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.
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.
“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’.
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.