Heathrow CIO: New IT strategy to improve passenger experience

By Sooraj Shah
08 May 2012 View Comments

As arguments rage over queuing times at UK airports, Heathrow Airport is investing in a new technology strategy to improve passengers' experience, according to its CIO Philip Langsdale.

"We want it to be more reliable, punctual and more consistent with what passengers want – and an effective place for the airlines who use it," Langsdale told Computing.

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A number of investment areas are core to the programme, including the "Real-time Heathrow" project.

"Real-time Heathrow is the process of using the information that the airport, airlines and all other players involved gather, so that we can use that information in real time to plan resources better. If something has stopped working, we know about it immediately," said Langsdale.

Information from airlines, air traffic control and the airport's internal systems is collated using Pega software.

"We're using Pega to manage and present the information to all parties involved so that there is consistent information going back to them all. It's real-time monitoring and management of the airport using a complex IT system, which provides active information from a range of sources," he said.

Another key project is the airport's £1.3bn investment in Terminal 2, of which 10 per cent is being ploughed into IT.

"We're using technology to make the most modern terminal we can. We're looking at different ways of using CCTV, bagging drops and emerging technologies," he said.

Heathrow is also creating a virtual baggage system, simplifying the disparate systems used in each terminal.

"At the moment, the baggage systems are very terminal-based, and so we want to start connecting them automatically together. We've dug a tunnel between Terminals 3 and 5, and are implementing a lot of technology in the tunnel so we can track bags with RFIDs.

"We're starting to think of both terminals as a single, packaged system, eventually extending this across the rest of the airport," explained Langsdale.

"We want to offer a consistent service to passengers, particularly in the transfer of passengers from Terminals 3 and 5, to ensure that their baggage is delivered on time," he added.

An Airport Collaborative Decision Making (ACDM) system is also being deployed at the airport, which provides active airfield management, a single airfield management system and a single airport operations centre.

The system is a joint initiative with airline operators, ground handlers, the National Air Traffic Services (NATS), Heathrow Airport and the Central Flow Management Unit.

"We're seeing good early results from that, in terms of a reduction in taxi run times, and CO2 emissions," he said.

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