The Airport eco-system is fertile ground for mobile solution vendors

Mobile solution vendors have yet to act on the potential of the airport environment when it comes to acquiring new business, says a report published independent market analyst, Datamonitor (DTM.L). The report, "Mobile vertical solutions series: The airport environment as manufacturing campus," highlights the in-depth opportunities that exist within the airport eco-system and urges vendors of enterprise mobile solutions to view it as a campus-based, extended manufacturing environment.

The existing mobile solutions aimed at the manufacturing and supply-chain industries have larger resonance within the airport industry than vendors of mobile solutions currently care to appreciate.

The airport eco-system bears huge similarity to a large-scale, process manufacturing operation, in terms of suppliers & contractors, stage-based value-add asset-tracking/management, facilities management, internal maintenance repair and operating (MRO) activities, shop-floor machine management and testing and JIT logistics and shipping.

Currently, mobility within the airport eco-system is unified at the front end by handset use, and specifically handsets from the likes of Symbol and HP. A plethora of different line of business technologies have seen independent adoption in the eco-system, making the airport site far more disjointed than a normal manufacturing operation. However, this is changing.

Devices have seen a commonality across supply, if not necessarily across use. Large-scale, two-way radio use has evolved, bar-code scanning predominantly in baggage is common-place and more recent uptake is in facilities management. Operations and site management are evolving to make use of devices with powerful imaging capabilities for displaying 'sitreps' from remote sensors, CCTV feeds, passenger imaging and further back-end statistical reporting.

Vendors should specifically look to capitalise on data applications able to run over site-based wireless local area network (wLAN), as well as mesh/ad hoc networks & WiMax (once rolled out), given the lack of airtime charges. VoIP (voice over Internet protocol), will make massive financial sense once sufficient base-stations have been rolled out for blanket terminal coverage. Standard two-way radios, wireless wide-area-networks (wWAN) and ad hoc networking will see prevalence on the apron. At the same time, handsets must still be able to make voice calls over wWAN.

"In many cases, data doesn't actually need much management from the mobile device, given the extent of back-end functionality as well as use of remote sensors, be they on a wired or wireless network," comments Nick Greenway, enterprise mobility analyst and author or the report. "Facilities management solutions place emphasis on the back-end handling of data, whereas 'shop floor' staff may need only to 'walk the perimeter', scanning bar-codes at strategic intervals to ensure inspection auditability. Once a generic, unified access infrastructure is in place, various, niche solution examples such as trolley-tracking, cleaning crew and workforce management will become increasingly appropriate."

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