Gatwick Airport embraces IoT and Machine Learning

As the eighth busiest airport in Europe and the largest single-runway airport in the world, London Gatwick Airport is an essential fixture for international travellers

In an effort to keep up with the demands of the digital world, Gatwick has recently announced the modernization its IT infrastructure, in partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Aruba.

Even though typical IT upgrades in airports take four years, Gatwick’s network was upgraded in just 18 months, all while avoiding downtime and instability. Work was completed overnight with just a 2 hour window for upgrades and 2 hours to roll back to the legacy network. Data links were limited with Gatwick’s old IT infrastructure, but the net network contains a cleaner meshed design providing up to 10 times more data connections. As new technologies continue emerging for consumers, the airport’s management, and the airlines as well as businesses in the airport who rely on their infrastructure, Gatwick will provide a robust backbone.

We speak to their CIO, Cathal Corcoran and Hewlett Packard Enterprise UK&I MD, Marc Waters below.

Most busy international airports have several runways and ample real estate. Gatwick, on the other hand must operate with a single runway and limited space. Maximizing efficiency is key to ensuring the airport is able to serve the needs of the UK. IoT enabled heat sensors will track movement and how busy the airport is, allowing management to better utilize their resources and improve the passenger journey through the airport. Tracking data lets the airport handle logistical issues that can’t be solved through expansion, ensuring a smoother and more efficient experience for customers and a better business foundation for airlines that operate in Gatwick.

World-Class WiFi

Smartphones, laptops, and entertainment devices have made the time-consuming process of air travel more tolerable and more productive, but serving such a large number of travellers in small spaces is a major challenge. Those in Gatwick can expect typical speeds of 30mbps, providing plenty of bandwidth for working online or streaming video while waiting. Fast and stable WiFi also provides smoother operations for airlines and other companies, enabling them to focus on offering excellent and affordable service without having to worry about outages or sluggish speeds.

Experts are good at finding great ways to utilize limited resources, which is particularly important at Gatwick. When aided by IT however, they can do even more. Machine-learning can detect busy areas in the airport through smartphones and tracking these results over the long term can provide key insights into optimizing day-to-day operations. When making decisions, Gatwick’s management will be aided with powerful data that can provide insights not attainable with more traditional technologies, and new the IT infrastructure will be a key to this analysis. Facial recognition technology will boost security as well as track late passengers, and personalized services based on smartphones or wearable technology can provide valuable updates to travellers on a personal level.

©Paul Prescott

Dealing with lost baggage can be a time-consuming and often stressful process. Armed with its new IT infrastructure, Gatwick and its airline operators are poised to offer a better alternative. Being able to track luggage and its owners creates new opportunities for simplifying the check-in and baggage claim process, helping get travellers in and out the the airport in a prompt and seamless manner.

Around 45 million people travel through Gatwick each year, and the airport’s unique constraints make operation an ongoing challenge. However, new technology offers tremendous promise that will serve Gatwick well for passengers today, and robust infrastructure provides a solid foundation for testing and implementing new technology for years to come.