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Heathrow CIO pledges seamless future with £1.5bn collaborative system

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Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

The CIO of the world's busiest airport has announced that £1.5 billion will be sunk into improving real-time and decision-making software systems at Heathrow.

Philip Langsdale gave 2012's Appleton Lecture at the Institute of Engineering and Technology and explained the systems that Heathrow needed to make the airport run smoothly.

Heathrow is leaning on technology to provide the answers to its biggest problems: flow through security, baggage handling co-ordination and real time information from the "foot-front". The airport operates at 99 per cent capacity so system resilience is critical.

“Key challenges for Heathrow are managing and coping with the impact of disruption, controlling knock-on effects of delays and effective collaboration between stakeholders from different organisations within the airport," said Langsdale. "The extensive investment and technology strategy that we have deployed is aimed at overcoming these challenges."

In the event of snow or an Air Traffic Control delay, collaborative decision-making is essential.

Core to the new airport IT strategy is a central nervous system - an Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM) system currently being deployed. A collaborative initiative between the airline operators, ground handlers, the National Air Traffic Service, Heathrow Airport and the Central Flow Management Unit, the A-CDM provides active airfield management, a single airfield management system and a single airport operations centre.

We are already beginning to see the benefits of these new strategies and initiatives including better journeys, lower stack, taxi and queue times, improved resilience and punctuality, and reduced operating costs and carbon footprint.

Langsdale has been CIO at Heathrow since 2008, working previously in Asda, the BBC and as an IT advisor to British Airways. ®

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