airport.”
Prior to the deployment of its new centralized system, ASUR was using an in-house development for its flight information display systems, Sanchez says.
AirIT engineers usually implement and deploy the content management system, but ASUR took a different approach and chose to deploy its new hardware and software on its own. In this instance, AirIT developed the software and configurations based on ASUR’s requirements and deployed it in a test environment. ASUR’s staff then performed all the deployments within the actual system-wide operating environment and handled the cutover to the new system. AirIT technicians consulted with ASUR’s on-site technicians about follow-up issues.
Handling the deployment and cutover was important to ASUR, not only so its personnel could implement the product on their own, but also so they could support it afterward. The atypical arrangement, however, meant that AirIT’s product had to be deployment-ready and its support materials needed to be clear and thorough enough to allow ASUR’s team to launch the technology without on-site help.
“We’re accustomed to deploying our own systems,” Keller notes. “(At CUN), we never had access to the production environment.”
Although it was an extra challenge for AirIT to rely on outside technicians to be their “eyes and ears” during installation, Keller says the process has made his team even stronger than before. “The documentation and the training had to be much better, because we relied on ASUR staff to articulate and give us the necessary information so we could troubleshoot any deployment issues,” he explains.
Per its contract, AirIT will continue to provide remote software support for three years.
From Sanchez’ perspective, deployment of the new centralized display management system has encouraged ASUR to consider other technology applications to help eliminate redundancies elsewhere within the operator’s nine-airport network.