San Diego Int'l Bolsters its Technology Backbone

Author: 
Jodi Richards
Published in: 
September
2013

Significant technology upgrades - both seen and unseen - figure prominently into the Green Build expansion of Terminal 2 at San Diego International Airport (SAN), which celebrated its grand opening in August. The $30 million investment in technology was designed to ensure that the facility operates at peak performance for airlines, passengers and its operator, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.

The airport made "significant improvements" to its network to support the technology improvements, relates IT Director Howard Kourik. Technicians upgraded the airport's Cisco systems from a 1-gigabyte (GB) network to a 10-GB, and, in some cases, "dual 10s," which allows for 20-GB performance. SAN also consolidated previous separate networks for security, access control and administrative functions into one unified network.

 

 

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Project: Information Technology Upgrades

Location: San Diego Int'l

Cost: $30 million

Contractor: SAIC/SITA/SIEMENS

FIDS Monitors: Samsung DE46C & DE55 

Upgrade Specifics: Network capacity increased from 1 GB to 10GB; security, access control & administrative system networks were consolidated into one unified network; common-use passenger processing added; new flight information display system & and airport operational database; expanded use of voice over Internet protocol

"Instead of splitting our resources running multiple networks, we're concentrating on one network that is highly fault tolerant and able to deliver all the modern services," explains Kourik, extolling the virtues of the recent simplification/upgrade. The airport anticipates cost efficiencies with the new configuration, but specific savings have yet to be determined.

With a "rock-solid network" that includes ample bandwidth in place, the airport is migrating 19 gates in Terminal 2 West to common-use passenger processing system (CUPPS). "We feel it is the wave of the future," notes Kourik. "It's the joint IATA/ACI (International Air Transport Association/Airports Council International) recommended practice, and we feel it's taking us where we need to be." Terminal 2 East operations, which include SAN's international gates and some domestic gates, were also upgraded to CUPPS.

Out Front

SITA deployed more than 150 CUPPS workstations, 250 information display monitors and more than 100 common-use self-service (CUSS) kiosks within the terminal and at the airport's Smart Curb, which allows travelers to check in before entering the airport terminal - a new feature designed to minimize congestion in the terminal.

Airport Authority President/Chief Executive Officer Thella Bowens says that common-use technology will allow SAN the flexibility necessary to get the most efficient use out of its facilities: "We can use them every minute of every day, no matter who the carrier is, versus having a facility sit vacant because a particular carrier just doesn't have a flight at that time," she says.

Edward Bauer, senior account manager with SITA, agrees: "CUPPS really allows for an airport to be flexible. Dedicating gates and ticket counters dictate how an airport would operate, whereas common use allows for the scenarios to dictate what's going to be best for that airport and the airlines themselves," he says.

SAN operates its CUPPS on SITA's AirportConnect Open platform, which enables airlines to share ticket and gate counter computer equipment in a secure environment.

"Our common-use technology and network upgrade can handle anything we throw at it, and it's going to enable us to deliver any service we need to deliver throughout the airport," says Kourik confidently.

SAN opted to partially deploy its new CUPPS system nine months before the expansion's grand opening. This allowed the airport to experience how it works and identify potential bugs or issues before it was fully implemented at all 19 gates. Initially transitioning just six gates from common-use terminal equipment (CUTE) to CUPPS was "very beneficial," reflects Kourik. "There were some issues, but they were easy to figure out and take care of and really didn't cause the airlines any problems. But we had all those lessons learned that we were able to apply to the 10 new gates and the nine rehabilitated gates."

The entire "special systems program" - which includes the baggage handling system, security system and all common-use aspects - represents an investment of about $30 million. The CUPPS portion has already proven its worth. When an installation defect caused the motors on some of the new gates to fail, the common-use system allowed the airport to simply move the affected airline to the next gate without disrupting operations.

"I can't tell you how appreciative the airlines are for not having to sit on the tarmac and wait to unload passengers," emphasizes Kourik. "It's marvelous and already paid for itself."

SAN's flight information display system (FIDS) and airport operational database (AODB) were also upgraded, and a resource management system, which includes a gate management system, was added. Additionally, SAN is moving to all Cisco voice over Internet protocol (VoIP).

The gate management system and FIDS are now integrated with the building management system. If a gate changes, the AODB will notify the gate management system and FIDS to identify an alternate gate. As soon as an operator approves the new gate, the FIDS automatically notifies passengers about the gate change. "When you start integrating all these systems, you start deriving the benefits from a fully-integrated database system," says Kourik.

SITA's Airport Management Solution gives SAN "the visibility to better manage its airport in terms of who gets what gates, when and what needs to be where for the airport to operate," says Bauer.

"All of these things are enabling us to be more efficient in our operation and look at our gate scheduling and make sure that we are effectively using the gates," explains Kourik. When a gate becomes unavailable, the gate management system will help the airport determine where aircraft can be reassigned. "You can use that system to intelligently assign alternate resources," he says.

Admin Upgrades

On the administrative side, the airport moved its e-mail to "the Cloud" with Microsoft Office 365, a change Kourik describes as a "major transition." Previously, SAN hosted its e-mail in house, which required multiple servers monitored and maintained by airport personnel. "When we outsourced that to the Microsoft Cloud, we were able to free up a lot of our personnel time to concentrate on the more unique airport applications instead of babysitting e-mail servers," notes Kourik.

SAN previously used the Cloud for other functions, including its Oracle Enterprise One system, employee performance reporting system and learning management system. "All of these things are servers and systems that I don't have to support," says Kourik. "Someone else is supporting them remotely in their data center and they're serving them to us over the Internet."

Switching to the remote e-mail server and eliminating costs associated with specialized software, virus checking, etc., will save the airport roughly $40,000 per year, estimates Kourik. "That's significant," he reflects.

Using a provider like Microsoft allows the airport to leverage the large organization's economy of scale to deliver multiple services that would otherwise eat up the time of airport staff, explains Kourik. In addition to email services, the Microsoft Office 365 service will provide the airport with worldwide video conferencing and other capabilities.

"I can stop worrying about the routine stuff and start concentrating on our core services to our customers," concludes Kourik.

Green Tech

Sustainability played a starring role in the airport's overall Green Build expansion, and technology upgrades were no exception. Existing liquid crystal screens with compact fluorescent lights were replaced with edge-lit light-emitting diode (LED) backlit displays.

Each of the slim-profile 55-inch Samsung displays installed in the baggage claim area and on the back wall of the ticket counter weighs 80 pounds less than the previous LCDs with fluorescent lighting behind them. This makes the new units easier to maintain, notes Kourik. 

On average, the LED units also use about 40% less power and generate much less heat than previous screens. "You can hold your hand up to it and you don't really feel heat, whereas with the fluorescent display screens, you can feel that heat," he relates.

With a total of 250 new Samsung displays, the energy efficiencies and savings multiply accordingly. Now, the airport doesn't have to compensate for all those additional BTUs with its cooling system.

The new CUPPS similarly supports SAN's sustainability goals. The SITA kiosks are "one of the greenest, with the smallest physical footprint in the industry," notes Bauer. In addition, both the CUPPS and FIDS systems are designed to power down automatically after an extended period of non-usage, which reduces electricity consumption.

As SAN's new technological investments come online, Kourik and his staff continue to ensure that the airport is leveraging them to the fullest extend possible, to reap the greatest rewards. "We've implemented a lot of things," he says. "All of them take time to become fully institutionalized and for us to start seeing the full benefits of all of it."

Subcategory: 
IT/Communications

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