Cologne Bonn Airport: Behind the scenes of airport operations – an interview with Dr. Demian Pitz
Airports have their own unique dynamics. When you check in and enter departures, perhaps jetting off on a new holiday or simply beginning a business trip, a myriad of departments, services and technologies are working behind the scenes to ensure your terminal experience runs smoothly.
It’s impossible to separate the transfer of people to places from the transfer of data in this day and age and Cologne Bonn Airport, with its blend of pre-COVID passenger traffic and booming freight business, is a perfect example of the complex ecosystem required to manage a constant flow of information.
As a result, getting the chance to chat directly with Cologne Bonn Airport’s IT Project Manager Demian Pitz felt like a rare privilege. During our virtual airport tour, we “passed by” some of the airport’s core facilities from airside to landside and zoomed into their key challenges. We also scrutinized some of the insightful transformation projects that have helped internal teams make the airport more efficient and passenger-friendly.
Listen to the full podcast for an overview of:
- Demian’s outline of the complexities surrounding airport operations
- Some of the airport’s projects (like designing a process around transmitting real-time data on runway conditions or reengineering the entire ID card reading system)
- The compliance implications of a cloud solution in an airport environment, and why simulation and testing are essential elements of any digital project
- How Tresorit simplified board communication by removing the need for on-premise servers, and how it has helped project managers to channel their internal/external comms through one unified tool
- The pandemic’s implication on airport operations in Germany
Want to hear more about smart and secure digital solutions? Check out the last episode of under CTRL featuring DeleteMe founder, Robert Shavell – and stay tuned for more podcast episodes on Spotify. You can also stay connected with all things Tresorit through Twitter and LinkedIn.
Paul: Hey, everyone! Welcome to "under CTRL". My name is Paul, and today's guest is Dr. Demian Pitz from Cologne Bonn Airport. Airports are a fascinating and vibrant environment of well-orchestrated activity, where many independent organizations need to collaborate for the safety and efficiency of the airport's passengers. Supporting these efforts is a myriad of technology systems that exchanged critical data for airlines, airport operators and other supporting services. This comes with significant challenges both in the operational and regulatory environment. In this episode, we will discuss those challenges from the perspective of the airport operator, and understand how adopting a secure cloud technology is delivering a more harmonious way of collaboration. Demian, it's good to have you on the show! Appreciate you coming in and starting off the New Year in 2021. And to have a little chat today about airport life and some of the projects that you're doing. Maybe you can just sort of give us a bit of a background about yourself. And your department particularly, and what you're doing at the airport.
Demian: Yeah, sure. Yeah, my name is Demian. I'm working now at the airport in Cologne Bonn for about two years as a Project Manager in IT. And it's a really fascinating field here at the airport, because already as a child, I was pretty fascinated by the technology of stuff flying in the air and transporting people from A to B, and also made an internship in high school at the airport in Saarbrücken, where I'm originating from. And after a vacation in chemistry for about ten years, I finally came back to ITs and now actually working at the airport here.
Paul: Yeah, I can relate to that. I mean, I always had a passion for aviation, growing up as a kid. And where I grew up, there was always fast jets flying overhead. My direction didn't go into the military, as much as I wish that it had done and wanted to, but I ended up working at Gatwick, British Airways. And there's something very special about airport life and the kind of magnetism that you get from the airport - the hustle, the bustle, the constant operational movements around aircraft. It's like a living organism. So I can under- I can relate to that, you know, that draw, as it were. With Cologne Bonn, kind of stuck right in between the two cities, if I recall, geographically. I mean, what's your passenger numbers like? What's your operations like in Cologne Bonn? Are you an international airport? Or are you just a regional airport?
Demian: We're an international airport.
Paul: Right.Demian: And as you just said, we are like in the middle, so to say, of Frankfurt, which is the biggest airport in Germany, and Düsseldorf, I think it's at the moment number three. It's always regarding passenger numbers. I think 2018, we had 12 million passengers here in Cologne Bonn Airport. But last year, of course, that shrank by a lot due to the Corona crisis. I think what makes us different is the fact that we are also operating a lot of cargo here. So we're a main hub for DHL and FedEx and UPS, which also have sorting stations right here at the airport. I mean, if I look outside of the window, the FedEx sorting station is directly on the opposite side. And I also can see our big nice runway, where a lot of airplanes can land. And I think we have space for every category of airplane. The runway is a bit longer than the one in Düsseldorf. Yeah, I think that's all like the key facts for the Cologne Bonn Airport.
