Data is all around us, but unless it’s managed and integrated to provide a ‘single version of the truth’ to enhance operations and improve customer service, it risks becoming a burden rather than an asset. 

SITA’s Disruption Management solution empowers everyone, from customer agents to the CEO of the airport, to deal with customers secure in the knowledge that the information they’re providing is accurate and timely – and, crucially, is the same information being used by everyone else across the airport infrastructure.  

Nick Gates, Portfolio Director, Air Travel Solutions, SITA

 

Airports and airlines will be spending almost US$ 33bn on IT this year, according to SITA’s newly released 2017 Air Transport IT Trends Insights.

A core element of that investment is the growing range of Business Intelligence (BI) solutions: 83% of airports and 91% of airlines are planning major programs or R&D in the sector over the next three years.

This level of investment in BI is critical if full value is to be obtained from the vast volumes of data increasingly available to airport management – because it’s not about capturing the data, but putting it to good use. That brings greater productivity, effectiveness and, crucially, enhanced customer service.

In addition, the consistent and continuing growth in air travel worldwide means that a growing number of airports are operating beyond their original design limits for both passengers and aircraft – and have been challenged to keep pace with advances in technology.

Patchy coordination

Inevitably in this sometimes frenetic environment, coordination between departments – and between airport operators, air traffic controllers, airlines and ground handlers – can be patchy.

Just think for a moment of the amount of data produced from what have traditionally been standalone areas, from engineering and facilities to baggage handling, airport operations to physical security and emergency response systems.

Lack of integration across organizations risks compromising the principle of a ‘single version of the truth’. This makes it even more difficult to maintain the highest standards of customer service and productive efficiency. And it’s creating a swathe of potential risks for airports if things go wrong or in an emergency.

Game changer

“The introduction of collaborative decision-making (CDM) tools has become a real game-changer for airports,” says Nick Gates, Portfolio Director, Air Travel Solutions at SITA.

“But CDM requires accurate, real-time information that is guaranteed to be that ‘single version of the truth’.

“The answer is an integrated control center. Already common at major airports, these centers are equally a ‘must-have’ for medium and smaller size airports if the profound benefits of the abundance of data are to be fully translated across the industry.

“They’re designed to dissolve the silos so that an airport can coordinate, monitor and control operations at one decision-making point.” See also: ‘All change at the airport’ and ‘The continued rise of A-CDM’.   

Integration assured

SITA’s ControlBridge integrates the command control of an airport into a single, high-performing capability. It starts by establishing the consolidated operation model and governance structure by which the new center will be operated.

That includes workspace design, as well as integration of all supporting technologies through to authoring of the new center’s standard operating procedures and protocols. Crucially, all of this is fully managed through one single supplier, SITA, so integration is assured from the outset.

ControlBridge has been designed to suit each individual airport’s own needs. Modular, customizable, scalable and progressive, it enables integration of command and control capabilities to be extended as required.

It fits, of course, with an airport’s own core systems as well as with extra technologies provided by third-party suppliers.

“What matters is the end result – a single integrated platform that connects all relevant stakeholders within a single operational model,” adds Gates.

Mobile unity

Just as the benefits of integrating operational control into a single system are clear to all, at the other end of the spectrum, it’s every bit as important to share information between airport-based staff.

“Silos need to be removed at all levels of the organization,” he continues, “as better staff collaboration must be dependent on sharing information and making data available to all as needed.”

One way of achieving this is through SITA’s recently launched AirsideApp. It’s a workforce mobility solution that allows ground processes to be moved from paper to digital and from desktop to mobile. Tablet-based, it connects to airline, airport and ground handler systems – so information can be collected and shared in real-time.

Airside App is in use at a leading Asian airline and at airports in Asia and the Middle East, where it’s been shown to reduce administration time to process forms and manuals by as much as 30% and increase the accuracy of time-stamped activity recording by up to 25%.

Many data sources

Airside App seamlessly integrates with the variety of back-end systems used at airports, including departure control, flight information, resource and inventory management systems as well as 3rd party services.

The app’s integration to these various data sources, combined with mobile precision timing, ensures contextual and relevant data is displayed to ground agents based on their individual work activities.

