Heathrow gate control system

Posted on 12/12/2022

We have prepared the gate control application at Heathrow airport for an international shipping company. It turned out that the system is so good that the company wants to expand the system into its warehouses at all the airports in the world.

The global demand for shipping services is constantly growing with e-commerce development. In 2020 the market value of parcel shipments exceeded 500 billion dollars. In 2018 it amounted to 450 million dollars.

The pandemic and lockdowns connected with it constituted a factor that intensified online purchases. The lockdowns forced consumers to change their shopping habits and transfer them in a dominant part to the Internet. Gemius Report of 2021 indicated that due to the pandemic, 30% of consumers in Poland bought more than before via the Internet, and 33% did their shopping more often. For 13% of consumers, the Internet became their main shopping channel.This trend poses numerous challenges for courier companies and their software providers.

Customer needs

Works on the Project began in 2021 when the tender was announced for the performance of a mobile application for the operation of entrance gates to Heathrow airport warehouses in London. Initially, the application was planned for mobile devices only, focusing only on closing the entry and reporting what type of container enters or leaves the warehouse. However, the short period for the creation of the application was challenging. According to the initial concept, our task consisted of delivering an application for mobile phones and tablets. Its main task was to allow the operator to close the gates remotely. We were to use React and Java for this purpose. Soon it turned out that the customer needs changed together with the development of the concept for the project realization.

The new guidelines were the following:

  • Starting the application on a much greater number of airport warehouses with a huge number of gates.
  • Reporting what type of container passed the gate and management of the whole warehouse from the application.
  • Moving the online application delivery to the future and focusing on a responsive application designed for being started on desktop computers.

Our solution

The modifications caused us to change the technology which was used for the creation of the software. To meet the customer needs in the best possible way and to enable any potential application enrichment into new functionalities, we have chosen PHP and Bootstrap to perform this task. This solution enabled the connection with PLC devices via a graphic interface. The preferred technology allows for further development of the Project and its extension of additional functionalities, such as PWA and even a significant amount of introduced data.

Integration with PLC devices

Connecting the application with PLC devices and steering the gates was a great challenge. After two months of work on the Project, it turned out that communication was changed. To solve this problem, we had to bring on some of the functions via communication with the interface of the PLC device. The ongoing pandemic was challenging relevant testing of the mobile application. However, the test was coordinated with Heathrow airport and our seat in Warsaw, and they proved that the application had been written with no errors and worked perfectly well.

Further plans

After obtaining the positive result of the tests and finishing the starting phase, a decision was made to develop the Project and use it in the future at other airports and in different client warehouses.