Paul: I suppose, you as a Project Management Department in IT, are you looking at the whole airport infrastructure and constantly reviewing that and assessing that and seeing where you can make improvements? Or do you work very much in collaboration with the airlines as well? What's your remit? How do you collaborate and work together?
Demian: So that's actually one thing- the most thing my friends are asking me, "Oh, can you get free flights? Can you get free flights?" And actually, we as the Cologne Bonn Airport, we're just supplying the airlines with the infrastructure.
Demian: So we don't have that close of a connections to the airlines. It's like business. And therefore, most of my job is concerned about how can you improve the infrastructure at the airport to offer good opportunities to our customers. And so I give an example: I introduced the runway information system last year, where the actual condition of the runway is recorded by sensors. So, for example, the temperature, is there any ice on the runway, is there snow on the runway, is it wet, is it dry? And especially in these conditions now, we're in winter, so it's winter now. We have negative degrees, and we exactly have to know when we have to get rid of the snow from the runway. And this runway information system can monitor and supply all the people with information about the actual condition of the runway. So this is an example for a project in ITs. On the other hand, I think that's quite an int- more interesting project for your listeners here, is with the airport IDs, of course. If you're going to a sens- a safety-sensitive area at the airport, you're checked. I'm also checked like every morning. It's the same procedure as when I'm boarding a flight. And, of course, the ID card has to prove valid to get into the sensitive area. And, you know, if you're outsourcing work, it's always quite challenging and expensive, and we decided to totally reverse-engineer the readers of our airport ID cards. So I'm now working on this really nice project. It's an interdisciplinary team with people from infrastructure. We were coding the whole program by ourselves, with a lot of knowledge from the application department. On the other hand, we're working with state-of-the-art technology, in this case 3D printing all the housing for the devices, putting them all together on our own. And that's another part of airport life and IT projects.
Demian: And what you're already hearing now is that living at an airport gives you, as a Project Manager, so much opportunities to work and to learn. That's awesome!
Paul: And it's pretty varied as well, right? I mean, I just remember my time at Gatwick, that it's a constant building site. It's always changing, even if you're not seeing it from the outside, you're seeing it from the inside. You're seeing system changes. Back in, I think, 2000 and 2004, when I was at Gatwick, we were still using fax machines.
Demian: Oh my god!
Paul: And I'm pretty sure they're not using fax anymore. But we were waiting for our cargo documents coming from the cargo team, to do the load control for the aircraft. And everything was being sent over by fax. And it doesn't seem that long ago, but I'm sure technology's certainly evolved. And since I've left BA, I know that a lot of dispatches and crew, they're using iPads. iPads were just being introduced as I was leaving the airline business, so... I'd imagine yourself have seen, even though you haven't been that long at the airport, you can probably still see some legacy system that's still being used and state-of-the-art technology.
Demian: Yeah, it was- I think- we're still using pen and paper to get information from A to B sometimes. We're- one of my projects was the digitalization for the accounting- the firefighters department. Because formerly, they were actually putting their shift times and their special duties onto a paper, and were sending them to our PR department, where they were actually putting them into the SAP system and finally making the accounting. And you see, there are a lot of points where, yeah, stuff can be faulty. And thus we digitalized the whole process. And I mean, digitalization, especially now in the times of Corona, it's like emerging to a buzz word, and I think the crisis shows us how important it is actually to arrive in the 21st century, for a lot of companies.
Paul: Yeah. Yeah, and I think it's kind of dragging- where those companies have been dragging those heels, or those existing processes and practices have still existed for some reason or another, it really has brought or shined a spotlight on that it's time to make those improvements. And I suppose, cloud is one of those improvements that you've made at the airport? That you've adopted, in various different ways? With the technology. So I'd imagine that, of course, back in the day when I was at the airport, everything was kind of localized and on-premise. But are you- apart from Tresorit, I mean, are you using other cloud technologies as well?
