• By Andrew May
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By Andrew May

Any company trying to gain visibility into its operations has likely grappled with not being able to see and act on data to improve performance. A big part of this is in disparate information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) systems. Australian business optimization and integration company Nukon integrated disparate systems at Melbourne Airport- providing a use case of how integration and harnessing real-time data can improve efficiencies in any industry.

Nukon received the TIBCO Business Innovation Excellence Award for the project. Pictured are Murray Rode (TIBCO)\, Andrew May (Nukon)\, and Gaurav Dhall (TIBCO) in Singapore\,
March 2017.

The project integrated IT and OT systems, such as baggage handling, aircraft real-time positions, and customer check-in, for a representation of all operations. The result allows airport managers, operators, and external providers to visualize potential opportunities or threats that might affect the customer's journey through the airport, and plan and react accordingly.

The problem

In a move toward smart cities,- Melbourne Airport required a view of the entire airport's operations, from customer arrival and baggage carousels, to ground operations and flight scheduling.

The solution

Multiple siloed IT and OT systems were integrated into a user-friendly interface. The aggregated data is presented on a wall of screens in the airport's new Enhanced Airport Coordination Centre and can also be displayed on a desktop computer or mobile devices.

How did we do it?

Multiple technologies were used by the team to integrate operational silos, such as landside transport, aircraft positioning, vehicle information, vehicle flow, flight schedules, fire systems, asset management systems, check in, and baggage handling. An integrated software platform was used to handle each of the following: adapt data from external systems; interpret, aggregate, and publish incoming data streams; and allow automation capabilities and integration of operational technology sources.

The general approach was to capture, process, and clean- relevant events from each disparate system and publish them to the live visual application. From there, the data could be merged, and integrated with business rules, giving operators a consolidated view of those events in real time. Without being highly integrated, this task would be challenging. An organization would need to have a large number of screens and consult a large number of systems all at the same time.

The system has these capabilities:

  • Live visual status of assets, such as moving aircraft, check-in counters, baggage carousels, and building services
  • Display of emergency (and preventative maintenance) work orders, as they happen
  • Ability to explore what if- scenarios by accessing data, applying business logic, and modeling
  • Integration with various IT or OT systems, including the Internet of Things

The main airport deliverables were:

  • Real-time geospatial mashup of data streams in a fully interactive map
  • Incident identification and management
  • Industry-leading analytics and predictive capabilities for proactive resource and demand management
  • Facilitation of collaborative decision making between airport operators, service providers, stakeholders, and airlines to improve customer service
  • Fully supported commercial off-the-shelf platform with a long-term development road map, minimizing the time to value-
  • Support for continuously working toward greater operational innovation and efficiency
  • Set of core integration technologies that enable the enterprise strategic vision

Lessons for integrating IT and OT:

  • The solution has real-use applications for industries, such as mining, manufacturing, transportation and logistics, supply chain management, and infrastructure development.
  • At this time, technology and integration is ahead of people and process, which can cause project failure.
  • Any business wanting to implement a similar system should think in terms of scale: start small, apply the right foundational systems, and then choose when to expand at relatively low cost.
  • Do not bite off everything at once, just take on a subset of systems and then expand the solution incrementally.

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About The Authors

Andrew May specializes in business optimization at Nukon, a sister company to CSIA member SAGE Automation. Nukon helps businesses understand and implement their strategic vision using technology and innovative solutions.