Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) is the managing organisation for the sixth largest airport in the world, serving 62 million passengers a year, and faces a raft of new security threats from connected mobile devices.
In this dynamic environment, LAWA CIO Dominic Nessi is right at the heart of things. We caught up with him ahead of his appearance at Apps World in San Francisco to try and get a sense of his role and the challenges he faces.
“Mobile devices are the new frontier for cyber security threats,” he says. “We’ve approached it very cautiously, moving forward on many of our mobile apps slowly because there are a lot of unknowns out there in the mobile world.”
His IT operation is the enabler for technology implementation across the organisation, ‘leading by following’. Although he says that the current bring your own device (BYOD) trend, popular among many companies, hasn’t yet found a foothold at LAWA, simply because it leaves too many unanswered questions.
“There are questions on the security side,” says Nessi. “But also on the simple things. How do you reimburse an employee for using their personal device? Do you give them a stipend? But then if you do that, is that taxable income?
“I watch those debates very carefully,” he adds. “I’ve seen some companies that have gone deep into BYOD, and now they’re starting to back off because they see that there may be more issues than they thought. So right now we’re controlling all of our devices.”
In the five years since he took up the role, Nessi has overseen 16 major IT projects, some for processes and functions that had been waiting up to decade for attention. IT provision, encompassing everything from critical operational apps down to simple paging systems, is comprehensively managed by Nessi’s department.
“We have a fairly complex operating environment, with nine different terminals and numerous new construction projects going on throughout the airport right now,” he says. “All of those things combine to place technology in a very important role in the airport.”
Operations staff, security, public safety and facilities people all want to be mobilised, but aren’t necessarily in the best place to examine how best to put the technology into practice, how to keep devices secure, and which policies should be involved with usage.
“We stay on top of that topic matter, and we work with them to introduce those items into the LAWA IT environment,” says Nessi. “The mobile device world is changing so rapidly, and it’s important for the technology group to act as the interface for users so they don’t have to become experts in the technology.”
Mobilisation holds particular immediacy benefits to airport operations staff. LAWA’s latest implementation will tie in with existing facilities management systems, allowing maintenance staff to receive orders via their phone, estimate time to completion, report and close out the task without ever having to set foot back in the central office.
“If you’re out on a airfield reviewing pavement conditions on a runway, it’s far more effective to get those results into a device so they can be catalogued very quickly,” says Nessi. “That’s very critical from our perspective; moving the focal point of the work from one centralised area to be distributed throughout the airport.”
The implementation of situational awareness software to mobile will also allow LAWA to standardise staff reactions to specific scenarios which, in the tightly controlled environment of an airport, can be critical.
When a crew encounter a specific situation, they can call up the app, which will provide a set of checklists to follow, allowing them to address the issue in the exact way airport procedure requires. “Tying the situational awareness software together with all our other systems, it puts on one mobile device a number of crucial tools for our employees out in the field.”
One thing LAWA is best known for among IT circles is its cyber security, which Nessi believes is among the finest in the world. In this arena airports operate on higher stakes than many other organisations, and in terms of mobile, LAWA has been purposefully slower with its adoption, having to constantly guard against the main threats, data leakage and lost devices.
“In the 5 years I’ve been here, we went from mostly cell phones, to mostly cell phones and blackberries, to iPhones and now iPhones and iPads,” says Nessi. “We’re probably taking a slower approach, there are just so many variables in this area.”
It’s an issue that he looks forward to discussing with experts at Apps World on 7-8 February. “What I hope to learn is all in the security space,” he says. “How people are securing their apps, their mobile devices, I’m very interested in the policies that they implement for their employees.”
To find out more about Apps World and how to attend, visit: http://www.apps-world.net/northamerica/