Thursday, February 16, 2006

Supachai Keowsiri, TAGS IT director and the Suvarnabhumi Airport Cargo Community System (ACCS) data centre

IT systems will provide the 'intelligence' behind the new Suvarnabhumi Airport
Sasiwimon Boonruang
(Bangkok Post dd. 16 februari 2006 // DN)

Sometime this year, travellers are expected to experience the largest and most advanced airport in the region, Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Located on 20,000 rai of land some 30 kilometres east of Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi Airport's technology includes an automatic baggage handling system and Airport Information Management System (AIMS) designed to support annual traffic of 45 million passengers when opened, increasing to 100 million passengers in future. The IT systems are one of the keys to dealing with such large volumes of people.

Flight and technical test-runs were conducted towards the end of last year, during which time the IT systems were also examined for both the passenger terminal and cargo area.

The Airport Information Management System alone comprises more than 40 sub-systems, of which the major ones are the Flight Information Management System (FIMS), Passenger Processing, Airport Back Office, and the Operation Centre.

The FIMS manages general information of all flights, with its database connecting to international organisations and other airports and airlines.
The FIMS system also connects to the airport operation database, the gate management system, the flight/baggage information display system, the baggage handling system, as well as government sub-systems.

The Passenger Processing comprises the common user terminal equipment (CUTE), the passenger baggage reconciliation system and the local departure control system. CUTE helps the airport to simplify travel and transportation by speeding up passenger check-in and maximizing limited resources.

The CUTE check-in system, provided by airline IT specialist SITA, offers end-to-end connectivity from host to the airport desktop and provides for flight bookings, boarding passes, barcoded luggage tags, and connecting flights.
The Airport Back Office system provides the airport authority with an administrative management system that includes automated data workflow and synchronisation, and enterprise resource planning and management.
Sanguan Treejareonwiwat, chief operating officer, government solutions, Samart Corporation, which leads the consortium of Airport Systems Integration Specialists (ASIS) that handles the AIMS operation, noted that every single system function for day-to-day operations was managed by computer - from gates, bridges and workforce to baggage belts, lounges and other facilities.

Other operation sub-systems are the Airport Operations Database (AODB), Airport Management Database (AMDB), Integration System and Web Method software running on the AIMS network.

The Web Method program integrates to other sub-systems such as air traffic control, airline host computer, official airline guide, cargo free zone, airport maintenance facility, and the Custom Free Zone.

The operation centre houses three major systems: the airport operation centre (AOC), the security control centre (SCC), and the crisis control centre (CCC).

The AOC features event handling, situation coordination and facility inspection, while the SCC handles security through CCTV monitoring, access control, building automation system, and fire detection and alarm. And in times of crisis, the CCC has information for making decisions in case of an emergency.

The supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system installed in the AOC and SCC is used as a central monitoring and control system for the water and power supply in buildings around the airport.

Testing underway
The ASIS consortium, comprising ABB Airport Technology, Siemens, Satyam, and Samart Corp, now has AIMS installed in a temporary benchmark test lab at the airport.

"The system has been in testing for two years since we won the concession," said Mr Sanguan, adding that it is already being used for training.

The project is about 90 percent complete and once the building to house the system is finished all systems will be transferred, while some functions will be moved to the passenger terminal.

Unit and integration testing have already been done, he said, noting that the system is now ready for the final operation readiness airport test. This test is overseen by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in conjuntion with the contractors.

Future technology
Two significant areas that will continue to be developed in the future are the boarding pass and the baggage tags. The present magnetic stripe boarding pass will be changed to a 2D barcode that can store more data at a cheaper price.

Now, airlines around the world are in a transition period, so Suvarnabhumi will have to wait for the readiness of the airlines, which must use the same system throughout the world.

Meanwhile, RFID tags will replace the present barcode system for better sorting of baggage.

Today, a barcode reader is attached to the baggage carousel to sort the bags, but the accuracy and speed is limited compared to RFID technology.
When RFID is used, baggage does not need to be scanned, rather the data is automatically read and transmitted using radio signals.

However, one potential problem is that the radio frequencies for each country have not been standardised and the ICAO is now working to develop a consistent system.

The problem is not a technical one, Mr Sanguan noted.

Cargo free zone
Meanwhile, another important area for IT systems is the so-called Cargo Free Zone - an area for goods not subject to tax or duties - which is operated by Thai Airport Ground Services (TAGS). The cargo free zone comprises the cargo terminal, the value added area, the import inspection building, the export inspection building, and a check in point.

The system forms part of the Airport Cargo Community System (ACCS) data centre, which TAGS has developed as a centre with internal and external links to the cargo free zone.

Supachai Keowsiri, TAGS IT director, said the ACCS system architecture is built around a server farm using dual CPUs. The system stores imported goods information sent from standard and express couriers, and connects to the agent and brokers worldwide. Other links are to the Customs, cargo terminal operators, freight forwarders, free zone operators, logistics companies, value added storage and services as well as other government agencies.

The ACCS can integrate with multiple transportation modes, including trucks, aircraft and ships, the director noted.

The cargo free zone has been designed to support 3 million metric tons of products by the year 2010, with a target to expand the capacity to 6 million tons a year in 10 years.

The sub-systems of the ACCS include the system administration management system, declaration system, FEDI and electronic payment system, cargo management system, container X-ray management program, flight information display system, management information system, database management system, and free zone information exchange.

The container X-ray management program is capable of scanning a whole container or a large size truck with no need to unseal the packages. The scanner connects the container X-ray management program directly to the ACCS system and can handle 30 trucks per hour per route.
Site integration among all the various stakeholders is expected to be completed by next month.