Demian: Not really much, because it's just a case- as I said: we're working in a quite sensitive environment, and thus on-premise is mostly the way to go for us.
Demian: So if we're using cloud technology, we have to triple-check how safe it is. I mean, that was in- regarding Tresorit, it was one of the biggest part was to get the whole cloud solution conform to our checklist regarding cloud applications, which is I think like 150 entries, something like that. And thus we're not really using a lot of cloud technology.
Demian: Here at the airport. I think we maybe have like four or five cloud systems.
Paul: Yeah. Well, I suppose the airlines themselves are always constantly reviewing their applications, their technology. But, of course, booking systems probably moving a lot more into the cloud now for them. What's the situation like then with exchanging information between airlines? Especially personal identifiable information. Because I'd imagine, certainly in my time with the airport still, there was a lot of that, passenger, location numbers... And, of course, we collect a lot of information about passengers, but also the airports themselves collect a lot of information about passengers as well. Maybe give us some insight about how that works at Cologne Bonn.
Demian: Sure, I would. But I'm really, really far away from passenger information in my projects.
Demian: And I don't have any insight on that...
Demian: ...that I could share with you, actually.
Demian: Because as far as I know, that's also outsourced by a system which is in the background and doesn't really have to do too much with the airport's infrastructure.
Demian: From the point that I know, we are supplying them with cable infrastructure and network technologies, but the information itself is carried by another business.
Paul: Right. Okay. Let's then think about the personal information about employees at the airport, and also probably contractors coming in, because you're a Project Manager and, as you know and I know myself, you have to go through the vetting procedure, which is usually stipulated by the airport to do background checks on people coming into the airside operations. Especially if you're an outside contractor. So you keep all of those- that information as well, I'd imagine. Right? So when you're tracking your contractors, you have to abide by GDPR guidelines, GDPR rules, plus of the rules that are set out by the airport. I mean, that can be quite a complex process.
Demian: It definitely is. Regarding these personal informations [sic], you have to imagine our IT system as like kind of an onion. And like in the middle of this onion, deep, deep down in the segment of network, this is the part where we handle personal sensitive information.
Demian: And as you said, especially with the GDPR, you have to iterate and rethink about how you manage these informations [sic]. Because if you need- do I really need this information for my daily business, or is there any other way where I can get the same result without the personal information? And also about encryption, because even if you're using personal information and it's encrypted, you can still not handle it - this personal information - like any information. So you have to be really careful about that GDPR stuff. And I think it's now in effect for three years? And we still have to (inconclusive), because it will- data is like the oil of the future. And thus it's really very interesting how GDPR, data and information, and personal information, metadata about this personal informations [sic], will shape future wor- the future work in IT.
Paul: Yeah. Yeah, I mean... 'cause I know that I- when I had an ID card at the airport, we obviously had a bar strip on the back, and anywhere that you went around the airport, you can basically be tracked, right? So you swiped through one door from airside to landside, you go through different parts, and so your movements can potentially be tracked. I know that some of the guys, when I was working there with them, sometimes were not keen to swipe out of the airport, because really- if they were leaving a little bit earlier than they should be. But, you know, this is- I take everything has moved to a chip base now, so you're probably just put a chip through when you want to get airside, and I suppose, those- all that information is being collected somewhere, about somebody, about their movements etc.
Paul: So is it- so what is it that- you know, that you see the challenge in that? I mean, because of GDPR, has it become a bigger challenge now, than what it ever used to be? For example, the categorization of information?
Demian: I mean, let's take this example of swiping in and out of the airport. It's always like important to check whether you need that information on that point. So, example given: If I'm joining the airport in the morning, the building (inconclusive), I'm always airside, so to say. And therefore, I'm checked before starting my work. And the question now: We have like an apparatus where you can swipe in at the terminal and run right here to the building, and, of course, people can see where I swiped in. But it's important to check what this information is used for. Can you collate that information? Who has access to this information? And do these people need that information to do their work, because, of course, PR needs some personal information about me, like my account number. And I'm really happy, so I get my money every month. So they can actually do their work. But on the other hand, I don't need the ID on my desk of a person who- of a supplier who just entered the airport. And this is like- you have to think about the way data goes in your network. And where it's assembled by whom. And to design these typologies, I think that's like the biggest challenge.
