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Innovating with a community mindset

Published on  22 November by Gustavo Pina , Director, SITA Lab
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If you’ve recently visited an airport it should be no surprise that the volume of passengers is stressing the limits of air travel, and the climb is getting steeper as volumes are forecasted to double in 15 years. To survive this growth, it’s critical that we collaborate as a community, co-innovating in the quest to embrace technologies that will change the way our industry works.

We must profoundly improve how we work together …

One thing is clear: our industry must profoundly improve how the many stakeholders responsible for getting passengers safely across their journey work together efficiently. This necessitates a mutual consciousness or situational awareness, planning and integrated coordination-recovery between the many departments across the airport, airline, and government and across the network.

… technology and teamwork will make this happen

It’s encouraging to see – in SITA’s recently released Air Transport IT Insights 2018 – that airlines and airports are beginning to explore new technology to that end. Artificial intelligence, blockchain, biometrics identity management, cognitive computing, wearables and more – they’re all among the major programs and R&D taking place in the air transport community.

Because these technologies span stakeholders and processes, as we adopt them it’s essential we identify and tackle use cases with a community mindset and within partnerships.

Airlines and airports with an innovation collaboration strategy in place and planned

Partnerships in innovation

On the partnership front, the industry is embracing the opportunities that innovation collaboration with tech specialists can bring, to help develop capacities in new technologies. Over 40% of airlines already have an innovation collaboration strategy in place, according to the IT Insights research, and a further 27% are currently developing a strategy. Most airports have this same partnership approach too, the most common partnership being via contracted parties (30%).


Airlines and airports with an innovation partnership in place/planned


Exploring together

Let me provide some examples of collaborative innovation. For decades, as part of our community role, SITA has partnered and co-innovated with air transport stakeholders responsible for each stage of the journey. Our aim is to bring them together, to jointly develop and deliver technologies that create seamlessness across the journey and the industry’s operations. Along with SITA customers and members, we’re pioneering solutions in biometric identity management, blockchain, AI and Machine Learning, and other technologies. 

With biometrics and identity management, for instance, we’re streamlining the journey through ground-breaking single token travel projects and trials with British Airways and Orlando Airport, Brisbane Airport, Hamad International Airport, and the award-winning JetBlue and the US Customs and Border Protection collaboration. We’re also exploring the challenges and obstacles that get in the way of our industry’s critical evolution towards collaborative working (that ‘mutual consciousness or situational awareness’ I referred to) and we’re investing in new technologies as a means to enable it.

Information sharing

Better information sharing is pivotal. But today’s brute force approach to sharing information by attempting to synchronize copies of data across local databases does not work effectively. Anyone who’s experienced conflicting gate information across the FIDS, mobile apps and announcements, gets the problem (this happened to me recently). Another barrier to effective sharing is the fear of losing control of the data and the risk of someone using it for malicious purposes. In many cases there’s simply no means or process to tell the other stakeholders that we have a problem and coordinate a response.

Blockchain: accelerating our industry’s exploration

This is where blockchain comes in. As the magic behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, blockchain enables parties with trust issues to share a single source of truth recorded securely in a decentralized ledger, as we demonstrated with our collaborative trial to share an active record of flight status between airport and airline (see FlightChain). 

Industry interest has been overwhelming, and we continue to explore as a community through further customer trials and our Aviation Blockchain Sandbox. (Follow the progress and join the collaboration.)

“Seeing of the bigger picture”

The importance of this community approach was stressed at our Customer Innovation Forum earlier this year when SITA’s CEO Barbara Dalibard said: “No matter how much money or energy we invest in innovation, each of our organizations will only ever own a part of the bigger innovation picture. Working together, sharing information and learning from each other is vital to the success of innovation.”

The Forum was itself another way of driving collaborative innovation, with delegates identifying and exploring potential use cases of new technology in air transport. The clear message is that community collaboration and innovation are indeed fundamental to dealing with the increased growth and complexity of our industry.

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  • Published on 18 December 2018 08:08 AM by Masthan Shaik
    What a good point !! All the stakeholders working together efficiently as one profoundly improving the Consciousness/situational awareness, planning and integrated coordination-recovery between the many departments across the airport, airline, and government and across the network....
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