IoT Manages Conditions, Assets for Istanbul Airport

By Claire Swedberg

A LoRaWAN-based solution is bringing visibility to assets, equipment and cargo, thereby decreasing energy consumption, improving passenger comfort, making operations more efficient and reducing flight delays.

Istanbul Airport has deployed an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) system that tracks its thousands of assets, using a LoRaWAN-based network utilizing integrated circuits supplied by global semiconductor company Semtech. The solution was deployed by Skysens.

Istanbul Airport is a recent construction, and the facility is being built in four stages. The construction's groundbreaking was in 2013, and the facility opened a main terminal for passenger service in 2018. The terminal is the largest building for such purposes in the world, and the airport continues to expand. Once construction is complete, which is expected to happen around 2025, there will be eight runways and a capacity of 200 million passengers annually. The airport will serve 300 direct flight destinations, and the entire indoor and outdoor area will span 70 million square feet.

Skysens' Burak Polat

To manage operations, assets and cargo moving within the facility, the airport sought an IoT system that could automatically locate vehicles, equipment and packages being carried in and out of each aircraft. It also required cold chain monitoring for food and beverages, as well as other temperature-sensitive materials, and to be able to monitor energy, water and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment.

The airport began working with Skysens to deploy a solution in mid-2018. The companies launched the technology in phases, with a few small use cases, and have since been expanding the system. Skysens, an IoT network solution provider based in Turkey, provides solutions for asset tracking, smart energy grid monitoring, and agriculture and food processing. For the airport, the management of equipment and assets within such a large area was a challenge the managers hoped to address with IIoT technology.

"The main purpose was tracking the condition of the static and movable assets, with location tracking as a side application," says Burak Polat, Skysens' CEO. The deployment, therefore, focuses on the condition of the facility's equipment, as well as understanding where tools and equipment are located when they're needed, thereby reducing the amount of time employees spend looking for missing items or physically viewing conditions measurements throughout the terminal or beyond. "Mostly," he states, "we support industrial monitoring requirements for energy, temperature, pressure, working condition and location."

Skysens had installed thousands of its sensors to track the equipment's condition and location. The sensors come with Semtech integrated circuits to forward LoRaWAN-based transmissions related to either location, conditions or both. The data is captured by Skysen's end-modules (gateways) deployed around the airport, both indoors and outdoors. The gateways forward sensor data to the network server via either Wi-Fi, a cellular connection or an Ethernet cord. The data is managed on Skysens' IoT platform. "Most of the applications are being aware of the environment and the operation," Polat says, such as viewing whether power sources are working properly.

Sensors are attached to HVAC and other environmental equipment. Each sensor captures temperature and humidity data, then forwards that information at pre-set intervals. The data can then be managed by the software. If it detects changes in conditions (such as the temperature exceeding an acceptable threshold), an alert can be issued in real time, or the data can prompt an automatic response in the HVAC system to modify the heating or cooling. The system can also identify whether coolers or electrical closets are opened, based on temperature changes.

The Skysens' software provides analytics so that airport management can view patterns and adjust operations accordingly. The airport's goal is to leverage the collected data to gain energy savings, by identifying any overheating or cooling—either in real time or as a pattern—and to then address such issues. For asset management, the sensors can provide data regarding where each item is located. The sensors have built-in GPS units for location management when used outdoors, and they enable LoRa-based location data indoors so that airport management can identify the locations of goods inside the terminal or in other buildings.

With GPS data, for instance, airport personnel can know the locations of outdoor assets, such as vehicles and aircraft loading equipment, within a range of 1 to 3 meters. Indoors, the LoRa network can provide the locations of items within zones. That means staff members can view where luggage carriers, passenger transport vehicles, wheelchairs or cleaning equipment are located without having to physically search for those items, thereby making their work more efficient and passenger service faster.

In bathrooms, Skysens' sensors come with touchscreens to provide easy functionality for passengers to provide customer feedback. For instance, a person could press a "smiley" prompt to indicate the bathroom is clean and well-equipped, or another prompt to indicate if soap, towels or toilet paper levels require replenishing. In addition, the data can enable alerting functionality. If an asset is being removed from its authorized area, for example, an alert can be issued to the appropriate manager, or be displayed on the software dashboard.


Smetech's Pierre Gelpi

Some sensors enable users to prompt an alarm in the event of an emergency, such as if someone needs medical attention. The sensor sends not only an assistance request to the software, but also the sensor's location as the request is being made. With the technology in place, the airport's management hopes to reduce operational costs—for instance, by optimizing ambient air conditions or lighting throughout the buildings—based on passenger and personnel comfort, and to reduce energy consumption. That, Polat says, also means passengers have a better experience in the terminal buildings.

"In addition to that," Polat says, "monitoring all fault-capable infrastructures, such as lighting [and] air conditioning at the micro-level, provides passengers better quality of service." He adds, however, that the efficiency of passenger service and aircraft service, based on visibility into the locations of assets, means that there will be reduced aircraft dwell times at the airport, resulting in fewer delays.

The data is managed and displayed for users via a SCADA [supervisor control and data acquisition]-style control system architecture. "We provide different applications for different usages," Polat says. "For other more complicated applications, we provide additional graphic screens" beyond the SCADA-style displays. The software can be integrated with the airport's SAP software. The solution was taken live at the new airport before it opened to passengers, for use by maintenance crews and management in collecting data.

Semtech's chipset enables the data transition via LoRaWAN, explains Pierre Gelpi, Smetech's LoRa vertical marketing director. "LoRaWAN is perfectly suited for this kind of scenario," Gelpi explains, "as it provides the most cost-effective infrastructure for both indoor and outdoor coverage and geolocation." Indoor technologies like Wi-Fi would not be able to manage the level of data the system would create, he notes, and "outdoor technologies like cellular connectivity struggle to cover large buildings."

The solution is designed to be expandable. The airport can simply add more sensors to the system as necessary and then begin managing data related to each new use case. "We expect to expand to double the number of sensors," Polat predicts. In addition, Skysens is currently in discussions with other LoRaWAN network operators about extending the wireless coverage to other airports, in order to enable the management of air cargo shipments between airports, via LoRa sensors attached to that cargo. "This will add up to a whole new horizon to the airport IoT," Polat says.