Gregory Ouillon, Chief Technology Officer, SITAONAIR
Connectivity and broadband is everywhere: 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, broadband, satellite, cabin, cockpit. It’s essential in enabling a new innovation cycle involving apps, mobile, and content everywhere.
No single pipe will solve all data and application needs on all fleets – indeed there are already plenty of examples of airlines using different cockpit links in the air and on the ground.
As the choice and complexity increases, so airlines will need support from experts to manage the collection and integration of data over these pipes – to enable them to focus on the apps and leverage the data to improve their business across their whole fleet.
Security is obviously also a concern. Who owns the data, how do we control it, how do I know who it goes to, what if they make value with my data, can I get a share of that value?
Whatever the pipe you choose, the complexity is in the end-to-end chain. We have new apps, passengers are getting all the connectivity they want as well as on-board content, the crew is being equipped with tablets and pilots with EFBs.
Aircraft are generating more data about their health and operational performance, which can be leveraged into a new generation of ground applications, leveraging predictive analytics. There are also more and more apps on the ground providing real-time information, shared situational awareness and enhanced decision making.
But it takes quite a significant stack – from on-board software integration to selection of the best means of connectivity – to deliver the data.
Universal data management
We're moving towards a universal data management platform. Will there be only one? Of course not. But you’re most likely to seize the full potential of the connected aircraft if you can exploit the data on the ground – collecting, storing and normalizing it.
To create value, airlines are working increasingly with service partners of their choice, including air framers, OEMs and application vendors – but they need simple and secure ways of exchanging data with them.
The task is to convert and expose it, enriched to the right stakeholders under the control of the airline. Data is becoming the new oil and people must remember that it’s not simply collecting but about a focus on creating value with it.
It’s about integration
Over the next five years there won’t be a killer app for the connected aircraft. It’s all about integration and knowing what you’re trying to achieve. Broadband connectivity is coming to aircraft.
But we're already connecting in so many ways. If we are to digitally transform our industry, the people who operate our processes need to be able to depend on the technology – and it needs to run and work 24/7. This service dimension is something that can all too easily be overlooked.
And it’s about choices
Digital transformation is about choices. Today, there are a number of stakeholders pushing for verticalization. There are others looking at more transverse models, with more of a middleware approach to serving different fleets and different avionics.
But it remains the airline that’s at the center of making the right choices. SITAONAIR is expanding its platforms and services in the cloud to support these data management and exchange requirements.