Zurich’s airport operator, Flughafen Zürich (FZAG, previously Unique) has been using German aviation IT specialist INFORM’s GroundStar system for its bus allocation since 2003.

The system handles demand planning, shift planning and modeling as well as real-time bus allocation; the latter having been extended with unique new functionality.

In March 2009 FZAG had to reorganise its bus transfer services following the introduction of the new Schengen dispatching regulations, which meant that passenger buses with multiple drop off points needed to provide instructions to the passengers to avoid confusion.

Using INFORM’s sophisticated IT system FZAG introduced a complex set of rules to determine the number and sequence of stops, display the relevant onboard screen information and to provide voice announcements.

A further important functionality has recently been added: Geofencing ensures that a passenger arriving from a non-Schengen country does not make an illegal border crossing by entering the Schengen area without first passing through border control.

Human error means this could occur if a bus driver drops the passenger off at the wrong stop. To avoid this, FZAG added an additional control to the system whereby each bus is identified with the help of GPS sensors and as soon as the bus arrives at a stop, the GPS information is compared against the information from the GS RealTime allocation system. If it does not match, a warning is issued to the driver and to the dispatcher. In addition the system will automatically start the passenger announcement when the bus is entering the stop area.

“With this new functionality we are able to fulfill the demand of the Swiss Border Control authority and from our experience so far we can fully confirm that the system works reliably,” says Rolf Bühler, FZAG project manager.

“At first glance this might appear a small, even unimportant function but in reality it could save the company major problems,” says Alexander Wendorff, INFORM project manager.

INFORM specialises in planning and decision-making software that uses intelligent optimisation to improve business productivity.

In order to quickly map complex structures and calculate the best possible solution from large amounts of data, INFORM uses operations research and fuzzy logic as a basis for its software. As a result, INFORM’s software system can think on its own and take its own intelligent decisions in real-time. This allows customers to make the best possible use of resources such as people, equipment and terminal resources.

INFORM’s flagship suite of products, GroundStar, is used by over 50 organisations in more than 200 airports worldwide.