Cairo International Airport goes high tech

Jered Stuffco
4 Min Read

CAIRO: Thanks to a newly approved, $22 million contract, Cairo International Airport’s embryonic Terminal 3 will be among the most technologically advanced in the world.

Some of the planned high-tech gadgets, which go into use when Terminal 3 opens in early 2008, are computerized self-serve kiosks, “fast-track biometric immigration gates and an efficient, number-crunching resource management system.

The new technology is being supplied and serviced by ARINC, an American aviation and communications company which has outfitted airports around the world, including Hong Kong, Manchester and Dubai.

“(This) really does bring Cairo up to, or ahead, of most international airports, says Paul Hickox, ARINC’s director of operations at the company’s London branch.

Biometric gates – which analyze intrinsic human traits like eye color, body movements and fingerprinting to authenticate identities – will speed up immigration procedures and allow travelers to bypass long queues, according to ARINC.

“It’s a fingerprint recognition system, Hickox tells The Daily Star Egypt, adding that it will be run initially on a voluntary basis – a big plus for frequent flyers who sign up.

According to ARINC, the gates will free up airport security officers to concentrate on “sensitive passengers for additional screening procedures.

The Cairo Airport Company (CAC) approved the deal last week.

“Cairo International Airport desires more than just a contractor for its information technology systems. We want a long-term partner who will be constantly searching for better, proven and cost-effective solutions to meet Cairo Airport[s] business needs, states CAC chairman Fathi Fathallah.

The $400 million terminal will also be equipped with computerized kiosks allowing travelers to skip long lines and check into flights by themselves.

“That’s quite an exciting development, says Hickox, adding that the kiosks will feature a cross-platform operating system, allowing airlines to swap and share them.

The self-serve kiosks are the first of their kind in the Middle East, and will be used by as many as 28 different airlines, according to ARINC.

“This means you can check in at any airline, at any kiosk. It’s the same as walking up to any check in desk, says Hickox, adding that the slim computer terminals will also conserve floor space.

It’s expected that the new terminal will more than double the airport’s annual passenger traffic, from nine million to 20 million.

The overall construction of the new terminal is being handled by the Turkish-based construction company TAV Hol, with the World Bank kicking in about $280 in loans.

Among the more practical, behind the scenes installations will be the world’s first “context aware airport operations system.

Context aware devices can gather information about how and where they’re being used, and can then adapt. They can also make assumptions about what the user will do next.

For example, employees will be able to plug into the system from work stations, laptops or hand-held devices and get up-to-the-second, adaptable data on demand.

“It works out the best way to use staffing and resources, says Hickox, who adds that the technology has applications in everything from worker scheduling to which gate an airplane will dock into.

“If you do something manually, it’s very labor intensive and it takes a lot of time. Now, you can much better manage the resources and passenger numbers, he says.

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