Dubai Airports

A scalable vision of security for both passengers and content


Dubai International (DXB) is practically a city of its own. As the world’s biggest international airport, and one of two airports owned by the Dubai Airports, it serves 90 million passengers annually and is growing quickly. Providing a safe and secure airport to the passengers is the company's primary mandate, but the security of content is also crucial, since it could potentially jeopardize workflows and slow down the efficiency of a large mobile workforce. 


Dubai Airports adopted Cloud Content Management from Box as just one part of its best-of-breed approach that includes Okta and Office 365. Box KeySafe manages encryption, Box Zones ensures location data, and Cloud Content Management in general enables more efficient, secure workflows company wide. And employees can now share content without having to rely on USB drives.



Teams like Internal Communications are much more agile when collaborating on large, IP-sensitive files. The security risk of sharing via USB drives has been eliminated. Dubai Airport’s content is now centralized, readily available, and secure — ultimately helping employees get passengers where they need to go more smoothly.

As Dubai has become both a hub and a destination for global travelers, Dubai International (DXB) has grown into the largest airport in the world for international passenger traffic. As one of two facilities operated by Dubai Airports, the airport sees an aircraft take off approximately every 76 seconds.

“This is my sixth airport, and it’s pretty much as big as it gets,” says Michael Ibbitson, Executive Vice President - Technology and Infrastructure at Dubai Airports. “It’s kind of a high-paced environment with enormous infrastructure — runways, terminal buildings, concourses, shopping areas, and a baggage system that stretches 175 kilometers and processes some 16,000 bags an hour.”

All that space, the frenzy of activity, and the absolute mandate for logistics to go perfectly mean that Dubai Airports must invest in the right technology for every facet of its operations. DXB currently serves 90 million people, with capacity set to expand to 118 million in the next few years. Add to that the fact that the airport cannot expand anymore in terms of footprint, and the call for increased logistical efficiency becomes highly critical. 

“It’s all about capacity,” says Ibbitson. “Even if you can get that number of people through the facility, you still have to provide them a great level of service or they're not going to come. They’ll choose to go through the Istanbul airport or Abu Dhabi.” It’s Ibbiston’s job to optimize the operational tech stack, and that’s the driver that led Dubai Airports to Cloud Content Management with Box.


“We went on a great journey of transforming and putting aside all the standard IT stuff and focusing on the customer, and that was a big cultural change.”

Michael Ibbitson, Executive Vice President - Technology and Infrastructure, Dubai Airports


Reliance on real-time data and current content

Real-time data is of the utmost essence in an airport environment. The logistics that happen behind the scenes to make passengers’ experiences smooth require a number of real-time data mechanisms. For instance, Ibbitson’s team uses software to increase the efficiency of the baggage system, tapping into the 200 data points that every single piece of luggage produces. “We now have a data analytics program that’s pretty extensive that measures every single part of your journey,” says Ibbitson. “We’re trying to predict the exact time it will take your bag to get to you.”

The fixation on real-time technology extends to the Airport’s content management tools. For airports, which are confined to a campus, it might seem odd to use cloud-based tools. But Ibbitson views Cloud Content Management as a critical part of the technology ecosystem, where not having to manage on-premises servers is something he’s grateful for. “I don’t want to be bothered with all the stuff that isn’t core to the business,” Ibbitson says. “I need my technology staff to concentrate on what adds value: passengers, bags, and the services that support it.”



Less risk, more secure collaboration

Employees like Sivale Khalil appreciate the benefits Cloud Content Management brings to workflows. As Officer, Internal Corporate Communications, Khalil’s marketing role allows her to facilitate collaboration with both internal stakeholders and external agencies and other partners. Her team traffics in large files — photographs, video, design files, and Box gives them the space to collaborate on those files in the cloud.

The use of Cloud Content Management has enabled Khalil’s department to stop the practice of sharing files on physical USB drives. USB sticks only enable one-way communication — a clunky transfer of files on a physical device — and were causing a lot of problems with virus infections each year on the company’s computer infrastructure. Cloud Content Management, on the other hand, enables two-way communication and collaboration and is much more secure. IT can govern content permissions centrally, and marketing stakeholders can still access it easily from anywhere. Collaboration is secure not just within the airport, but with external marketing partners as well.


“Whether it’s at work, whether I’m airside in the terminal needing to get things done quickly, it allows me instantaneous access.”

 Sivale Khalil, Officer, Internal Corporate Communications, Dubai Airports

The airport be-all and end-all: security

“We have a great focus here at Dubai Airports on transforming our business operations to be more digital,” says Ibbitson. But an equally weighted priority — or perhaps more so — is security of data and content. 

In general, the word security is not bandied about lightly in the air-travel industry. Ibbitson says, “I don’t really want to be the guy that finds out that someone in a church around the corner is controlling my runway lights. We need to focus our cybersecurity on protecting those systems.” Keeping passengers and employees safe is at the heart of what he does every day.


Dubai airport


Which is why he’s keen to rely on best-of-breed integrations like Okta, Office 365, and Box to handle systems that aren’t critical to passenger security. Such partnerships, he says, “have already made an investment in securing those infrastructures on our behalf.” Dubai Airports also relies upon Box KeySafe to manage all the encryption of their Box instance, and on Box Zones to ensure they can guarantee the location of the data in the Box ecosystem.


“Box KeySafe allows us to manage all of the encryption of our Box instance from here, and Box Zones makes sure that we can guarantee the location of our data in the Box ecosystem.”

 Michael Ibbitson, Executive Vice President - Technology and Infrastructure, Dubai Airports


Scaling technology, workflows, and passenger experience

By implementing a host of best-of-breed technologies that work together, and taking advantage of the advanced features and additional tools those choices enable, Dubai Airports has been able to focus internal IT efforts on airport efficiency and security, while entrusting data efficiency and security to the leaders in the technology field.

Ibbitson says, “We now have more control and more governance over our data, everything is encrypted, we have it all version controlled. You can liberate yourself from the headache of managing your service and really focus yourself on what your business needs.”

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