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11 August 2017

HOK’s Al Lyons: Leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT) in Airports

LaGuardia Airport Central Terminal BAl Lyons, director of IT + electronic systems for HOK’s global engineering group, describes how the firm’s experts incorporate smart building systems in airport terminals.

Excerpted from Passenger Terminal World:

Today, Internet of Things (IoT) technologies can be implemented at the start of a project, before heavy construction activities begin, to provide airport terminal operators and airlines with real-time information about the impact of construction on the passenger experience.

HOK’s technology specialists enable operators to use IoT to measure and report on traffic dwell times and queue lengths at arrivals, departures, roadways and curbsides; passenger dwell times and queue lengths at check-in, baggage drop, security screening and customs areas; dwell times at shops and restaurants; and key performance indicators that can be measured during construction and throughout the terminal’s life.

This real-time information about the impact of construction on specific parts of the passenger experience allows terminal operators to make on-the-fly adjustments that keep their passengers happy.

Airport operators can also use IoT to track wheelchairs, baggage carts and other equipment so that they can study their use and quickly locate their mobile assets. IoT apps, beacons and connected sensors can also help passengers find their way to the locations and services they need.

HOK’s design teams are leveraging passive optical network (PON) technology, predominantly used by the service provider market (such as Verizon FiOS) and now available in improved commercial versions, in airport terminals and other large scale projects. The PONs rely on fiber optic cables, that offer increased bandwidth capacity, while using significantly less power, space and cable than conventional copper cable-based networks.

With this PON technology, the maximum cable length between the active equipment and the user outlet is 20km (12.4 miles) – 200 times longer than the 100m (330ft) limit of conventional copper networks. This makes PON technology ideal for airport terminal projects where space is at a premium. In addition to their long reach, PONs offer high reliability, so airports can expect less than 32 seconds of unplanned annual downtime.

Integrating IoT technology and PONs into airport terminal design, as HOK is doing for LaGuardia Airport’s Central Terminal B replacement project in New York, generates substantial first-cost and long-term operational savings for airports, and benefits airlines and tenants – all while helping to create a better travel experience for guests.

In the “American Upgrade” article in the same issue of PTW, Lyons describes how technological improvements could help ease congestion in many airports. “Today, you have three separate queues for customs, security and check-in,” says Lyons. “That requires a lot of space. If you could integrate those three processes into one, you could probably fit it into existing structures more easily.”