Flight KLM 1596 from Rome arrives at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Ground staff are preparing the gate for arrival. After some trouble locating a suitable set of passenger stairs, KL 1596 is delayed thirty minutes with several travellers missing their connecting flights for international destinations.
On-time performance is one of the most important performance indicators in aviation. With so many aspects at play in the world's largest airports, delays can have many different causes. Playing into the need for speed and efficiency in air travel is Undagrid, an innovative solutions provider for airport ground support equipment.
Undagrid's Ground Support Equipment (GSE) tracker makes locating airport equipment, such as trailers, baggage carts and passenger stairs an easy task.
Lennart Schroer, co-founder at Undagrid explains: "Airports around the world are equipped with thousands of pieces of equipment. Knowing the status and being able to localize equipment when it is needed or when it needs maintenance is one of the most important tasks for equipment operators."
After its founding in 2014, Undagrid quickly grew into the world's leading supplier of Internet of Things systems for airport handlers. Today, they are active in around fifteen major airports around the globe, amongst which Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Berlin, Madrid, Dubai and Melbourne.
At Amsterdam Airport Schiphol alone, 8,500 pieces of airport equipment have been fitted with a GSE tracker.
So how does the GSE tracker work?
Lennart: "The GSE tracker is affixed to a piece of non-motorized equipment, such as a trailer or baggage cart. It is powered by two small lithium batteries and equipped with, amongst others, GPS, temperature, movement and slope sensors.
It communicates with various gateways at the airport using a low-power wide area network (LPWAN) and with other GSE trackers in its vicinity via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) making among others indoor positioning possible.
The gateways are hooked up to a mobile network, allowing users to read out the data that is being collected, visualizing it on a map of the airport. The GSE tracker only communicates data when necessary, allowing its batteries to last up to three years. "
What are its benefits?
Lennart: "With thousands of GSE trackers all collecting data at the same time, you can imagine that the possibilities for airports, airlines and handlers seem endless. Combining data from our trackers allows users to show where equipment congestion at an airport is, to visualize data, to allow more precise maintenance and to develop additional analysis tools.
Every airport handler is dealing with very specific challenges; our solution creates the opportunity to use space and time in a more optimized way and to improve workflows.
By adding information to specific pieces of equipment in real-time, a comprehensive overview of all the handling and maintenance equipment at an airport can be made quite easily."
Tell us something about the software and applications you develop
Lennart: "Our solution is really meant to be plug and play. It is as simple as fixing the tracker to the equipment. It goes live and will pop up on an interactive map, allowing it to be assigned specific characteristics.
The map is filled with many other assets that are being monitored at the same time. We developed the entire front-end (smart phone application, browser software) ourselves, making sure it is as user-friendly as can be so no ground staff needs to be trained. It really is as straightforward and foolproof as can be."
What did DEKRA test and why did you choose to work with DEKRA?
Lennart: "DEKRA tested our GSE tracker for electrical safety, electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) and radio frequency (RF). Making sure our tracker works under various circumstances is extremely important to us. Airports can have very dynamic environments, indoor and outdoor.
We also had our GSE trackers certified for ATEX, to be used in potentially explosive atmospheres. Sometimes the equipment is used in aircraft maintenance areas, for example. We need every GSE tracker to be safe, no matter where they are. That is why we made sure the tracker is good to go in hazardous areas as well.
In addition, DEKRA simply is a global player in testing, inspection and certification with knowledgeable and very approachable experts.
And even though DEKRA and Undagrid operate in two completely different worlds, we really felt like there was a good fit. Especially because DEKRA offers such a broad array of solutions and packages them in a convenient way. For us, there is just one party to go to now. That is why we also decided to certify for ATEX."
Where will the future bring Undagrid?
Lennart: "We are always looking at how our product can be used in different markets. You can imagine that there are countless opportunities; non-motorized movable assets are everywhere.
For example, localizing containers in shipping terminals and on oil rigs is highly important to maintain a steady workflow. And what about trying to find out whether public trash cans can be fitted with a sensor that tells you when they need to be emptied?
We are focussing on how IoT applications, like our GSE tracker, can bring benefits to markets around the world in the widest sense. With the right tools and data there are so many processes and things that can still be improved."
In 2014, Undagrid's four founders started developing power efficient sensors based on unique communication techniques. Their first roll-out happened at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol just three years ago; today, the company is very successful. It is now active in fifteen different airports, including the top 5 airports in Europe and the Middle East. With its innovative character, confirmed by its customers in the aviation industry, Undagrid has won numerous awards.
The company holds offices at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and in Enschede, The Netherlands. www.undagrid.com