While Gruber makes a valid point here, calling a system that can't be used due to high complexity "sophisticated" is indeed nonsense, both, he and the AP article describing the problems at Berlin airport, do miss the point.
Starting up large infrastructure projects is a complex process involving a multitude of parties. I have been involved in three major international airport start-ups myself, and to me it is very obvious that the excuses given are not at all in line with reality.
The AP article highlights the fact that Berlin airport officials are, since many weeks, unable to turn off the airport's lighting, "because the system in too complicated".
This is sheer, irresponsible and utterly incredible bullshit. Lighting installations in huge buildings are either directly controlled through a LCS (Lighting Control System), or directly integrated into the BMS or FMS (Building or Facility Management System). None of these systems are pure "off-the-shelf" software. These systems are frameworks and toolsets only that get custom tailored to the individual facilities (e.g. custom presets, grouping etc,), and in virtually 100% of cases the actual implementation is done with developer and operator staff being part of the exercise.
In such a project you have a minimum of these phases for such a system (could be more):
- Detailed Specification
- Technical Testing and Commissioning
- Operational Testing and Commissioning
- Vendor provided training
- As-built documentation and handbooks
- Sign-off and beneficial use
(The above is grossly simplified.) The airport operator is at least involved in steps 6. through 9. and had multiple opportunities to pull the break before making payments and releasing the provider / contractor. The airport developer was involved in all steps and had even more opportunities to get it right. But whenever everybody fails, it is easy to blame "systems", as we all are too willing to accept that computers are nothing but trouble.
What happened in Berlin? Who failed? I do not know. But it is obvious that systems have been paid, tested and commissioned (technically and operationally) without anybody crying stop. This is poor management, piss-poor project management and whoever was involved in this mess should be held accountable. But nobody should allow them to get away with blaming the system. No LCS, BMS or FMS in existence is so bad that it can't be used. A system that bad does not exist. Period.
The airport operator did either not attend testing and commissioning, or they did not send qualified staff to attend the vendor training, or they are simply unable to read the vendor documentation. One or more of these. None of these are system problems.
Why am I so eager to make that differentiation? Being in computer business and airports for almost 30 years, I am sick and tired of engineers and programmers being blamed for nothing. Denver International? Yeah. Fucking baggage system! Truth: despite several urgent calls from international experts to start operational testing at least 12 months before opening, DIA management decided to know better. They did not. Heathrow T5? Yeah. Fucking systems messed up everything. Or? Truth is: Staff did not receive proper training and familiarization, on opening day dozens of people could not even get to their workplace. The baggage system had a few minor issues, but all of them combined would not have led to the disaster that BA created there.
A flat 100% of airport opening problems I have read about as "system problems" in the last 15 years had nothing to do with system problems at all. All of them were due to improper, ignorant and clueless management. Repeating lies ad nauseam does not change that,