Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/11/22/airport_bandwidth/

How much bandwidth will next gen airports need?

Help airports offload data - opt for an enhanced patdown

By Robert Blincoe

Posted in Data Networking, 22nd November 2010 13:17 GMT

Our US readers contemplating flying cross country travel this week might be putting worries about the data and power impact of air travel to the back of their minds.

But if they do opt for that enhanced pat-down they might comfort themselves with the knowledge they are helping offload some of the bandwidth and power a modern aerodrome sucks up.

Airports need to be jacked up to the gills with ubiquitous systems requiring increasingly high levels of computational power - intelligent automation; unobtrusive safety and security; passengers and their devices; processing of goods and luggage; information and transportation systems; and all those shops.

So what's needed? The requirements involve fixed and mobile appliances, so an intelligent, adaptive, self-organising and self-managing wired and wireless infrastructure is going to fit the bill.

And this is what we're looking at according to the TINA (The INtelligent Airport) project being carried out by the University of Cambridge, London's UCL and the University of Leeds, in collaboration with a number of industrial partners.

The group recently declared that a largish airport, wanting info displays, surveillance video cameras, biometric scanners hung from doors, comms for all, private and public lans, and tags tracking bags and staff, the network must support:

The aggregate mean data rate is predicted at 65.7 Gb/s with an assumed peak rate of 100 Gb/s.

TINA's aim is to develop the wired and wireless networks to meet these potential requirements for future "intelligent airports". The project's Professor Ian White, from Cambridge, says the team wanted to replace the existing approach of just adding new services on top of old.

“If you have a new service - a cellular system, or distribution of wireless services over a building, currently many airports will just overlay new system separately and on top. It's very expensive,” he says.

“Could we have a single wired and wireless infrastructure with a batch of base stations. Add a new service, just add a new box.”

The system has to be scalable, secure, and upgradeable.

The bandwidth figures were cooked up a couple of years back, following lots of simulating on how people move around airports, and modelling situations such as planes arriving. But according to one of the team, Cambridge's Professor Richard Penty, they're still about right.

Example imagery produced by AIT millimetre wave airport scanner. Credit: TSA

“Biometric data for identifying people hasn't taken off as much as we thought,” he says though conceding that “its very hard to extract traffic data from operators so we can't be sure”.

Breakthroughs by TINA include determining new algorithms for addressing and routing in combined wired and wireless environments. White points out that with one million or more RFID tags around, each having an address, it presents a major switching and routing challenge. “Ethernet is limited in way it can address such huge numbers without requiring a lot of switching,” he says.

The team have developed a modified Ethernet system, called Moose (multi-layer origin-organised scalable ethernet), to simplify the routing.

Also it has designed a new form of wireless signal distribution network where multi service antenna units cooperate, not only to provide communication but also ID and location services. Radio over fibre systems have been developed to allow such signal distribution at RF frequencies while being agnostic to the exact radio service in the single unified infrastructure.

Penty says the distributed antenna system approach for comms “requires about 25 per cent, we believe, of the system power than single antenna solutions for similar levels of coverage. “

The TINA project hasn't yet agreed a trial but are in discussions with airport operators and other sectors, as well.

Other developments since the project started include an ongoing /discussion about the use of mobile phones as passenger boarding cards via a 2D bar code sent to the phone. Penty says some implementations are about to happen, but “of course not everyone has a phone or would want to provide their number or be able to display the bar code. So there's some fragmentation in approach here.” ®