VANCOUVER — The Vancouver International Airport Authority has combined 22 different airline data networks, plus its telephone and video surveillance systems, on to one network.

The airport installed the last of its 1,100-plus Internet Protocol

(IP) phones last month, completing a year-long project involving Telus Business Solutions, the professional services organization of telecommunications carrier Telus Corp. and equipment manufacturer Cisco Systems Inc.

“This Cisco Intelligent Airport Solution is allowing applications like common-use terminal equipment, self-service kiosks, wireless baggage reconciliation systems as well as Internet access for business travellers throughout the airport complex,” said Gilles St. Hilaire, Cisco Systems’ regional vice-president for enterprise, Western Canada.

St. Hilaire spoke to about 50 international journalists and analysts at a press conference Monday at the international departure terminal of Vancouver International Airport (YVR), which is combining voice, video and data on to the same network. The press conference was held in conjunction with Cisco’s annual partner summit, which continues until Thursday at the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Kevin Molloy, YVR’s vice-president for simplified passenger travel and chief information officer, said the facility can process more travellers in less space using self-service kiosks connected to the same network.

YVR plans to let passengers check in from hotels, convention centres and other off-site facilities after the 2010 Winter Olympics.

“Instead of a million passengers arriving at the airport to check in the morning after the closing ceremonies … when they go to the airport all they have to do is go straight to security and then to the boarding gate,” Molloy said.

Any hotel or other facility wanting to set up self-service kiosks needs a broadband Internet connection and a Cisco switch with virtual private networking (VPN) capabilities, said Judy May, Cisco’s industry solutions manager for transportation.

At its domestic departure terminal, YVR has already replaced 48 full-service check-in booths and 24 self-service kiosks, allowing about 20 per cent more passengers to check in within the same area, Molloy said. This will save YVR the expense of having to expand its terminal, even though the airport serves more than 16 million passengers per year.

The self-service kiosks not only save space for the airport but help airlines cut labour costs by reducing the amount of time it takes for check-in clerks to process passengers, Molloy added.

In addition to self-service kiosks and IP phones, YVR’s network supports wireless luggage-tracking sensors, 1,500 television screens and 1,000 close-circuit cameras. Prior to the Cisco installation, the TVs and security cameras operated on a separate coaxial cable network. Now they hook into the converged network with Ethernet connections, Molloy said.

This lets airport security staff that live video feeds and previously-recorded video content from personal computers. It also gives airport security staff the ability to videotape luggage searches and allow passengers to watch the search on tablet PCs connected to the wireless network, instead of having to walk to the location where the bags are being searched.

The addition of video to the network may require a network upgrade to 10 Gigabits per second in the future, Molloy said. Currently, the network operates at 1 Gbps in the core, allowing transfer rates of 100 Mbps to edge devices.

Although YVR could add network devices from other manufacturers, it plans to keep a Cisco-only shop for the time being, Molloy said, because it’s easier to make sure the network is fast and reliable when only one vendor’s equipment is used.

Molloy said the network is monitored all the time by YVR’s IT staff using Cisco tools on various workstations. If the monitoring software detects a bottleneck, one of the 30 tech support employees will be paged over the wireless network.

Telus Business Solutions installed the network and supports it.


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