A Bit About: Elevating Passenger Experience

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

Watch BRO airport's Bryant Walker and Parabit's Rob Leiponis discuss the practical application of airport innovation at the BRO new passenger terminal, and where they think future airport technology is headed.

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James Kent: Hello and welcome to this live podcast brought to you by Parabit Systems. I'm your host James Kent. There's a saying at the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport located in Brownsville, Texas and that is, "let the journey take flight." And we're going to talk about some exciting news that is sure to bring a lot of journeys to passenger's futures.

Earlier this year, a new passenger terminal opened up at the BRO, and that is great news indeed as BRO is the closest airport to South Padre Island. We're going to get into a lot of cool specifics about this project, and the state-of-the-art technology in place in the new terminal, and to help me do that are my two guests.

First I am pleased to welcome on the show, Bryant Walker. Bryant is the Assistant City Manager and Aviation Administrator for the city of Brownsville. Bryant welcome.

Bryant Walker: Thank you very much. I'm glad to be here.

James Kent: And next we have Rob Leiponis, the CEO and President of Parabit Systems. Parabit is a strategic partner on this project and was heavily involved in many of the technology systems deployed throughout the new terminal. Rob a warm welcome to you, too.

Rob Leiponis: Thank you very much.

James Kent: Bryant, take me through the need for this new passenger terminal and how it's going to impact the economy for Brownsville in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Bryant Walker: Well, initially the economic impact is just massive just from the construction alone. The previous terminal was outdated, outmoded. Built in 1972, it had outlived its useful life. It didn't comply with most of the regulations out there for TSA, for CBP, for the international component to the airport. So, it had a high, high maintenance cost just on a day-to-day use. So, if you put all that together. It was necessary to build the new terminal.

So, when we started to build the new terminal, again, the economic impact of building it and retaining what was here, a lot of people said, "build it and they'll come," and actually the inverse works as well, "if you don't build it, they'll leave." So, just to maintain the jobs, maintain the service and connectivity for the community, we had to build a new one. So, when we did that we wanted to make sure that we future-proof, the terminal itself, and built the technology and components in it that we could expand on and integrate technologies that yet don't exist, as well as the latest technology that Parabit provided a lot of when we built this.

So we expanded the terminal from initial 37,000 square feet, old terminal, we expanded this one into a 92,000 square foot terminal with a complete compliant FIS and checkpoint for security and those types of things. And then of course we did add a lot of those technology components, everything from the, you know, for the curb to gate passenger experience. I'm not sure, I think that answers your question.

James Kent: Yeah, but you know to make sure that this new terminal was truly state of the art and could meet the needs of not only today's passengers but the future demands, what was critical to build into the terminal to support those needs, especially when you're not sure what those needs might be?

Bryant Walker: Well, certainly the infrastructure itself. You've got to make sure that you have adequate power. We looked at the fiber for any data connectivity for the again those future needs that we're unaware of. So, we really built the infrastructure in here. You know, behind the scenes we put in a lot of drainage and underground utility corridors and things like that.

So, it's easily modifiable in the future, but in the building itself, we actually ran additional conduit that's in excess of what we need for the access control, for the CCTV, and even a lot of the biometrics. So, all that we built it into the design very early in that design phase, so that we can add everything that we wanted as well as the future technologies as they roll out.

James Kent: Absolutely. I want to bring Parabit back into the conversation. Rob, take me through some of the solutions you provided for this terminal project. I'm sure there are many considerations that the average person would never factor in, but that your team needed to put in place to make this project a success.

Rob Leiponis: Several products that we introduced to Bryant and his team, one of which is, you know, installing analytic cameras at all touch points from entering the facility to exiting the facility. We wanted to create an environment that, through facial recognition, they would be able to eventually tie into back-end systems to be able to identify people as they're entering facilities, and then until they get to the point, and they exit the jet bridge and get on the plane and as well as supervised if they get off the plane and meander back into the terminal.

Various different digital touch points built into the welcome center, built into kiosks. As well as curbside pylons with information on the terminal itself and the services that are provided by the terminal, as well as attractions in the area. We also have provided and worked closely with Bryant in the CPP, with the FIS podiums where we created a kind of like a future-proof enclosure that addressed all the needs of the technology that's utilized today, but as well as makes the enclosure completely expandable to address any future analytics that the CPP and FIS introduced into those areas.

And charging stations which we've always found through all of the projects that we've done with many of our airport customers. We basically have leveraged charging all from the land side area to the air side area of the terminal to make a very comfortable experience. Since, you know, most people their phones are constantly in their hands, so we wanted to address their needs for power. So that was a very important aspect which Bryant was very open into looking into the designs that we had proposed and had eventually deployed.

James Kent: Rob, I feel like we're talking about a science fiction movie here, it's amazing. All of this technology really does sound like the future is now. Obviously, with the new terminal opening at the beginning of this year, a portion of the construction had to take place during COVID-19. How did the pandemic affect the construction of the new terminal and what, if anything, about the design changed as a result?

Bryant Walker: I'll be glad to field that one. So as the pandemic rolled out, what we saw as an impact to the project itself was really supply chain issues. So, we were looking at products and materials that the contractor needed to actually make the terminal, you know, complete on time. Those were the challenges we really faced. For the terminal itself, we'd actually envisioned being able to build out those additional technologies and even phase some things in. That's why we built in conduits that we had no use for when we started construction.

So, sort of a lot of the elements that Rob was talking about, the cameras in doorways, were things that were posed for biometric access control. As technologies, advanced over the past year and a half even, very recent history here, where there's a lot of ticket lists, baggage handling and there's even LPRs, license plate readers, for parking systems and things like that. So, there's a lot of technologies that incorporate using cameras, facial recognition and everything, and not just like the access control, but also the touchless ticketing and check-in serv