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IoT Powers Changes in the Aviation Industry



The Aviation industry steps up to escalating demand.

By Therese Corey

The aviation sector is a major driver of global growth, generating billions of pounds for the global economy. Demand for air travel is growing apace as the world population increases, and greater numbers of people can afford air travel. There will be more flights in 2018 than in any year previously, with global air traffic volumes growing at an average rate of over 5 percent per year.
Escalating demand in the UK alone means that without expansion, London’s five airports will be full by 2034, according to the Department for Transport.
This demand is also threatening the supply of fossil fuels; hence the industry is investing in renewable fuel technologies and engine designs for lower fuel consumption.

Aircraft operations benefit from greater connectivity. 
Europe’s airspace is the busiest in the world, with 22,500 flights per day and 500 million passengers per year. To help manage this, a new European Aviation Network is under construction.
This comprises two components: a dedicated EAN satellite, which has been in operation since 2017 and an LTE network on the ground in the process of completion in Q1 2018.  300 base stations across the 28 EU member states along with Switzerland and Norway are being built by Nokia and Deutsche Telekom. Two antennas will be deployed on each aircraft: one at the top for satellite and one at the bottom to access the ground network.

According to SITA, airlines globally are investing in greater connectivity in their services including electronic flight bag solutions, and equipping staff with tablets and smartphones.
For their part, aircraft manufacturers have adopted IoT in their manufacturing processes to boost efficiencies, and precision maintenance is widely employed to reduce the times that aircraft are on the ground for repair. Boeing Company’s workers are using wearables and augmented reality tools on some assembly lines.
Airport operations are becoming digitised across the world. For example, Schiphol airport has developed a Digital Twin to help visualise connectivity across all airport operations, from managing flows to planning resources.
Safety around the airport is also being addressed. Following some near misses between drones and aircraft near airports, and one actual hit, the UK government planning to introduce a raft of new laws for the regulation of drones in 2019. ACI (Airports Council International) Europe has also called for the swift adoption of safety and traffic management rules at EU level on the use of drones.
IoT helps to enhance passenger care and comforts. 
The aviation sector very competitive; airlines have slim margins so they must keep customers happy. Customer care is moving towards extreme personalisation – particularly for frequent flyers. This entails connecting all customer information, their movements at the airport, getting there and leaving at their destination, their requirement for certain services (which are becoming more numerous), tracking their luggage, recording preferences (e.g. for meals, film preferences on board), what they buy and payment details. It is now possible for a passenger changing planes in mid-journey to continue watching the same film.  Meal preferences are also monitored to avoid the huge amounts of food waste on board - it is estimated that up to 50 percent of in-flight food is discarded. Needless to say all of this raises questions about data security and privacy of individuals.

The loss of luggage has always been a source
of anxiety and inconvenience for passengers. 
Today almost 22 million bags are still being
mishandled every year.  IATA Resolution 753 is
meant to alleviate this problem: from June 2018,
member airlines must implement measures to track
each bag onto the aircraft, into arrivals areas and
even through transfer systems, and to share the
tracking information with all those involved in
delivering the baggage back to the passenger at
the final destination.
Queues and waiting times are another cause of passenger frustration. Handling passenger flows smoothly and efficiently is key to the image of an airport.
BlipTrack is a queue measurement system from Blip Systems, used to help airports comply with service-level agreements, such as wait times. The UK’s Birmingham Airport has implemented a solution based on BlipTrack to accurately measure queues and predict waiting times, gaining insights about how passengers move through time, from entering the car park, to departure, and everywhere in between. The system works by deploying a mixture of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connected sensors to detect mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Once detected, these devices provide information such as travel times, dwell times and passenger movement patterns. Other airports using BlipTrack include Cincinnati Airport and Billund Airport in Denmark.
All in all, we can be sure that in twenty years’ time the flying experience will be very different from what it is today – however we can be sure that connectivity will enable these changes, and grow in ways we cannot envisage today.


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