For example, information and collaboration relating to emergencies or disruptions can be ensured through instant messaging between relevant airport-based groups.

The timing and duration of operational processes can be logged and recorded, helping track task completion and performance. Ancillary services can be upsold and card payments processed by staff on the move.

Airside App is cloud-based, back-end agnostic. It can be linked to any existing environment and IT infrastructure.

It’s in use today at a leading Asian airline and at airports in Asia and the Middle East, where it’s been shown to reduce administration time to process forms and manuals by as much as 30% and increase the accuracy of time-stamped activity recording by up to 25%.

Massive impact

Global awareness of anything that can cause disruption to the smooth running of an airport has been another long-standing item on any airport’s wish-list.

If a major weather event (such as heavy snow) causes multiple flights to be delayed from the departure point, that has a potentially massive impact on the destination airport’s operations. But it’s likely to be known well in advance and plans can be put in place.

However, delays to one incoming flight can also cause major headaches because of the domino effect. Ensuring that all operational functions at the airport have the right information in good time – as well as management and, perhaps critically, passengers – is essential if disruption is to be minimized.

Disruption

The growing desire to tackle disruption and its effects is all too evident from the industry’s plans, according to SITA’s 2017 Air Transport IT Trends Insights.

Some 80% of airlines say they’re planning major projects for disruption warning and prediction systems in 2017, a rise from 72% the year before. A similar number will invest in self-service solutions for irregular operations.

 

“Both airports and airlines need situational and contextual awareness of aircraft location, in addition to understanding the operational effects of flight delays on passengers, baggage and future aircraft movements,” explains Gates.

SITA’s Disruption Management solution provides this, as a new solution from SITA in partnership with Australian company Constraint Technologies International.

“Based on real-time actionable information, it allows recovery options to be assessed and implemented through collaborative action across all parts of the airport – from engineering to passenger processing, staffing to flight information displays.

“It empowers everyone, from customer agents to the CEO, to deal with customers secure in the knowledge that the information they’re providing (perhaps also using SITA’s Airside App) is accurate and timely – and, crucially, is the same information being used by everyone else across the airport ecosystem.

Proof of concept

Proof of concept was completed with the assistance of Air Europa – based in Palma de Mallorca and operating tour services between northern and western Europe, and holiday resorts in the Canary Islands and Balearic Islands, as well as domestic scheduled services and long-haul scheduled services to North America and South America.

“The Global Awareness application provides a complete network view and status of the airline operation,” Juan Rosselló Corró, “Assistant Director of Flight Operations”, Air Europa. 

“You have all the information you need in one place, from flight status and on-time performance to passenger and crew connections. It’s easy to use and navigate using the globe display then you can drill down to look at the detail. We’ve used the tool on mobile and desktop devices and it can really help to share awareness around the airline.”

Looking ahead: 'OOOI'

When the plane is out of the gate, off the ground, back on the ground, and in, we want to predict all four of those numbers, 72 hours in advance.

Jim Peters, CTO, SITA

 

SITA Disruption Management uses real-time information and data, but the ideal is to be able to predict disruption before it happens. SITA Lab has been working on new disruption tools using artificial intelligence. See ‘Let's defeat disruption’

These tools will be able to provide an enhanced look forward up to 72 hours in advance, enabling an airport to be prepared and ready for any anticipated disruptions and, where possible, deliver proactive problem prevention and mitigation.

SITA CTO Jim Peters explains: “When the plane is out of the gate, off the ground, back on the ground, and in (OOOI in ACARS parlance) we want to predict all four of those numbers, 72 hours in advance.

“We've taken a whole set of historical data fed it into a neural network, an artificial intelligence model that emulates the human brain. The more data, the better.

“It’s based on a theory that history is going to repeat itself in areas such as weather, runway conditions, runway operating directions. How many runways are open? Has there been air traffic control incident? Is there an ash-in-the-sky incident? Of these events are very repeatable.”

Ultimate collaboration

“The predictive analytics model is still in development,” explains Gates. “But we’re heading close to the very high level of accuracy (90%-plus) we want to see before commercialization. We will then be able to offer an extraordinary level of airport operational control.

