Looking to continue to deliver what it calls “reliable and dynamic” traveller experiences, Houston Airports, one of North America’s largest public airport systems, has revealed it’s modernising guest connectivity by improving wireless and location-based services and adopting a Wi-Fi 6E-enabled HPE Aruba Networking service.

Forming one of North America’s largest public airport systems, positioning it as the international passenger and cargo gateway to the south central US and a primary gateway to Latin America, Houston Airports comprises George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), William P Hobby Airport (HOU) and Ellington Airport (EFD)/Houston Spaceport, which collectively served nearly 54 million and 60 million passengers in 2022 and 2019, respectively.

Located approximately 23 miles north of Downtown Houston, IAH is home to 27 passenger airlines. It offers 187 non-stop destinations and handled more than 40.9 million passengers in 2022, contributing more than $36bn to the local economy and providing more than 190,000 jobs.

Located approximately seven miles south of Downtown Houston, HOU served 86 destinations through five passenger airlines carrying more than 13.1 million people in 2022. EFD supports the operations of the US military, NASA and a variety of general aviation tenants, and is the home to the 10th licensed commercial spaceport in the US.

The deployment will aim to allow Houston Airports to meet the mobile experience expectations of today’s travellers by rolling out high-performance, free guest Wi-Fi connectivity and debuting a step-by-step wayfinding app to help travellers get to their gate, baggage claim and other airport amenities.

Working with trusted local partner Layer 3 Communications, Houston Airports determined that adopting location-aware Wi-Fi 6E access points from HPE Aruba Networking would future-proof its guest wireless networks.

Additionally, Houston Airports deployed HPE Aruba Networking Beacons to provide additional location-based telemetry data in support of its new mobile app, which was built using the Aruba Meridian App Platform. The app is designed to provide travellers with a range of insights, including detailed wayfinding with estimated walking times, real-time parking space availability and locating where a person’s vehicle is parked in a structure. Other features include previewing security checkpoint wait times, visualising restaurant and shop locations, and receiving real-time flight information.

Houston Airports is also using the new networking access points as an internet of things (IoT) platform, which includes the ability to perform IoT gateway functionality for Bluetooth, Zigbee and Wi-Fi-enabled devices.

One immediate project is making restrooms smarter. Using various IoT sensors, Houston Airports can now gather and transmit the data needed to adjust facilities maintenance schedules in real time. This permits more closely matched maintenance with the variable foot traffic created by the dynamic changes in airline arrivals and departures. Houston Airports is also developing related IoT data feeds for its mobile app to help travellers pinpoint restrooms with availability and avoid occupied facilities.

The Wi-Fi setup also contributes to Houston Airports’ sustainability initiative. It provides wireless networking infrastructure with built-in power-saving capabilities, helps IT operate efficiently and enables further development of location analytics to supply data for optimising spaces in support of reducing energy consumption.

“We’re continuously evolving our services to supply travellers and facility users with next-generation connectivity experiences, while also being good stewards of public funds,” said Darryl Daniel, chief technology officer at Houston Airports.

“HPE Aruba Networking has proven a responsive, reliable partner that has provided us with robust, cost-effective solutions for our wireless infrastructure,” he said. “In addition to the features we’ve already introduced, we’re excited about all of the possibilities the HPE Aruba Networking solution enables for expanding the app. Some future features will include reserving parking spaces in advance, and completing in-app food, beverage and merchandise purchases. It’s critical for every operating unit at our airports to contribute towards our sustainability targets. Our [new] infrastructure helps our IT department do just that.”

Craig Wall, general manager for the western region at Layer 3 Communications, said: “With the skyrocketing expectation for seamless and reliable content streaming, including consuming bandwidth-hungry 4K video, implementing Wi-Fi 6E just made sense. Deploying HPE Aruba Networking for guest wireless ensured Houston Airports could provide high-performance, reliable connectivity to millions of travellers around the clock, while keeping IT overheads low due to the solution’s proven reliability and ease of management.”

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