The latest success story about Unifree Duty Free Istanbul Grand Airport

Unifree Duty Free is the operator of the world’s largest duty-free zone under one roof. It is sprawled across 56,285 sqm of retail space inside Istanbul Airport, and is reported to be biggest infrastructure project in Turkey’s history. It has built its network cabling infrastructure using Swiss based R&M copper and fibre cabling. With Istanbul Airport itself using R&M for its enormous network cabling platform, both entities now have the same standards of customer facing experience.

Across Istanbul Airport, Unifree Duty Free has 117 sub-operators, with 15 stores inside the departure area, 6 stores upon arrival, 8 pier-stores, one store inside the business lounge, and one store in the transit hall. The shops inside the duty-free zones are equipped with LED facades, LCD screens, price check kiosks, and videowalls.

To maximise consumer experience and spending opportunities, Unifree Duty Free has utilised digital technologies. The immersive retail shopping solutions implemented at Istanbul Airport include, enhanced digital signage systems and display systems supported by data analytics.

The Digital Signage Federation has recognised and awarded this shopping experience in Istanbul Airport under the transportation category for 2020.

Usage of technology

In terms of IT infrastructure and applications, Unifree Duty Free is supported by robotic customer service, ERP, shopping analytics. It provides contactless WeChat Pay transactions and QR code-based payments. “This is a first inside Turkey,” points out Osman Ayhan, Director of Information Technology at Unifree Duty Free.

The Unifree Duty Free stores inside Istanbul Airport’s departure, arrival and transfer floors are replenished with goods from warehouses within the airport premises. This large and dispersed area is integrated with a secure and high-available network topology.

The Internet, energy infrastructure, switch stacks, servers, storages, air conditioning systems, cyber-security infrastructure support the Unifree Duty Free stores inside Istanbul Airport to operate with high available performance.

For its futuristic customer transactions and customer shopping experience, Unifree Duty Free is using a mesh and distributed networking infrastructure. “Networking layer 1 to layer 7 has been carefully chosen and implemented. We improve our systems continuously according to the changing technology trends and several security vectors,” remarks Ayhan.

Building the network

To create such an advanced, immersive type of shopping experience requires technology that delivers a seamless, secure, performing Ethernet-IP infrastructure as well as reliable data coverage, according to Ayhan. Unifree Duty Free selected R&M as its networking supplier because the cabling fulfilled the required specifications.

R&M had already provided Istanbul Airport with structured Cat 6A UTP cabling, rated as Low Smoke Zero Halogen and equipped with a special design for elimination of Alien Crosstalk. Alien Crosstalk is electromagnetic interference that can occurs when cables run alongside other signal-carrying cables.

Crosstalk occurs between different bundles of cables, rather than between single cables. Alien crosstalk can be particularly troublesome and cannot be eliminated by phase cancellation. It is a hash of electromagnetic noise that is too complex to be dealt with by phase-cancellation measures.

R&M provided more than 900 km of copper and fiber cabling for Unifree Duty Free stores inside Istanbul Airport, enabling over 10,000 network ports. Since Unifree Duty Free is located inside Istanbul Airport, which is itself using R&M cabling, integration and cross over is smooth.

“We have a self-owned and self-operated networking infrastructure within the airport as Unifree Duty Free. If we need any integration, we use the required security specifications to realise the required configuration,” adds Ayhan.

Moving forward

The vision of Unifree Duty Free is to provide its customers with a unique shopping experience using technology. “That is why we always research and implement, high-end technology products, which are enriched with analytical and cognitive tool sets,” says Ayhan. “We have different customers from different cultures of the world at this international airport. We need to understand, internal and external customer expectations, with the highest level of operational excellence using technology,” he emphasizes.

R&M at Istanbul Airport

Opened in late 2018, Istanbul’s new airport has been operating at capacity since April 2019, and relies extensively on the latest networking infrastructure and systems. The fibre network cabling infrastructure for the airport and its datacentre was supplied by the Swiss company, R&M (Reichle & De-Massari AG).

In the first phase of the network installation, R&M supplied 5,400 km of copper cablings and 3,270 km of fiber-optic cabling. The installation required fiber-optic distribution cabinets, patch panels as well as 115,000 connector ports. The service level agreement for the network cabling was to support 9,000 surveillance cameras; 3,000 card readers in real-time; and 5,000 Wi-Fi access points.

The airport networking infrastructure with a colour coding scheme interconnected customs, security and the police. R&M’s network cabling is designed for a lifetime of 25 years with a guarantee of 99.982% reliability to support a Tier III datacentre. Several aspects of the cabling had to be specifically designed for this mega-project.

Another part of R&M’s service level agreement was to guarantee high quality signal transmission and eliminate interference for decades. The R&M installation provides automation, monitoring and operation of the data network from a central location. This allows detection of unsolicited changes to the infrastructure or any attempt to tamper with the connectors in real time.

Using a modular design, the cabling systems can keep pace with the expansion of the airport. R&M’s roll out and installation was managed out of its Middle East office in Dubai, UAE.

 

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