By air, by land, or by sea? Which do you reckon is the most demanding means of travel these days? In asking so, I’d like to steer your thoughts to the institutions and businesses that provide transportation in these myriad segments.
Hands down, my pick would be aviation; out of which the heaviest burden falls on any international airport operating 24/7. Let’s take Melbourne Airport in Australia for example. In a typical year, some 32 million passengers transit through its doors – almost a third more than Australia’s entire population. If you think that’s a lot; that figure looks set to double to 64 million by 2033.
As the threat of terrorism grows, so will the criteria for stringent checks. And as travelers get more affluent, so will their expectations. Put the two together, you get somewhat of a paradoxical dilemma that needs to be addressed.
So how does Australia’s only major 24/7 airport cope with these present and future demands?
First Class Security Challenges
Beginning with security, airports have come to terms with the fact that sole passport checks in the immigration process isn’t sufficient. Thanks to Hollywood movies and their depictions of how easy it is to get hold of “fake” passports – think Jason Bourne but in the context of a “bad” guy out to harm innocents, a large majority of the public within the age of reasoning would have to agree that more detailed levels of screening are a necessity.
“Some of the things we need to look at are new technologies associated with biometrics, new methods of running through our security and our protocols. Biometrics will require significant compute power and significant storage ability,” says Paul Bunker, Melbourne Airport’s Business Systems & ICT Executive.
With biometrics, Bunker is referring to breakthroughs such as fingerprint and facial recognition. While these data dense technologies are typically developed in silos, airports like the Melbourne Airport need them to function coherently as part of its integrated security ecosystem and processed in near real-time to ensure authorities have ample time to respond to threats.
First Class Service Challenges
Then there are the all-important passengers who travel in and out for a plethora of reasons: some for business, some for leisure, and some on transit to other destinations.
Whichever the case, most, if not all of them, expect a seamless experience. In this regard, it means free from the hassles of waiting for long periods to clear immigration, picking up luggage at belts almost immediately after, and the list goes on.
With the airport’s IT systems increasingly strained in managing these operational outcomes, a more sustainable way forward is inevitable.
First Class Transformative Strategy
Melbourne Airport has historically been more reactive and focused heavily on maintenance but that has changed in recent times. Terminal 4, which opened in August 2015, became the airport’s first terminal to embrace digital innovation, boasting Asia-Pacific’s first end-to-end self-service model from check-in kiosks to automated bag drop facilities.
This comes against the backdrop of a new charter that aims to enable IT to take on a more strategic role and drive greater business value through technology platforms.
“We wanted to create a new terminal that was effectively as much as possible a fully automated terminal where each passenger had more control over the environment,” Bunker explained. “Technical challenges associated with storing massive amounts of data generated not only by our core systems but particularly by our CCTV and access control solutions is a major problem we had.”
First Class Solution
In response, Melbourne Airport implemented two VCE Vblock System 340 with a VNX5600 converged infrastructure solution featuring 250 virtual servers and 2.5 petabytes of storage capacity. Two EMC Isilon NL series clusters were further deployed at two sites for production and disaster recovery.
The new converged infrastructure has allowed Melbourne Airport to simplify its IT operations by great leaps, creating a comfortable buffer that is able to support future growth as the business matures. It has also guaranteed high availability on key applications like baggage handling and check-in, crucial in the development of Terminal 4 as a fully automated self-service terminal.
While key decision-makers may have a rational gauge on where technological trends are headed, it is far from 100%. These sweeping reforms have effectively laid the foundations to enable flexibility in adopting new technologies across the board – biometrics for security and analytics for customer experience enhancement – whenever the need calls for it. Furthermore, the airport can now do away with separate IT vendors to reduce management complexity.
Yet all these come pale in comparison to the long-term collaborative working relationship Melbourne Airport has forged with EMC to support its bid to become an industry-leading innovation driver of the future.
Read the Melbourne Airport Case Study to learn more.