Paul: Yeah. Has that been one of your responsibilities? Going back to the project that you were managing, with the card readers, is that you need to step back and then... I mean, give us the- give us the kind of- if you can, an insight into how you plan a project of that proportion at the airport. I mean, because bringing- introducing different swipe readers is- there's already an existing system in place, which is doing its job. Then you want to replace it. So maybe you can give the listeners some kind of background from a Project Management experience? What the procedure looks like, especially in a live environment. It's not a case that you can just stop the airport and say, "We're going to close down this terminal, this gate, this gate, this gate, and that's not going to be functional anymore." 'Cause that's detrimental to the operation. Right?
Demian: Definitely. I mean, 24/7 life is something different than working from 9 to 5. And especially with the airport ID cards. And first, for example, you build up a test environment. You're like replicating the environment you have at the gate or at the check-in stations, and then you're like replicating that system on your desk. That's like- after, of course, you have reverse-engineered the whole system and built it all up, you can- you then start testing, because you don't want to have any failures in the live system. Especially with such a neuralgic system. And then you're like checking the requirements for the users. Because especially for the airside safety personnel, it is important that it is quite easy to use. So you cannot always have the point of view from the IT guys.
Demian: From the technical point of view, but also from the customer side. I mean, what is- if- maybe I can ask you: Just imagine you would be a person who is checking out a person's entry in the airport, what would be important for you, if you check an ID card?
Paul: Yeah, so when you check the ID card, obviously, you want the name of the person, you would want the time stamp, and obviously the location where they swiped in as well. Those are the first three things that spring into mind. The name of the contractor, that they're with. So if it was a contracting personnel, airport staff, catering staff, maybe these things...
Demian: More important: Is the card valid?
Demian: Is the card actual a genuine card? Or is it a duplicate? So...
Paul: Have you had circumstances like that? I mean, yeah, from a security aspect, that's not the first thing that springs to mind as a person. But I can see that point, yeah.
Demian: Yeah. And this is why we were like designing the system, how can the people- actually, which is the most important information the people need? And thus we just said, "Okay, let's- from that point of view, just make the screen red or green." That's like the most important information for the people working there. The second information is just what you said: the name of the people, the picture of the people, where are they allowed to go? But how get them- how do we get the most important informations [sic] directly into the eyes of the people using our devices? That's like the point from the customer. And then also getting the requirements. And after this like the must-haves of a product, we then go like, "Okay, what would be useful for you?" And then things are coming up, like, "Okay, where do I put the ID card exactly to get faster reading, to get it nicer? Maybe we can adjust the screen brightness a bit." But that's already like the second part and the second process. And then there are- of course, nice-to-haves. Can we have this device maybe in red, blue, yellow? Or do we only fabricate black? This is like the process when you're going through a project. But always ask yourself: "Where are we now? And where do we want to go? And what do we need on this way?" And sometimes, it's even more important: "What do we don't need?"
Paul: Yes! And that's called- that's data minimization, I suppose. Is it- what? Under the GDPR terms, minimizing the amount of data that you're collecting about an individual, and discarding that information.
Paul: Because it's really not relevant. Yeah. I was just thinking... it just came to me, suddenly, that a certain flashback in my head was when I used to go to the cargo area, we used to move cargo from the aircraft over to the cargo area and drop it off, we would have to go through that process, of going through the Portakabin, emptying all our pockets to put through the X-ray machine and giving the personnel, airport personnel, the card, so they could swipe it through the barcode, to see if we could gain access to that- whether we were authorized to gain access to the cargo area. So yeah.. it's- it'd be interesting to understand, of course, how that's changed over the years. Probably that you've moved from barcode to- or, you know, the black stripe on the back, to the same as chip and PIN or some kind of chip inside the card. In that respect of introducing that kind of project, I mean, how long does it take, typically? For managing that project, end-to-end. Where do you start out from?
Demian: I would say for a typical project, the duration here is about one year.
Demian: That's like for middle to big projects, from like the start to a productive system. I mean, of course, we then have still the cutover and phase of hypercaring, but mostly it's about one year. Some are faster, some are slower.
