Airline IoT illustration. airline technology


Exploring airline operation benefits of deploying IoT

Traveling at the speed of knowledge, part one

The airline industry is propelled by its demanding pace and unrelenting focus on cost. To improve productivity, lower costs, and gain additional asset utilization, airlines are considering technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) to change the game.

IoT, smart networks, and more airline technology

In the airline industry, the focus on costs rarely wavers and the pace is constantly demanding. However, the ability to network exponential technologies continues to offer a rich potential to improve productivity, derive additional utilization from assets, and lower costs. Airlines need more than another hard-won half a percentage point. They need a game-changer.

The IoT—networks of sensor-equipped, intelligent, exponential technologies that can gather data, interpret it, and take action—may be that game-changer. By streamlining repetitive processes and making people more efficient, IoT can help transform cost-saving from an incremental struggle to a wide-open frontier. 

This is already starting to happen. Two-thirds of surveyed airline leaders believe IoT offers clear benefits right now, 86 percent expect identifiable benefits within three years, and 37 percent have begun to explore and implement IoT improvements as a way to confront rising costs. What these first movers are finding is that an investment in smart devices is only part of the puzzle. They must also plan carefully for the architecture that links data, decision, and action into a self-driving loop.

What IoT airline technology could look like

Airlines are already rolling out concepts such as predictive maintenance, asset tracking, and smart workforces. By integrating the networking strength of IoT with exponential technologies like robotics and 3D printing, they are on a path to realizing scenarios like this one:

This scenario above addressed the core function of keeping an aircraft in safe operation while increasing the utilization of the aircraft and the crew. A similar journey along the information value loop might save fuel, fine-tune baggage handling, or speed back-office functions.

Iterate, improve, dare

IoT networks don’t arrive pre-assembled with a huge, common go-live date, they grow over time. Establish a “digital flight test program” that iterates and improves, but also keeps building.

If IoT initiatives grow in isolation from one another, an airline risks ending up with what technology executive Jean-Louis Gassée called the “basket of remotes” problem—a host of “connected” devices and systems that don’t share the protocols necessary to connect to one another. Other areas of potential risk associated with IoT include regulatory compliance, physical safety, data security and cyber risk, and the ability to handle a larger, more complex volume of data.

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Think big, but start small, then scale fast.

Every implementation can yield lessons to improve upon the one that follows.

A new kind of loop

But how should all of these technologies be connected to avoid having an unusable “basket of remotes?”

One answer is the information value loop—an architecture that describes exactly how these familiar technologies should be combined in order to do something new and create new value. For a piece of information to create value, it should move through all five stages.

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The information value loop goes from physical to informational and back to physical, and it’s ready to start around again. Now, information is a source of value and harnessing that information can help airlines become safer, more efficient, and reduce costs.

How can IoT help increase revenue, differentiate your product and enhance passenger experience? Traveling at the speed of knowledge, part 2 explores how IoT creates tremendous opportunity.

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