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  • Improving the Experience: Shenzhen Airport Evolves Intelligence with the Huawei Horizon Digital Platform

    Improving the Experience: Shenzhen Airport Evolves Intelligence with the Huawei Horizon Digital Platform

"Our mission is to explore a new way to build 4-in-1 airports and pilot smart airport construction in China."

"Shenzhen Airport has undergone so many major changes. It's only been a month since I last took a plane," said one passenger in surprise, dragging his suitcase at the boarding gate. It now takes just over ten minutes to complete all the necessary procedures and travel from the airport entrance to the boarding gate. The passenger continued: "Shenzhen Airport has surprised me a lot this year, every time I go my experience is always different. Just last week, we were required to have our electronic boarding passes or ID cards scanned before boarding, but now we can directly board the plane. It's so convenient."

The use of FR has eliminated the need for paper boarding passes, reducing flight delays and ensuring punctual flight departures. These developments have been made possible from the joint efforts of Shenzhen Airport and Huawei. From 2017 to 2019, the two worked together under a strategic cooperation framework agreement, which determines the airport's transformation direction. The agreement not only comprehensively accelerates and optimizes the construction of a smart airport, but also maintains Shenzhen Airport's leading position in China's civil aviation industry. In addition, by following the pilot benchmark concept, Shenzhen Airport has actively explored reforming and innovating national airport management systems, as well as building 4-in-1 airports — that is, airports that are safe, green, smart, and cultural. It has also undertaken the mission of constructing world-class city/airport clusters for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

For Zheng Hongbo, Chairman of the Shenzhen Airport Group, Shenzhen Airport's digital transformation aims are to build a smart and innovative airport that can serve and benefit people's livelihood. Oriented toward passenger requirements, the airport optimizes its business processes and management methods, to achieve its ultimate goal of ensuring more reliable security, more efficient operations, and more considerate services through digital transformation.

Transform to Be Intelligent: The Best Digital Airport Experience

Currently, more than 30 projects have been implemented for the first phase of Shenzhen Airport smart construction, enabling intelligent airport operations, security, and services.

Intelligence is embedded into boarding gates at Shenzhen Airport and currently, the airport has deployed self-service kiosks and enabled FR-based boarding for all domestic departure boarding gates. It only takes one to two seconds on average for each passenger to pass through the turnstile after quick and accurate identity verification. Smooth travel with one ID, as well as full-process self-service boarding, have become a reality at Shenzhen Airport.

In 2018, Shenzhen Airport applied big data and other new technologies to run differentiated security checks in China, an achievement acknowledged within the industry. The airport launched FR-based Security Check, Intelligent Security Check Channel, and Easy Security Check platforms in 2019. These implement full-process self-service check, further improving the passenger experience.

Meanwhile, by focusing on passenger flows, Shenzhen Airport has introduced technologies to promote airport-wide paperless convenient travel. Such technologies deploy self-service check-in, baggage drop, and boarding kiosks on a large scale, and transform passenger mobility modes based on passenger profiles, digital connections, business service transformation, and personalized services. In doing so, Shenzhen Airport has developed one-stop services for a better overall passenger experience.

These one-stop services use the Huawei Horizon Digital Platform to integrate business data on public safety, passengers, airlines, and airports. By implementing data interaction on the integration platform, one-stop services allow passengers to enjoy E2E convenient travel across eight business scenarios in terminals.

Intelligent Stand Allocation: Four Hours to One Minute

It can take up to 30 minutes for passengers arriving at remote stands to reach the main terminal, despite being only a few hundred meters away on airside transfer buses. Quite simply, remote stands often lead to passengers becoming frustrated.

Shenzhen Airport officially rolled out the intelligent stand allocation system at the end of November 2019. The system first introduced AI algorithms to airports in China, helping Shenzhen Airport allocate stands automatically and intelligently. Compared with manual allocation, the intelligent stand allocation system slashes the time required to designate stands for more than 1000 flights per day from four hours to just one minute, with a rolling update every ten minutes. By deploying this system, Shenzhen Airport has greatly improved its bridge-to-aircraft docking rate, as well as bridge turnover rate, enabling more passengers to directly board the aircraft through bridges.

The intelligent stand allocation system converges over 170 core data objects with more than 60 operation rules, and uses AI algorithm models to allocate stands intelligently and efficiently, encompassing the full spectrum of airport processes, scenarios, and elements.

Keeping an Airport Running Smoothly with a Single Operational Map

Airports must have an Intelligent Operation Center (IOC) to provide technical support to keep on top of more than 1000 flights per day. The airport IOC serves as a smart brain: an intelligent, efficient, collaborative, and comprehensive operations control system that can keep an airport running smoothly. In 2019, based on the IOC, Shenzhen Airport's on-time departure performance rate exceeded 87%, with October, November, and December's rates exceeding 90%. The airport ranks among the top in China due to its stable on-time departure performance rate of over 80% for 16 consecutive months.

The IOC large screen in the Airport Operations Center (AOC) of Shenzhen Airport displays the overall airport running status, such as the on-time departure performance rate, flight execution status, as well as flight arrivals and departures of that day, which are dynamically updated. The IOC supports multiple functions, including 3D airport panorama, diversified information display, easy switchover between real-time, airport-wide surveillance images, as well as thermal imaging of crowd density within terminals. Using One Map, the AOC implements global precise visualization, intelligent accurate prediction, and efficient multi-domain collaboration between landside, airside, and ground traffic data.

