The role of Master Systems Integrator (MSI) on airport projects is one of the most misunderstood terms.

From the owners point of view the MSI is the one who makes everything work holistically;

From the designer’s point of view, they MSI clean up all the interfaces or at least makes the interfaces work (even though the specifications are unclear).

From the main contractors point of view, the MSI is a necessary function (but they really don’t know what he/she/they do… ‘Hogwarts’?); and

From the MSI point of view, it is nice to have on the reference list, ‘we won the MSI role on job XXXXX’, and then the MSI spends a significant amount of time clarifying scope, defining roles and responsibilities, and continuing to be asked to reduce their price or expected to spend money that the Specifications had Gaps in.

Airport Systems

An airport is an interesting place, airports have shopping malls, hotels, car parks, restaurants, police station, fire station, customs offices, immigration offices, and various other entities you would have in a small city. Supporting all these airport ‘inhabitants’ they have fire alarm systems, public address systems, building services systems, security systems, power management systems, lighting control systems, lifts, escalators, moving walkways and others . Other city services include mobile telephone services and ‘hot spots’ as a service to travellers and staff.

AND – of course they have all the airport related elements, airline offices, airline lounges, baggage handling systems, loading bridges, fuel systems, airport taxiway lighting, runway lighting, a weather stations, public displays, check in equipment, and many others.

SO – to build an airport requires over 50 systems that have some form of information technology component. The owner now has to decide how all of these will plug together, after all they are all computer Information Technology Systems. Right!

Even information technology companies have several methods to accomplish their integration requirements.

Why – most companies forget to consider why they want integration, they just know they should have it because everybody else has it. Companies should consider the benefits of integration; cost, performance, security, time, future proofing, etc.

Airports need to take advantage of all the benefits but that does not mean ‘throwing all the eggs in one basket’.


Just because systems can be integrated does not mean they have to be. Integration should be focused on achieving benefits which are measurable. If the benefits are measurable, then they can be cost justified.

Systems Integration Architecture (SIA) – There are various methods of integrating systems;

  1. Vertical integration / Discipline integration puts systems serving a common function in a group.
  2. Horizontal integration / Multi-Discipline integration puts all systems in one basket.
  3. Star / Spaghetti integration connects all systems to each of the remaining systems.
  4. A Network Integration that connects everybody on the same network fabric (Cable and Routers), sub networks (VLANS) are implemented.
  5. Low Level Integration is a field unit integration approach (typically a Building Management System, Fire Alarm and Security System).
  6. Dedicated Network puts only the system or group in the network (typically for Police, Customs and Immigration).
  7. Database Integration makes each systems database compatible with the other systems databases.
  8. Information Broker integration makes provides the Application Program Interface (API) that provides the common messaging format, protocol, database translations, etc.

How – Actually, systems integration within an airport is relatively straightforward.

I would suggest the following.

1.Step 1 – Identify all systems being implements at your given airport.

2.Step 2- Group the systems into common and \ or complementary functions

3.Step 3 – Identify which systems have confidential or highly sensitive information.

4.Step 4 – Identify which systems have no useful integration benefits.

5.Step 5 – Put all the findings in a cost / benefit matrix

6.Step 6 – Prepare your systems integration strategic plan

7.Step 7 – Use the systems integration strategic plan to guide your design consultants prepared in the Specifications.


I would suggest for an airport, the following results for step 1-4 above, and the type of integration from the Systems Integration Architecture (SIA) items 1-7).

  1. Airport Systems will generally be Group Integrated
  2. Airport Systems will have all forms of SIA

Determine what kind of MSI to use.

Assuming you have completed step 8 (How -What groups) –

General Example – My Thoughts

  • Building Services Group – SIA 1, 4, 7 and 8 (Vertical Integration, Network Integration, Database Integration and Information Broker)
  • Security Services Group – SIA 1, 4, 7 and 8
  • Fire Services Group – SIA 1, 5, 6, 7
  • Check in Services – SIA 1, 4, 7, and 8
  • Customs Services – SIA 1, 6
  • Immigration Services – SIA 1, 6
  • Police Services – SIA 1, 6
  • Network Services – SIA 1, 2, and 4
  • Airport Operational Database / Information Broker – SIA 2, 4, 7 and 8
  • Public Telephone (GSM) – SIA 6

Master Systems Integrator – Will NOT be a subsystem provider. This will be a role of integration of the Sub-systems. The main role of the MSI is to represent the Client.

Until all subcontractors have been selected it is not possible to fully define the system integration requirements (detail level). The MSI will help to resolve these issues.

The MSI will generally provide:

1.Prepare and Update the System Integration Master Plan

2.Prepare and Update the Information Technology Master Plan

3.Prepare and Update the Network Services Master Plan

4.Review and Approve submissions of the various Sub-System Integrators

5.Review and Resolve integration technical disputes

6.Review and Approve System and Site Integration QA Documentation

7.Prepare and Update the Site System Integration Master Plan

Sub-System Integrator – the Contractor providing the systems will be responsible for their own integration.

This is a quick overview of the Master Systems Integration function. Obviously there is a lot more that could be written on this subject and perhaps differing opinions. If you would like more on the subject, contact me.