Paul: And what was the biggest- I mean, of course, when you run these sandbox environments or these test environments, what was the biggest challenges- some of the biggest challenges that you faced that maybe you hadn't thought of? Because every project kind of throws up some unforeseen issues or circumstances... maybe negatively, but also sometimes positively as well. Is there anything that happened during that project, when you were deploying the card reading technology?
Demian: Actually, the reverse-engineered ID card, they were like a win-win situation for everybody, because as we now have pretty short ways and we have the control over the whole process, we're able to pretty quickly implement new requirements from other departments. So imagine they were like issuing a new kind of ID cards, we can directly write a new code, write a new query, and then directly change all of the devices just from a central point, from in- from the IT department. We are not reliable on any external sources or suppliers, because we are in control of the whole process and of the whole devices. So- and also, on the other hand for customers and the personnel checking all the people up there, they really have a perfect new system with a brighter monitor. We can make- just like small things. Can you- do- we were asked if we could just raise the size of the fonts a bit, so they can read it a bit more in that direction or in that direction. And the reaction time to changes is much, much, much shorter with a self-designed and self-managed solution. So... and on the other hand, it's cheaper even, so... yeah. That's like a win-win situation. Another project where- I think unforeseen stuff always happens in projects. That's why they are projects and not processes. And, for example, in the firefighter department: You can imagine when people where- some people in the firefighters department are working here for twenty years. And for twenty years, they were writing down their shifts and works onto a paper. And sometimes it's pretty obvious that for them it's a pretty hard change regarding one of their colleagues who's just started working his career as a firefighter and who was like born with a smartphone in his hands. And thus it's- for me it's then really fun to show people the advantages of a digitalized system, and, yeah, to show them that it's easier. It gives a lot of possibilities and opportunities, and it doesn't bite you, actually. Technology is a good thing. Just look out at the airplane. It's starting because of technology. And now you can just use your smartphone or computer to write down your shifts.
Paul: Yeah, I think that goes back to the other point I made earlier, is that in airport life, you know, depending on the shift work... I mean, we did a lot of nights back then. Sometimes you were lucky enough to leave work a little bit earlier, depending on certain cancellations or delays. But, yeah, moving ahead with the time. So I think that was the next point I wanted to come onto, is around mobile technology. I mean, how well has Cologne Bonn adopted mobile technology? Things like iPads, iPhones,... and what's some of the use cases for them?
Demian: For example, we are using them in the de-icing process. So when you're de-icing an airplane. So this position is made by a separate system, where they have tablet and clients. So they directly know which airplane they have to de-ice next. And they don't have to go back or go by phone and ask.
Demian: Another thing is also with, once again in the firefighters department, they're pretty viable, as you can imagine, for the operation of our airport. They also now have tablets if they're called to an emergency, to get the data of the patients, which are later on transferred to a different system. We also have, that's totally different things, tablets in the terminal area, to get feedback from the customers. And we're also able to put other informations [sic] on these tablets. I think these are the three main use cases that come to my mind right now.
Demian: For mobility technology, we are also working- you have to imagine that some people are also coming into- yeah, we have a big area. The safety-restricted area is pretty big. It's not only the aprons and the runways, but also parts of the bureau complexes. And some people are coming in here by car. And, of course, it's important to know if the car is allowed in that area. So we're- we have some personnel going around with mobile scanners and checking... is that car actually allowed with that plate in that area. That's also one part of mobile access. And we also applied for 5G licenses, I think.
Demian: That's one thing which is not very common for an airport. And, yeah, let's see how this comes out. That's as much as I can spoil that right now.
Paul: Okay. So you see some promising changes under the scope of 5G?
