From the beautiful city of Zürich in Switzerland comes this great example of how WPF makes data visualization a snap. In the scenario we’re looking at here, the airport wanted a way to be able to track and manage flight operations.
I’m sure we’ve all been in the situation of waiting at the airport to collect someone, but not knowing how close they are to getting out of the terminal. Usually all you have to go on is a bank of monitors that shows the flight status as “Landed”, which doesn’t tell you whether the plane has literally just touched down, is taxiing around the airport, is actually docked at a gate, or is emptying its load of passengers. If you’re monitoring the airport operations, this is a business-critical problem: how full are the car parks? Are planes backing up for a particular runway? How many gates are open?
In the case of Zürich Airport, they now have a new tool built on WPF that can help answer these questions and more. This application, built as a XAML Browser Application, provides airport operators with an immediate overview of the real-time status of every plane. On the operator’s display, every plane shows its location on a map, colored in a gradient from red to green that shows what percentage of the aircraft is full. Since every aircraft transmits its location thanks to GPS, it’s possible to follow it from the moment the pilot powers the systems on to the moment that the aircraft leaves the airport environs.
Similarly, they’ve built in instrumentation for the car parking garages, so it’s possible also to see where any capacity issues exist for people who are arriving at the terminal. Once again, a red/green gradient shows how full any individual garage is.
For obvious security and scalability reasons, it’s not possible to make the live application available over the Internet for anyone to access. But they’ve kindly given us permission to post a public demonstrator for the application along with some historical data so you can see it in action. Thanks to the power of XBAP deployment, you can see this here on netfx3.com.
Since this is real historical data, you get to see the application in all its rawness. There’s no smoothing of the GPS signals, so occasionally it looks like an aircraft is not pointing in the right direction or it “jumps” to a new locations. Planes suddenly appear: I presume that’s when the aircraft power system is turned on for the first time and starts communicating with the tower.
Several helpful shortcuts for using the application are presented on startup; I recommend modifying the “Airplane zoom” and “Playback time” sliders to about 50% so that you can see the aircraft capacity and the planes move at faster than normal speed. You can experiment with other options in the toolbar – for example, you can change the color binding for the aircraft to represent length of delay or airline rather than capacity.
Special thanks to Ronnie Saurenmann from Microsoft Switzerland, who was pivotal in realizing this application and kind enough to arrange to make this available for the broader community to see.