Wednesday, 29 March 2017 16:20

Melbourne Airport situational awareness platform wins award

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Integration and analytics vendor Tibco Software presented its Innovator award to Melbourne Airport at the company's conference in Singapore yesterday.

Melbourne Airport's Enhanced Airport Co-ordination Centre (EACC) uses multiple Tibco products to provide situational awareness by assembling data from disparate sources.

It provides operators, planners, managers, and external providers with real-time information to support collaborative decision-making, resource-planning, and identification of incidents which affect the customer journey and overall quality of airport service.

The system uses Tibco's Enterprise Service Bus for connectivity, ActiveMatrix BusinessWorks to adapt data from external systems, StreamBase for streaming analytics, and Live Datamart for push-based real-time analytics, providing an opportunity to analyse, anticipate, and alert on important business events in real time, and act on opportunities or threats as they occur.

A Web application presents the information via a dashboard with an interactive map, so users can easily see the location of resources or the place where an incident has occurred.

Melbourne Airport ICT strategy manager Vic Raymond told iTWire that the system stems from the vision of senior managers while the airport was undergoing major construction works about three years ago. There was "a view that we could do things better", he said. With the large number of operational technology and information technology systems involved, when issues arose it was often not possible to consult all the relevant systems within the time that decisions had to be made.

Once the plans were made, it took about a year to complete the preparatory work on the systems and infrastructure, including video and voice integration, cleaning up some of the data sources, and building the control room.

The airport realised that it needed to bring in people with experience and understanding of what was required, and that led to the selection of Tibco and its local partner Nukon.

Rather than attempting a "big bang" rollout, Melbourne Airport opted to aim for a series of quick wins that would help bring the business units along with the wider project.

The strategy included using the core systems as the master data sources (avoiding duplication), and the selection of software that could be customised through configuration rather than coding.

"We've still got a long way to go," said Raymond when he received the award from Tibco chief executive Murray Rode.

"We now have the technology to have a visual overview of real-time operational activities which are occurring at the airport."

While the system is not yet evident to airport customers, it provides a foundation for further developments that will be more visible. For example, growing queues in parts of the check-in area could trigger the opening of additional counters without necessarily requiring a person to make that decision.

Also, a sudden bunching of passengers in an area of the terminal could be the first sign of a security issue, so a prompt response is important.

Future plans include the use of Tibco's Spotfire for ad hoc predictive modelling. For example, if incoming flights are delayed, multiple large aircraft can arrive more or less simultaneously. Real-time projections could allow gate changes to prevent the different sets of passengers running into each other as soon as they disembark, and perhaps alert Border Force to deploy extra staff to deal with the peak load at immigration and customs.

But even then, if the system works properly most passengers will still be unaware of its presence. Despite passenger numbers growing from 34 million a year today to around 64 million by 2033, all they will know is that they had a smooth passage through the airport.

Disclosure: The writer attended Tibco Now 2017 Singapore as a guest of the company.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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