Paul: And I know that you can't say more on that. I was just- one thing that always sprung- because I worked airside, and I know that probably for the listeners I'm harping on and reminiscing and... it's a bit of nostalgia for me, going back to the airport life. I was actually just talking to a colleague last night about something that was sent to me, which was quite funny. But one of the things- and it was actually to do with the carousel, which is the baggage, okay? And I think most people, at one time or another, have lost their bags. I've witnessed them losing their bags, and the process sometimes to get that bag back into the system took quite a lot of manual resource. You had to find the bag, you had to pick it up, you didn't know where it came from, you had to pull it back through the scanner, it needed to be X-rayed again. Have you seen anything evolving in that? To make- because you've got two kinds of customers, right? You've got airlines, which are your customers. You've also got the customers which are the end customers, such as the passengers. So there's many different stakeholders involved in the airport life, in the eco-system. But the baggage is obviously always one topic of discussion, wherever you go, "Oh, I lost my bag! They lost it! The airline lost it." Have you seen any improvements in that area? Is there anything that the airports are also trying to do to always improve, you know, the ability to be able to track bags? Because I know myself that the last time I lost my bag, it took them 24 hours to find it, or maybe even a bit longer. 'Cause they couldn't figure out where it was. So... is things like RFI- I think it was RFIDs, ever been introduced? For bag tagging and tracking?
Demian: Actually, I don't know that much about our baggage claim and reconciliation system. What I know that we just finished a project for a redesign. But I'm not deep into the topic, so...
Paul: Ah, okay.
Demian: From what I know that we had some test systems with, for example, RFID. But I don't know what's going on there regarding that project. We are planning actually some self baggage dropping at Cologne Bonn Airport at the moment, but that's nothing about the tracking of the baggage itself.
Paul: And tell me a little bit more about the self baggage drop-points. So I've seen them already at Gatwick. In fact, I think I used them a few years ago with easyJet, they were quite straightforward. You're not dealing with a nice, friendly customer service agent anymore, it's going more in the way of the low-cost mentality, is that you can put your own bag on the scales, you can weigh it, you can pay for it at the terminal, if it's overweight. And yeah... I remember that process being quite difficult and very frustrating for passengers as well, that they'd get to the- they'd get to the passenger service desk, they'd weigh their bag, and then they were- you know, let's say- I wouldn't say an altercation, but certainly raised voices would ensue with regards to how much baggage was allowed and what they would have to pay for. And then they would have to go to the ticket desk and pay for the excess with their baggage, then they'd have to come back again. So... is that something that you're trying to solve? With the self check-in service?
Demian: A colleague of mine, she was going to- I think it was Stuttgart Airport? Where they tried out the self baggage drop, and I just had a small insight into the project. I mean, self baggage drop is much more complicated as one may think in the first- think at first. Because there's different kind of processes. You have one-step process, where you are just dropping your baggage and printing out your piece of paper which you wrap around... I don't know what it's called again.
Paul: Yeah, your label. Yeah.
Demian: Your baggage check?
Paul: The label.
Demian: Yeah, so do you print it out at one station? Or do you drop- at first print at the first station your label, and then drop it off at the second station? You have to make sure you have a payment service provider working in the back for you, just as you said, to pay for the overweight baggage. You then have to- the whole IT background. Because you have the ARINC, it's a system which is going beyond airport infrastructure, where all the information about the baggage is stored. You also have the information in your IT system. You have to put them both together at the self baggage drop. And also, you have the customers. And as I already said, maybe younger people are much more attracted to technology and self baggage drop than older people. We wait- we asked like- I think it was like 120 or 150 customers. And we really were surprised that I think it was about 40% of the people who don't want self bag drop, who want like a person at a counter sitting and... yeah, taking your baggage.
Demian: Because it gives them like a feeling of, "There's someone who you can talk about." You can complain about that it takes like 24 hours to get your baggage back. And yeah, so the personal contact... I think it's something still really important to customers.
Paul: Yeah. Yeah, I think that's- that's really true as well. I mean, I'd like to see somebody around, whether it's even with the self check-in, with the terminals. So you check yourself in to the flight, then you go and drop your bag off, and you meet somebody at the bag drop. It's still having that experience that, you know, you're meeting airline staff, you're meeting people from the airport. To neutralize that completely I think would just be- it would be very sterile, wouldn't it? You know, it's just moved straight into something out of the Terminator. So we all need that human touch. And maybe, after COVID, or as we go through COVID, that's something that will not disappear so quickly, 'cause people will start to realize how important it really is, you know, to meet another person.
