By Sameer Goel, Partner Solutions Architect at AWS
By Lakshmi Kannan, Advanced App Engineering Sr. Manager at Accenture
Even in today’s era of advanced technology, the airport experience for travelers is not always fun. It can get quite daunting given the strict airport procedures from check-in to boarding the flight.
Accenture’s telco offering, called 5G Edge Powered Connected Airport, has been developed by the Accenture AWS Business Group (AABG) with a goal of making the airport experience hassle-free while accelerating it to next-generation standards.
The 5G Edge Powered Connected Airport solution is built on 5G cellular network, and uses Amazon Web Services (AWS) facial recognition and edge compute technologies to dramatically change the airport experience.
With an AWS DeepLens camera enabled at various checkpoints in the airport, the solution checks in the passenger for the flight automatically without the passenger having to physically check in. This enables a quicker, no-wait security check.
Facial detection and video analytics technologies used in the solution are run on the edge powered by 5G cellular network, making this a blazing fast, high performing, and low latency solution.
Using an interactive AR/VR 3D map, embedded personalization, and location tracking, this solution provides timely alerts and guidelines for airport travelers so they can board their flight on time. Personalized recommendations for places of interest, such as favorite food or lounges within the airport, are provided real-time.
In this post, we’ll show you how Accenture’s 5G Edge Powered Connected Airport harnesses the power of a 5G cloud-based network to improve the airport experience for travelers.
We will also explain how it uses Amazon Sumerian, a 3D augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) service to provide seamless navigation, and how it complements facial recognition operations powered by AWS DeepLens devices.
The following architecture diagram shows traveler interaction with Accenture’s smart airport assistant.
Figure 1 – Architecture of Accenture smart airport assistant.
To begin, travelers register at a smart airport registration portal. The smart portal registers traveler information including pictures and biometrics. The portal API notifies Amazon API Gateway, which invokes an AWS Lambda function that saves the data in an encrypted Amazon DynamoDB cluster. The Lambda function also saves traveler images in an Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) bucket with encryption-at-rest enabled.
Once travelers are registered, they can check in at an airport as authorized travelers. One of the AWS DeepLens devices installed at security gates captures their image for verification. Biometric sensors record data, and the subsystem called IoT Topic triggers a Lambda function to check their profile against registration data saved in Amazon DynamoDB.
Once they have been authenticated, Amazon Sumerian serves as the front end for an immersive and interactive user experience as they walk through different areas at the airport (see preceding video). Travelers can ask the Amazon Sumerian host different questions, such as flight boarding time and gate number, as well as locations for baggage counter, lounges, and other airport stores.
The Accenture architecture has passed an AWS Well-Architected Review, and has been optimized for high performance and low cost.
Security is paramount for storing and retrieving personally identifiable information (PII) in Accenture’s smart airport assistant. AWS helps in this regard because it provides features to implement security at various stages, and encryption both during transit and at rest.
Sign-up and sign-in are managed by Amazon Cognito. It supports sign-in through social identity providers such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google, and enterprise identity providers through the SAML 2.0 standard. It can scale to millions of users. Once a traveler is authenticated, Amazon API Gateway acts as a secure front door for any of the REST, HTTP, and WebSocket APIs.
Amazon DynamoDB stores all text information as key-value pairs. These encryption keys are stored in AWS Key Management Service (KMS), which provides an additional level of data protection by securing data from unauthorized access to the underlying storage. Fine-grained identity and access management (IAM) roles and policies, as well as virtual private cloud (VPC) endpoints, can further restrict back-end access if necessary.
Finally, AWS CloudTrail logs all the API calls by default. Those logs can be analyzed to troubleshoot any security concerns that might arise.
Reliability of the Solution
Any smart application that relies on personal information and authentication of government records must be highly reliable. The smallest outage can slow down the expected check-in process, so it’s critical to distribute the application with a complete recovery plan in place.
Even though this architecture uses managed services that are capable of surviving an AWS Availability Zone failure, it’s a best practice to implement AWS Region-level failover to prevent the loss of any data. We’ll briefly explain how the Accenture solution implemented it.
We chose Amazon S3 because it is a low-cost storage solution for user profile images, but it also provides a versioning and regional replication feature. With versioning, lost user profile images can be restored from a previous version. Replication enables automatic asynchronous copying of objects across Amazon S3 buckets in different Regions. Keeping multiple copies of user images in this way enables Region-level failover.
To fetch profile metadata with low latency, Accenture uses Amazon DynamoDB. To keep this metadata available for users in multiple regions, Amazon DynamoDB relies on global tables. Global tables provide a fully managed, multi-region, and multi-master database so that the smart airport assistant can deliver low-latency data access to its users no matter where they are on the globe.
Multiple AWS DeepLens devices can be used at the security gate to avoid any service disruption.
The smart airport assistant uses AWS Lambda to serve requests to fetch and retrieve treveler information. However, this approach can sometimes face a cold start issue.
This issue is easily avoidable by implementing provisioned concurrency. It keeps functions initialized and hyper-ready to respond in double-digit milliseconds. This is ideal for implementing interactive services such as web and mobile back-ends, latency-sensitive microservices, or synchronous APIs.
Accenture’s application serves millions of travelers who need to upload their profile and get authenticated. To avoid any latency issue, we use the Transfer Acceleration feature in Amazon S3 to enable faster uploads of user profiles. We also use the global tables in Amazon DynamoDB to provide faster read and write performance.
Amazon DeepLens devices installed at the check-in gates support both 2.4 GHz and 5GHz standard dual-band networking. Configuring a 5GHz connection provides faster speed.
The aviation industry has long been in the vanguard of digital disruption. It has digitally transformed the end-to-end travel experience, from booking a flight to passing through security, and from in-flight entertainment to arranging post-airport travel.
In the near future, digital technologies will radically transform how airport employees work and how related businesses operate. Changes ahead will impact every level of airport operation. Our smart airport assistant is just a first step.
Accenture – APN Partner Spotlight
Accenture is an APN Premier Consulting Partner and Managed Service Provider. A global professional services company that provides an end-to-end solution to migrate to and manage operations on AWS, Accenture’s staff of 440,000+ includes more than 8,000 trained and 6,000 AWS Certified professionals.
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