Creating and building the innovative technological airports of the modern world
Construction projects are often complex ecosystems, with layer upon layer of stakeholder. From the contractors on the ground, the construction managers right through to the executive teams, each party has a key role in the development of any project. But one particular stakeholder is proving more and more integral to the successful delivery of any construction and that is the customer and end user.
When the project in question is the construction of a technologically advanced airport, created to host an annual passenger capacity of more than 200mn, the complexity of that ecosystem only intensifies.
“Airports are very complex infrastructures, far more complex than the building of any other infrastructure project,” says Dr. Ozan Köseoğlu, Chief Technical Officer in the construction industry.
“It’s a massive building, utilising large scale technologies and a hugely complex ecosystem. So, the best way of managing that is to understand how the whole place and the whole ecosystem is going to work together, and then you can bind them together.”
Köseoğlu has built an entire career around construction, construction managmeent and technology and engineering projects. Over the course of his career, he has worked on major airport projects in the United Kingdom and the Middle East and it is this experience that he feels grants him a unique understanding as to how the construction of airports is continuously evolving.
“The construction of a major project like an airport requires much more management. I’d manage the whole design engineering construction and day-to-day operations,” he says, “as well as communicating and collaborating with the individuals involved and the digital platforms implemented to bring together that whole infrastructure ecosystem.
“It’s certainly going to be a new way of managing the whole lifecycle of construction with stakeholders.”
The lifecycle of construction, and the collaboration between the various different stakeholders is becoming increasingly defined by technology and innovative tools in order successfully deliver a project in the most efficient way possible.
Köseoğlu believes that this changing landscape of airport construction and technology can be broken down into two parts – the project phase and the operation phase.
Throughout the project phase, technology has seen the time and cost of a project come under greater scrutiny.
An airport by its very nature creates a more demanding environment, with governments expecting a certified completion date in order to begin full scale operations, clients and client representatives needing to be available and ready and even commercial operators looking to be in house and ready for operation to begin.
To this end, Köseoğlu notes that it requires a more focused approach to the implementation of technology in order to navigate what he describes as a more “commercial constraint” environment.
“The only way to make something really efficient and robust, like an airport, is to readjust the very nature of how you can deliver a product,” he says.
“Which is where technology comes in. It’s very critical to apply technology in the right way and the right places in order to deliver the very best project we can in the limited time environment.”
As Köseoğlu notes, the complete lifecycle of an airport project does not end with the finished construction. Once the airport goes into the operations phase, the requirments of the stakeholders shift but the complexity of the infrastructure remains.
Through operations, the end user and the passengers become the key cog. Airports after all are a business venture and so they must be able to make money from the airlines that use them and the passengers that travel through.
In order to do this, passengers must enjoy the airport and journey experience.
This is where the successful implementation of technology proves crucial once again.
“When passengers commit to a flight, the experience starts the moment they set foot inside the airport doors,” says Köseoğlu.
“Through technology systems, passengers can access their terminal, get into check in areas and interact with digital platforms to retrieve their tickets and boarding passes. So, the technology we use helps facilitate a greater experience as it creates efficiency in the administrative parts of the journey so that they can enjoy the retail or entertainment parts of the airport.”
As businesses focus their attentions on improving the passenger journey experience, they require an understanding of their behaviours and their demands. In order to glean this information, Köseoğlu notes that airport businesses will explore data capture technology to form a clearer picture of the modern-day passenger and how best to serve them.
This is important as airports, when fully operational, will continue to be driven by business requirements which are ever evolving.
“The airports will continue to evolve and develop,” Köseoğlu says. “They will get bigger and so the requirements and the demands will continue to get bigger. This is the future for any airport but at the end of the day, it will always come back to the client and the passenger.”
The operating phase of the modern airport is reliant on the successful implementation of that “efficient and robust” IT infrastructure. This is the very core foundation on which the rest of the airport can build upon and grow.
Without it, everything else will fall apart at the first hurdle.
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“A challenge for any airport of scale is translating the backbone of IT and technical achievement into the operations phase,” says Köseoğlu. “You need to have your mechanical systems working and your IT systems otherwise how can you successfully operate, let alone grow or continue innovate?”
This is where partners and technology vendors prove a key addition to any infrastructure project. The right partner and the right vendor will be one that will remain with the business from the very start of the project, through to the operation phase and beyond.
Köseoğlu belives that in order to be a successful partner one must work closely with the business throughout the entire lifescyle, including continuous operations.
As noted, the airport construction industry is changing and becoming more technologically advanced which in itself means time constraints and commercial constraints are getting stronger.
Business are redefining their own business models in order to adapt and thrive in this changing landscape, and Köseoğlu believes that vendors must adopt this same level of cultural change.
“Partners need to change and innovate alongside you throughout the journey,” he says. “The partners that invest into their business and look at ways of disrupting their own way of working, they are the ones that will stay with you and continue to provide value as you move into the future.”
Industries and sectors all around the world are being redefined by technology, but with technology the transformation never truly ends. The technologies of today may not be the technologies of tomorrow and businesses are becoming more aware of the need to constantly innovate and improve.
Köseoğlu recognises that this is the market he is in today, but notes that while we have one eye firmly on the future we should not forget the past.
“There are strong examples of the successful construction and operation of incredibly innovative airport projects and we must take lessons from these into the future,” he says.
“In order to do that you need to have an open door towards technologies, you have to continuously look for ways in which you can innovate the business.
“In doing so, it not only means you have the most innovative operations, it means you are operating in an intelligent way in order to better serve everyone in that infrastructure ecosystem.”