Congratulations - it's digital twins! | SITA

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Congratulations - it's Digital Twins!

Published on  13 September by Gustavo Pina , Director, SITA Lab
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The air travel industry has been working to mature its digital transformation for many years.  It’s a tough challenge analogous to a heart transplant while running a marathon. 

One clear lesson is the default outcome of any digital transformation, which is information overload. The old idioms of drinking from a firehose or sifting through a giant haystack come to mind. The noise is only going to get louder as the Internet of Things (IoT) evolves to every part, in every machine at the airport emitting data. 

The sheer amount of data will make it impossible to build applications, dashboards, or reports to consume it all, which is why SITA has been exploring how Digital Twins will help people interact with information in the future.

‘Double vision’

Forbes defines the Digital Twin in this article as “a virtual model of a process, product or service. This pairing of the virtual and physical worlds allows analysis of data and monitoring of systems to head off problems before they even occur, prevent downtime, develop new opportunities and even plan for the future by using simulations.” 

Digital Twins have the potential to be the universal interface to get the needed value out of information across all the stakeholders in the airport, in many different ways. 

Our vision of the Digital Twin has several dimensions beyond the digital content model:

AI and actionable insights

First is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to transform the data into actionable insights in the form of perception, prediction, recommendations, and simulation. The challenge is not about finding the needle in the haystack as every bit of information is valuable in the right context to the right person. 

It’s about mapping the connections and creating relevant insights that lead to actions that make a real difference. Algorithms are getting excellent at this. Also, it’s about automating the repetitive, menial activities to free up people to focus on the important activities like customer service, operational excellence, and safety.

Simple digital interaction

The second area is to simplify the human to digital interaction. Rather than build endless application views, have a single communal experience. This uses gesture-driven 3D visualizations of the airport environment with large displays in central command centers, mixed reality on mobile devices, and even immersive holographic interfaces, like the recently launched Magic Leap goggles or the HoloLens experience we created last year.

Much like a weather app, many data elements can be layered on the airport landscape such as aircraft and passenger movements, queue lengths, and the ocean of IoT telemetry that will materialize. AI can highlight what to pay attention to right now, predict what’s coming, and enable simulation to understand the impact and effectiveness of compensating actions.  

Voice cuts through the complexity

Conversational voice interfaces, backed by AI, also cut through the complexity. Just ask what you need to see when you need. SITA, flight 123 is early do I have a problem? What is the next available slot?

Wearables – to connect your staff to the ‘hive’

Last, is the challenge of interconnecting staff ‘in the trenches’ into the hive without interfering with agents engaging with passengers or ground services turning the aircraft. Wearables like smart earbuds, watches, or smart glasses powered with voice interfaces and computer vision, are a must.  

The end result? You’ll empower everyone with a social collaborative consciousness to maximize efficiencies, and accelerate the time it takes to recover from problems. But more importantly, you’ll prevent problems from happening in the first place.

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