The aviation industry has been on the front line of digital transformation ever since the digital revolution began almost a quarter of a century ago. Increasingly, companies around the world have come to the realization that the key to unleash the full potential of the aviation market is not only by embracing digital transformation but also, staying at the forefront of this evolution by offering breakthrough solutions based on new forms of digital technology. How do industry players benefit from digital transformation and what strategic challenges they face in developing such innovative solutions – these are the focal points of the AeroTime AIR Tech talk panel.

The world of aviation, as a process-oriented industry, relies on gathering, interpreting, analyzing and monetizing data in order to drive the aviation business. For this purpose, the industry aims to make the best use of such innovations as automation, Data analytics, IoT, AI-enabled processes, mobility and blockchain. Technology-driven innovation and progressive thinking is the predominant theme at this year’s AIR Convention Europe, which, for the first time, is hosting the AeroTime AIR Tech panel. On the first day of the conference, speakers from Airbus, TATA Communications, Pegasus Airlines and other companies examined how progressive technology solutions can increase operations efficiency, optimize decision-making, and thus, define the future of aviation.

The future: unleashing the full potential of data

In today’s digital age, the aviation industry is seeing a strong growth in the adoption of cloud-based applications and the use of Big Data. One example of this trend is Skywise open data platform developed by Airbus. Skywise integrates disparate data sources: allowing static, heterogeneous systems to become extracted, curated and actionable data. The service provides users with one cloud-based platform for aviation data that is accumulated and refined from multiple sources across the industry – including airline operators and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

According to Cedric Lefebvre, Digital Transformation Leader at Airbus, Skywise platform can be used to improve production, for instance, through supplier monitoring, industrial processes monitoring and other portals. One of the many significant challenges that Airbus faces is with suppliers, which brings about the need to optimize the production line. “Skywise is used to change the way suppliers work with Airbus,” Lefebvre states. through sharing of live supply chain data (live planning, quality gates, configuration, etc., there is improved visibility between Airbus and suppliers, which is a big change for the assembly line, for instance the A350, Lefebvre points out.

Another customer is airlines, such as Avion Express, SmartLynx, which use Skywise for their own operations and exchange data with Airbus. Good example is cabin defects – the platform enables spotting recurring cabin issues, despite large and free text data sources, and accelerates information sharing between engineering and ground teams. This results in reduction in time to identify and solve cabin defects. “Airlines can initiate their own digital transformation through Skywise,” Lefebvre concludes.

The goal for aviation businesses such as airlines and airports is to develop a transformation program that is closely integrated with operations. One new concept, which can revolutionize operations on the ground and in the air is the Internet of Things (IoT). Set to become a standard for enhancing customer experience, IoT based devices are gradually seeing a growth in the aviation industry, with aircraft data management, scanners, electronic tags and many other applications.

Building the connected digital airline of the future cannot do without mobility services. One company specializing in global mobility and IoT is TATA Communications. The company provides ubiquitous mobile data access via a private and secure global mobile network. A case example of the services is TATA’s “Digitizing passenger operations” project with KLM. The telecommunications company provides global mobile data coverage in over 140 KLM destinations allowing the airline to manage and reduce data roaming costs. The solution also provides KLM branded online management portal for real-time SIM management, without the need for physical SIM swaps.

Another of TATA’s initiatives is MOVE Global IoT Solutions. The platform provides the network independent, cross-border cellular connectivity necessary to deliver international IoT services. The main aspect of the service is a single global (e)SIM and contract including dedicated SIM profile for airlines. They key with all the services, as Kim Bybjerg, Vice President IoT & Mobility at TATA Communications, highlights, is that the company sources communications from all the big providers, instead of owning a mobile network, which allows for independence and the opportunity to host more mobile operators.

For airlines, as for any company operating in the service industry, instant accessibility, interactivity and personalization, become crucial aspects of doing business. Digital technologies are used to enhance customer experience, boost efficiency and generate more revenue. A rising trend within this context is the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) initiatives into the aircraft cabin and at the airport, currently being undertaken by an increasing number of airlines around the world. From personalized offers to chatbots recommending upgrades based on customer profile – AI has the potential to increase airline revenue and customer satisfaction, as well as, allow the industry to operate at optimal cost.

Air Vistara has invested into the development of “RADA” – a robot created using AI technology and designed to assist travelers at airports. As such, it is aimed at helping the airline offer an improved customer experience and on-ground service. The idea, as Ravinder Pal Singh, Chief Information and Innovation Officer at Air Vistara explains, was to create a basic and cost-effective robot than can engage in basic human interactions and would have the potential of further development that would enable it to perform complex tasks. Aside of simply greeting customers and entertaining travelers with multimedia content, RADA is capable of scanning boarding passes and providing information on the terminal, departure gates, real-time flight status as well as other information.

Industry players today acknowledge the benefits of embracing new technologies and are increasingly becoming more receptive to technological advancements. Each company has a different vision for its digital transformation. One thing for sure – it is an exciting time for digital transformation in aviation.