Paul: And I certainly see the need for that. So I was just thinking on that topic as well, around COVID. Of course, this has been a big upheaval for everybody, but I think the travel industry and the airlines are the ones that really, really been hit hard, especially when I talk to some of my ex-colleagues back in the UK. And as you mentioned earlier, you're only working at 70% capacity. So what's that been like for you? I mean, it's been a pretty sharp, drastic change. Both personally, and obviously for your department as well. Or have you managed to be able to continue on through? Because obviously IT is always a critical infrastructure. So what's your personal experience so far, with seeing the changes that you've- that COVID's brought about?
Demian: I mean, that's one thing we could probably talk hours about, because, as you just said, that much actually changed. I think we in ITs, we're pretty dynamic and agile regarding the change in working from home. Because we know how to work with a computer, we know how to work with Teams or which other software you're using. We know how to work with cloud solutions, as I said before - Tresorit, for example. It was much harder for other people to get used to the home office situation. Also again, I have people in my family who for the first time had like video conferencing from home, or also here at the airport. And they just didn't know how to use a certain software, so... I think that leads to a lot of frustration on the one hand. On the other hand, you don't have the social interaction where you can just ask your colleague, who is sitting one desk apart. So you have quite a big hurdle of getting in touch with people. And thus I think- and I'm also experienced in that myself. I'm really happy to go to the airport at least once a week, to get the social interaction with other colleagues. And that's the one thing that drastically changed about the co-working atmosphere, actually. Regarding airport life, it's quieter here. So I'm not hearing like an airport- like an airplane start like every two or three minutes. It's mostly cargo airports or military aircrafts. We also have the military stationed here. And this is, yeah... so it's getting really quiet all the days. And also maybe 10% of the people that were here before. So... yeah, that doesn't feel actually too good.
Demian: And I'm really looking forward to more people being vaccinated, so we can start again with a nicer working atmosphere, and also bringing the airport back to life. Because she's like sleeping right now. As I already said, the passengers (inconclusive) went back by I think 75% per cent last year, and we're also experiencing much less this year. And that's, yeah, also very... yeah, not promising for projects at the airport. I mean, again, we in IT, we still have enough to work, because we are enabling people to work from home. We are enabling our customers here at the airport to get the best support they can get to shrink that hurdle to work together, to get in touch with their colleagues, and to get fast and appropriate answers. But it's some hard times right now. And we're looking forward to better ones.
Paul: Yeah. Yeah. I know, I mean, I think for those people out there that have never been an airport employee, like yourself and myself, sometimes during the really, really busy months, and you see huge mountains of people going through the terminal, and it can be quite frustrating, because there's so many people. And typically, the- there's more people than the infrastructure can handle at any given time, because the airport never seems to be big enough. There's always more and more passengers travelling. But I would certainly think that now, we would- if I was still an airport employee, we would certainly be wishing that atmosphere back, because there is a special energy and atmosphere around airports, where you just feel that people have got purpose, they've got places to go, things to see, to travel. Whether it's families going on holiday, or elderly people going to visit their loved ones. And I can imagine it's quite a somber environment. It's been this big empty space right now. But on the positive side...
Paul: Yeah, I think on the positive side, I mean, there's the opportunity again to take the chance now to review everything, and make that passenger experience a lot more streamlined and a lot better... than previously. You know, to give some breathing space to that. And I think probably some form of testing or some kind of presentation of a test will be implemented, right? Going forward?
Demian: I think so. I'm not really involved in that process. From what I know, we had- we have a COVID test station right here at the airport, which is also used by the city of Cologne. So it's one of the biggest ones here in the city, right here at the airport. Because it's also for travelers, in- and outbound flights. And regarding- there's definitely some kind of testing must come in. I think mostly airlines will implement it. But I don't really know about the situation, which direction we are going here. What, of course, I know about is that we are actually now using that deep sleep time and where our infrastructure is not that much loaded, to critically review and just make some projects, which were otherwise a lot, lot more stressful. Because we can change components, which are right now not under such a hard load, such a big load. And that makes things a lot easier. And also the opportunity in digitalization. I think not only from the point of view on the airport, but in the who- in- yeah, Germany is- wait, I have to start over on that. And also from the point of view for the digitalization. It's a huge opportunity here in the COVID crisis, because it's like an indicator on how good your business is digitalized. And it can also show you like small pieces of adjustment. Where you can get better or where you are really good already. I mean, some companies- I think you told me about it, that it wasn't that much of a change going to mobile office, because you were already prepared regarding technologies.
