AWS Public Sector Blog

Calming airport data turbulence with EASE

This is a guest post by Stephen Saunders, the managing director of EASE Airport Operations, LLC.

Airports receive data from dozens of disparate sources, but this data can lack the collective unity needed to see the bigger picture. Sometimes this data is highly valuable, and other times data noise hides where real opportunities are waiting. The Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) saw an opportunity to turn down the proverbial volume on their data. Using Amazon Web Services (AWS), CVG created a first-of-its-kind tool using data for predictive analytics and proactive notifications, now known as Enterprise Awareness & Situational Exceptions (EASE).

CVG’s Innovation Center, a living laboratory to test technology and improve processes, designed EASE to help airports solve operational obstacles before they become problems. Built using advanced tools from AWS, such as Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) and AWS Lambda, the software unifies enterprise data from operations to sales. It provides timely and meaningful workflows that help staff be proactive in the dynamic circumstances that are familiar at airports. EASE uniquely collects structured and unstructured data from all parts of the enterprise, allowing even the most disparate datasets to optimize airport processes for efficiency.

Streamlining the airport security checkpoint with predictive analysis

The security checkpoint is one of the many critical functions for which EASE uses data to improve operations. It uses over four million data points retrieved from a boarding pass scanner data collection process, a first-of-its-kind at CVG, while maintaining complete passenger anonymity. The team worked with University of Cincinnati Aerospace Engineering doctoral student, Javier Viana, to build an algorithm predicting when passengers would arrive at the airport, allowing teams to prepare sufficient resources. After testing and refining, the algorithm was officially released at CVG. Currently, EASE can predict passenger arrivals in 15-minute intervals and make predictions six days in advance. This helps CVG improve day-to-day planning and scheduling, and prepares airport stakeholders for upcoming passenger arrival volumes and demands.

Businesses, including airports, have long talked about utilizing data to drive operational decisions. EASE is using cloud technology to drive results, continuing to scale and unearth new insights for founding airport partner CVG. When interviewing team members at CVG on their experience with EASE, the senior manager of airport operations at CVG shared that important information is often scattered across other platforms. EASE allows his team to analyze data faster in one place with multiple streams of data from different platforms.

“EASE and the team behind it understand what a challenging enterprise an airport can be,” says Brian Cobb, chief innovation officer at CVG. “We set out to reduce the complexity through visual awareness and only to alert on situational exceptions. Reduce the number of peripheral monitors. Reduce the staff inefficiencies in responding to emergent issues in the blind. Reduce the anxiety-inducing chaos associated with the unknown knowns. We can do better, and we can do it better with EASE.”

Unifying airport data to improve dynamic decision-making

Whether airport team members manage sales data in a spreadsheet or receive emails about power-outages, EASE provides real-time automated insights without needing a data warehouse by pulling data into a single view that can be personalized to each airport’s unique needs. These insights include data for:

Security checkpoint insights: Airports can view real-time wait data and trends that lead to actionable and timely alerts. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is using EASE to supplement its tools to regulate staffing needs and prepare officers for the critical function of security screening in airports. The EASE team is working directly with TSA to improve data collection with the intent of a safer security process.

Social media: Understand the context of social media posts and respond based on real-time data. Sentiment analysis on Twitter and other social media feeds allows the airport team to hear the voice of the customer while putting the operational issue in context. Teams can look at current data to respond appropriately when complaints are posted. The sanitation team at CVG turned a tweet of spilled coffee into a quick solution by immediately responding with a team member to clear the safety hazard. EASE cut out the need for the communications team to intercept, getting the voice of the customer to the correct team quickly.

Nearby traffic: Capture and display conditions and reported disruptions on nearby roadways. This feature visually displays reported roadway conditions, allowing the airport team to understand potential impacts on passengers, tenants, and staff. This information provides situational awareness for operational readiness plans to be adjusted. The team at CVG has used the traffic tile in baggage claim areas to alert passengers and staff of traffic conditions before they exit the airport, to improve situational awareness and provide realistic expectations.

Weather: Capture and display current weather conditions and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) delay information for major US airports. EASE visually shows weather conditions across the United States and identifies reported FAA delay programs at major US airports. This data prepares teams for current or future impacts on their operations.

Using AWS to scale data collection, storage, and analysis

EASE is made possible due to the freedom and flexibility AWS provides to manage unstructured data. Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and Amazon Simple Email Service (Amazon SES) allow EASE to store emails and their attachments, while sending and receiving emails for capturing hard-to-reach data. EASE leverages AWS Lambda to run code that parses content in Amazon S3. The platform uses Amazon RDS to store all application data and data parsed through Lambda.

In addition, EASE is a member of AWS GovTechStart, a community of government technology (GovTech) startups that use AWS to build innovative solutions for government customers. The EASE team is dedicated to working towards a new era of aviation operations with AWS services.

Interested in learning more about EASE? Visit or email the team.

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