“Today the ‘single version of the truth’ provided by SITA’s Integrated Airport Control solution offers an unprecedented level of collaboration in real-time between the many operational areas – including through the use of mobile apps.

“That’s supported by real-time disruption management capabilities allowing restorative measures to be put in place quickly and effectively. And we have the prospect of being able to anticipate disruption events before they’ve happened. The intelligent airport acting as a unitary entity has never been closer to reality,” Gates concludes.

Oct 2017

Take control at the airport

SITA ControlBridge comprises two elements: professional services (consult, design, build and support) and managed technology (platform services and applications, including third party).

ControlBridge enhances decision-making thanks to its comprehensive view of airport operations both landside and airside. It improves cross-departmental operations optimization and controls operational complexity.

And it minimizes flight and passenger disruption through a single coordination point during irregular operations or emergencies – and lessens the negative impact of adverse weather conditions by facilitating both anticipation and a redistribution of resources.

Situational awareness

Crucially, ControlBridge enables an airport to move from multiple operational control centers to one. Not only does this remove the inevitable risk inherent in silo working. It also improves operational efficiencies and resources optimization to deliver reduced operating costs.

At the same time, it achieves consolidation of infrastructure, reduction in IT support and reduced energy costs – all of which delivers a reduction in total cost of ownership.

The  SITA ControlBridge Platform Services include infrastructure, end-user-computing, and smart video wall technology, as well as technology tools for airport situational awareness and cross-capability performance monitoring.

Range of tools

They embrace market disruptive computing technology and Common-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) hardware to provide a solution for virtually any budget.

The SITA ControlBridge Applications Suite includes a range of optional control center software solutions – including products from SITA’s extensive airports portfolio as well as exceptional third party offerings.

It includes tools for A-CDM and TAMS enablement, advanced tactical planning and analytics, and event correlation and workflow management.

The halo effect - Microsoft HoloLens

Technology using Microsoft's HoloLens mixed reality smartglasses is opening up new possibilities for the integration of airport operational command and control.

SITA Lab recently worked with Helsinki Airport to reproduce the airport operational control center (AOCC) in a mixed reality environment, using HoloLens.

The Lab used a feed from SITA’s Day of Operations technology and presented a new way to visualize and interact with the airport’s operational data including aircraft movement, passenger movement and retail analytics.

The demonstration suite generated significant interest at SITA’s IT Summit earlier this year and work is continuing on its development.

Go to the SITA Online YouTube channel to view: ‘Reimagine Airport Control Centers with HoloLens technology’.

Bag tracking - It's 'in the bag'

One of the traditional weak points in any airport’s operations has been baggage handling – but a concentrated focus by IATA and SITA is resulting in a massive decline in the number of lost and mishandled bags, as evidenced by SITA Baggage Reports.

Of course, this weak point has been a drag on airport operational efficiency and profitability. The 2017 SITA Baggage Report estimates that baggage mishandling cost the industry US$ 27bn in the decade from 2007-2016.

But the worst may well be over, with the introduction of IATA Resolution 753, which member airlines must implement by June 2018 and which will demand that availability of data at every step.

The requirement is deceptively simple: to track each bag onto the aircraft, into arrivals areas and even transfer systems, and to share the tracking information with all those involved in delivering the baggage back to the passenger at the final destination.

Popular

It’s a move that’s expected to be popular with passengers: 77% of airlines expect IATA R753 will offer major benefits in improving customer satisfaction, according to the 2017 Baggage Report.

SITA’s BagJourney provides a precise picture of a bag’s current location, no matter how many airlines or airports handle it. The system makes information available in a structured and easy-to-consume way, enhancing passenger experience and reducing ground handling costs.

Bags are permanently tracked and therefore, in situations where they are mishandled, the service makes it easier to quickly recover and reunite them with their owners.

As the data collection is free of charge, BagJourney can become the core platform of a ready-to-go solution for airlines looking for a cost-effective way of fulfilling the IATA Resolution 753. This product is available through SITA's ATI Cloud.

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