Demian: So I think COVID also can be a really good indicator for digitalization in a business.
Paul: Yeah. And I think one thing that we didn't cover- I mean, of course, we understand how you're using Tresorit, maybe some of the listeners out there would be keen to understand that as well. Because, as you say, you're mainly geared to being on-premise, with data. But I know that you've adopted Tresorit to use with external collaboration. Is that correct? Maybe give us some insight.
Demian: Yeah, I mean, we have also some boards, which are not working on-premise. For example, our Supervisory Board, they're not like working here every day, and we need like a real-time platform for them to on the first hand work together, but on the other hand also to safely exchange information. And sometimes also we need like a platform which is not available also on Windows, but also on Linux or mobile devices or iOS, and thus we need a platform-independent solution for that. And then we stumbled upon Tresorit and implemented it here at the airport, because it gives us a safely encrypted working platform, where the Supervisory Board, for example given, can work on presentations in real time, changes can be tracked instantaneously, and... yeah, we're really happy now to have Tresorit implemented here at the airport.
Paul: Yeah. That's good. I mean, I think some of the things that I've seen that'd come up recently, when I'm talking to customers- and maybe I'm plugging this a little bit... it's our show, so... but the ISO27001 is- I'm hearing a lot more about that now. About how companies can become more compliant with that, and where we can help them with that. And I think, certainly with the end-to-end encryption, and the digital auditing capability, and the link restrictions that we put on to help customers that need to share files externally or collaborate externally, we give them that kind of comfort around that. And I think, maybe that's something that you've also discovered when you were working with Tresorit, or certainly reviewing Tresorit. Is what kind of audit capabilities are there for you, and control capabilities.
Demian: Yes, and also the control, which options I want to use and which I don't want to use. Because there's certain informations [sic] where I'm not thinking about who may not get that information, if I'm like writing- when I'm uploading a picture from the office from the firefighters to my project team, and sending them a link, because we're not working in a Tresor, I don't mind a limited access for this picture for like five times, but- and the validity of the link may also exceed 30 days and stuff. But also sometimes I have really, really, really sensitive information, where I can use all the options to restrict access.
Paul: Yeah. I mean, we get a few customers now asking us, "Could we use Tresorit for subject access requests under GDPR?" So when a customer goes in, or a person goes in, and says, "Right, what information do you have about me?" And they have to compile that information and share it in a secure manner. So I know a couple other companies that are certainly using it for sharing that information externally, with limited link access, registration and various other things. So... I'm glad that you've been able to apply Tresorit for your particular use case, and certainly, I'd imagine maybe in the future there will be other potential use cases for Tresorit going forward. We're going to kind of come to the end of our time now. But I just wanted to sort of ask you finally, 2021 - what is it that the airport hopes to achieve in 2021? I mean, I know we're in uncertain times now, but what's on the horizon for you as a department, and maybe as an airport?
Demian: So I think what's on the horizon is a lot of people who are eager to travel right now. Because with all the lockdown situations... I think people want to travel. And they will travel as soon as they have the possibility. And we as Cologne Bonn Airport, we are happy to welcome our customers, and to help them to travel again.
Paul: Yeah. Yeah.
Demian: And to make that travel safe.
Paul: Yeah, I think that's the thing, isn't it? Is that I think there's this kind of build-up frustration as well, that people really want to get out, and that the tourism industry or the travel- airline industry will bounce back for sure. Maybe under different circumstances, different situations. We don't know when that'll be. But I certainly also feel the urge or the need to travel, along with many other people out there as well. So... and make the airport a happy, buzzing and exciting place to be once more, in the future. Okay, Demian. Thanks a lot for joining the show today! I really appreciate some of the insights that you've given us around Cologne Bonn. It's great to have you as a customer! And we certainly look forward to working with you in the future as well, and seeing what other use cases you can apply to the Tresorit platform. So...
Paul: Enjoy the rest of your day! I appreciate that.
Demian: Thank you so much for the invitation! And have a nice one!
Paul: Thanks a lot! And that is all for today's episode of "under CTRL". You can find links to all our social platforms and to our guest in the episode description. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe and leave a review. Join me again in two weeks' time for the next episode.