Data sharing has
always been a hot topic in the air travel industry, and it’s easy to see why.
With over 20 stakeholders involved in any given passenger journey, along with
the competitive yet cooperative nature of industry, it’s no wonder data is
often said to be siloed and disconnected. And that’s if it’s even being
captured and digitized at all!
Although data has
arguably always been a problem, it’s becoming critically important as the air
travel industry grows. Airports are under increasing strain to keep up with
capacity demands, with the number of flights and passengers forecast to nearly
double in the next 20 years, outstripping airport expansion by a factor of 20
This issue is larger
than any single airport. With little spare capacity, problems in one airport
can quickly ripple through the ecosystem and cause delays that will impact the
operations of airlines and other airports. So it goes without saying that we
need to act now if we’re to overcome this capacity gap, but what actions should
we take and how?
We need a holistic view
During a workshop at
the recent SITA Innovation Forum, participating airlines and airport executives
convened to discuss the steps we as an industry need to take to utilize
existing airport infrastructure more efficiently, and to transform airport
operations of the future.
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It was agreed that
collaboration, data and technology are more important than ever. Participants
echoed the need for better integrated systems and technologies to provide a
holistic view of airport operations and facilitate collaborative
decision-making. Here are some takeaways from the workshop:
"Seeing the unseen": Lidar technology
Lidar is a promising
technology being explored to help shed light on aircraft turnaround and
passenger movements. For years we’ve heard of Lidar being used for 3-D mapping
and seeing the physical world by measuring the time it takes for light to
bounce off objects.
Lidar technology offers exciting possibilities due to its range
of sight and GDPR compliance. In the context of turnaround processes,
Lidar is being explored to further monitor ground handling staff and equipment
to gain better oversight of turnaround activities and milestones. By enabling
stakeholders to gather data and insights, the technology helps them to
proactively manage turnaround and increase on-time performance.
Lidar is also being examined to help monitor passenger flows through the
airport by capturing the speed and direction of passengers as they move through
the airport to their gate. Having more oversight of the passenger journey would
enable airports to manage queues more efficiently by understanding where to
deploy resources to prevent delays.
"Connecting the unconnected": AI
It was all too clear from the workshop discussions that airlines,
airports and passengers expect to reap tangible benefits from artificial intelligence across all aspects of the journey. The obvious benefit right
now lies in AI’s ability to find patterns, providing meaning to the growing
amount of data being collected, and enabling other technologies.
By linking data
points, establishing correlations and predictions, AI "connects the dots" across airport operations, helping to provide airport management with a
When IT decision makers were asked in which area AI would offer
the most value, they were quite decisive in their answer, with flight
prediction topping their list, followed by passenger flow, aircraft turnaround
and baggage operations.
A new way to visualize operational data
Digital Twins was
another key focus among workshop participants. Digital Twins are being looked
at as the technology to amplify situational awareness by allowing stakeholders
to intuitively visualize operational data, by mirroring the operation itself in
one comprehensive virtual model.
To move the air travel industry forward, it’s clear that we need a combination of collaboration, data and technology, in equal measure of importance.
Thomas Deillon - SITA
Formula 1 teams
already use Digital Twins to track race cars as they speed through a track to
see everything that is happening in real time. As every second counts, these
simulations can help drivers better understand what adjustments to make to
At SITA, we’ve been
testing Digital Twins in cooperation with a major U.S. airport to create an
immersive and interactive 3-D interface with a conversational user interface
giving a total view of airport operations. We also deployed Digital Twins in a
major European airport to visualize inbound aircraft and estimate the flow of
passengers into immigration.
We continue to explore how to replicate potential
or actual scenarios to better understand operational cause and effects, and
potentially maximize airport performance.
To move the air travel
industry forward, it’s clear that we need a combination of collaboration, data
and technology, in equal measure of importance. By collaborating around the use
of new and emerging technologies, we can capture, understand and integrate data
to gain a single source of truth and an instant view of operations.
To date, the concept
of Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM) has enabled greater
coordination of airside processes through real-time data exchange,
implementation of shared operational procedures, as well as increased
stakeholder cooperation. A-CDM has demonstrated clear practical benefits by
increasing turnaround efficiency, flight predictability and operational
A-CDM's focus is on
airside and aircraft turnaround. Looking ahead, the next phase of managing
airport operations is the concept of Total Airport Management (TAM), which
integrates both airside and landside activities, as well as any related data
which could impact the passenger journey.
Lidar, AI, Digital
Twins and other emerging technologies all have the potential to enhance the
application of A-CDM and help realize TAM. Through real-time information
sharing around flights, passengers and bags, everyone will have full
visibility of each activity via a shared platform.
This will help stakeholders
to further align themselves towards a common goal and to collaboratively make
decisions for the greater good of the operation, making the best use of airport
infrastructure to overcome the capacity crunch.
* This story originally
appeared on Blogs@SITA