Pan Peigen is the CTO of the Transportation Solution Department at Huawei Enterprise Business Group, owner of Shenzhen Airport's One Map for Operations Solution, and Chief Application Architect of the Shenzhen Airport Project (Phase 1). He believes that the airport IOC demonstrates how data drives businesses, as it integrates OT with IT, new data with old, and data with businesses. Through digitizing content, the IOC implements global dynamic visualization and collaboration of complex business flows, while continuously improving core indicators such as on-time departure performance rate, to provide a better passenger travel experience.

One Network for Security Enables Smarter Security Management

Security is the lifeline of civil aviation, as well as an important focus of Shenzhen Airport's smart airport construction. In light of this, Shenzhen Airport has built One Network for Security across all scenarios.

Shenzhen Airport uses the smart airport Security Operations Center (SOC) to build a comprehensive security support system, which provides security protection from ground to air and produces a technology-intensive, active system. The system can accurately identify potential risks, efficiently handle exceptions, and globally control airport security status. It intelligently upgrades passive airport security management to active, accurate security risk identification, prevention, and control.

One-Stop Services, One Map for Operations, and One Network for Security are all developed using the Huawei Horizon Digital Platform, with multiple new technologies integrated, such as big data, AI, ICP, and video cloud.

The Digital Base of Smart Airports: Huawei Horizon Digital Platform

For the first time, the annual passenger throughput of Shenzhen Airport exceeded 50 million in 2019. It was also the first time in a single year that the airport managed to transport five million international passengers. The statistics demonstrate not only the airport's growing business volume, but also the greater pressure it faces in terms of security operation support capability and operating services. Therefore, Shenzhen Airport urgently needs the integration of new technologies and businesses to enhance its operational quality and efficiency.

Speaking about Shenzhen Airport's ongoing digital transformation, Wang Guoyu, General Manager of the Transportation Solution Department at Huawei Enterprise Business Group, said that digital transformation will be the core strategy of the entire civil aviation industry in the future. Only through the continuous exploration and innovation of industry pioneers can this strategy be achieved. Through its accumulated digital transformation technologies and experience, Huawei hopes to be an enabler of smart airports and achieve a wider range of digital civil aviation.

From Huawei's perspective, managing, controlling, and streamlining existing business flows, as well as leveraging data value, are the major digital transformation challenges faced by Shenzhen Airport and others in China. Shenzhen Airport's digital transformation can be implemented across three aspects: customers, which include airlines, passengers, and merchants; data-driven business flows, which include global dynamic visualization and collaboration of complex business flows; and digital ecosystems and platforms, which encompass a digital full-service chain based on Real-time, On-demand, All-online, DIY, and Social (ROADS) experiences.

"Shenzhen Airport wants to cooperate with a firm to continuously promote its digital transformation. The challenges it faces are similar to those of Huawei, and so the Huawei Horizon Digital Platform plays a key role in our cooperation," said Pan Peigen. He believes that it is important to first establish connections with Shenzhen Airport's applications and businesses first, before deploying the Huawei Horizon Digital Platform. An all-scenario, full-process, all-element solution needs to be developed for the airport, as well as help resolve its flight flow issues, such as visualized flight flow monitoring and collaboration, and decision-making.

Shenzhen Airport focuses on developing platforms during its smart airport construction, and works with its partners to build platform ecosystems. Following a "strategy-driven, as well as unified planning, construction, and operation" development path, Shenzhen Airport has established a new digital platform to integrate IoT, big data, AI, video cloud, GIS, and ICP.

Based on these infrastructures and platforms, Shenzhen Airport has planned and built nearly 100 smart projects over two phases. More than 30 projects in Phase 1 have already been implemented, and over 60 projects in Phase 2 are being put forward. It is estimated that all projects will be completed in 2020.

From Intelligent to High-Quality Development

Shenzhen Airport has become increasingly intelligent through digital transformation. Multiple intelligent projects, such as differentiated security check and intelligent stand allocation have been successfully implemented and promoted nationwide. Currently, airport operations and the passenger experience across China are evolving from intelligent to high-quality.

On December 10, 2019, Shenzhen Airport and Huawei released the Shenzhen Airport Digital Transformation White Paper at the Smart Airport Construction Meeting held by the CAAC Central and Southern Regional Administration. The White Paper is a demonstration of Shenzhen Airport's digital transformation experience and smart airport construction to be shared with the industry. It aims to inspire thoughts of the national civil aviation industry on smart airport construction.

In addition, the CAAC Central and Southern Regional Administration officially released its Guidelines to Support Shenzhen Airport in Piloting Smart Airport Construction. This document demonstrates the CAAC's recognition of Shenzhen Airport's achievements in actively exploring digital transformation, as well as promoting smart airport construction. It also provides strong policy support for Shenzhen Airport to continuously deepen digital transformation and comprehensively drive pilot projects of smart airport construction.

The release of these two documents marks the achievements made by Shenzhen Airport and Huawei in digital transformation and smart airport construction, which have been recognized and can be shared to benefit more passengers. Shenzhen Airport has been a success story of smart airport implementation in areas within the CAAC Central and Southern Regional Administration's jurisdiction since the CAAC signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Huawei.

Zheng Hongbo has summarized Shenzhen Airport's practices in digital transformation and smart airport construction in recent years: "Driven by the new concept of digital transformation, we comprehensively plan new blueprints for smart airport construction and build digital new platforms by category. In addition, we actively use new technologies, such as big data and AI to innovate new smart airport construction modes. As a result, we have preliminarily gained new ground in airport security, operations, and services."