About the project
You don’t have to be a frequent flyer to know how busy and chaotic airports can be. With numerous gates, huge terminals, millions of passengers and thousands of airplanes on a very tight flight schedule, managing an airport is often compared to running a small city. To keep all processes running smoothly, safely and efficiently, several airport management systems are synergistically operating in the background. Being an integral part of this airport ecosystem, our client — a market-leading provider of an apron management system — was facing serious business challenges prior to this cooperation. Due to increasing customer demand for a system update and limited internal resources with experience in web technologies, they found themselves under severe time pressure to deliver a new version of their software. Looking for someone who will help them rapidly replace their quite old and long-used desktop client with a modern web-based application, they chose to overlook their previous not so positive experience with outsourcing partners and decided to team up with us.
In the course of this project, we successfully modernized and optimized our client’s desktop-based software used for airport apron management and made it more widely available, scalable, efficient, reliable and easy to use. The result? A web-based application that meets both the highest safety standards on airports and the technology and UX requirements of modern software development.
Our client is a leading provider of integrated solutions that increase efficiency, improve safety and reduce operating costs across airports worldwide. Currently serving more than 2,500 airports, their technologies and systems help optimize airport performance by considering every significant factor from arrival to departure, including airport traffic management, airfield lighting, tower-based traffic control systems, gate & docking automation, and other facilities. In combination with their hardware, the apron management system that we worked on enhances turnaround efficiency and makes the process of airplane parking & docking safer and more predictable. Thanks to the software, congestions and flight delays are reduced, indirectly resulting in a better passenger experience.
09/2019 – 03/2021
Cross-functional team of 10 software developers, UX/UI designers, 1 QA engineer and 1 product owner
Conception & tech consulting
Frontend & backend development
QA & testing
Challenges & objectives
This project’s primary objective was to replace an outdated FAT client (i.e., a system with most resources installed locally) with a modern web-based application built on the latest technology. The second objective was updating the system’s frontend, i.e., replacing an outdated HMI (a Human-Machine Interface) with a new web interface aligned with the latest UX/UI standards.
While developing a new web application that will not only integrate existing functionalities but also add new features, the main challenge was to create customer value in the shortest time possible while constantly aligning with internal stakeholders in 4 different countries.
Another challenge that nobody could predict back then was the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the middle of the project. Not only did it affect the whole aviation industry in an unprecedented way, but it also had a substantial impact on our internal setup, means of communication with clients, and overall processes in general. However, we adapted to new circumstances quickly and continued delivering high-quality services on time & budget.
Our cross-functional team first defined user requirements, improved workflows & UX design, and then started with the technical implementation based on the client’s needs. After the conception and additional requirements engineering phase, we started developing the new architecture and implementing new features. Since the core part of the backend functionality was relying on a C++ / Qt desktop-based client, we developed a highly adaptable and scalable node.js-based backend for an Angular-based frontend capable of rendering large amounts of real-time data. We also enabled flexible integration of several proprietary and standardized third-party systems while keeping the client’s core backend system’s functionalities. Additionally, we provided professional support in DevOps & test automation, trained the client’s engineering team to deploy the new system at airports, and offered support during the application’s first launch.
In 9 months from the project start, our client got the first version of their new web client ready to be deployed and used by their customers (i.e., airports worldwide). Their airport apron management system is now a modern, user-friendly web-based application that runs smoothly both in web browsers and on tablets. Apart from the new architecture and updated UI, we also introduced a continuous delivery pipeline to be able to implement new features quickly and easily.
Advantages of the new web-based app
Scalability and maintainability
Thanks to the latest technology stack, our client’s software is now not only easily adaptable and scalable but also less prone to all those problems that come with a legacy system (e.g., security vulnerabilities, technical debt, no updates, the lack of support & skilled technicians who can maintain the outdated system, etc.).
UX and UI up to the latest standards make the system easy to understand, use and operate. This is especially important for complex systems with safety implications, such as this airport apron management system.
Location- and platform independence
Unlike the previous desktop client, the new system can be used regardless of the device and operating system, which makes it more widely available and more easily accessible.
After the initial phase where the new version will be tested and used at one of the largest European airports, the system is expected to roll out worldwide. Since our client was very satisfied with the result and services we delivered, they plan to continue to work with us on future releases.