Community innovation and developments in 2019

Some highlights - multiple pilots, trials, proofs-of-concept and early implementations took place in regions all around the world.

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Through all of 2019, SITA continued to co-innovate with customers and the wider air transport community. Multiple pilots, trials, proofs-of-concept and early implementations took place in regions all around the world.

Co-innovations are centered on new and emerging technologies. They include identity management and biometrics, artificial intelligence, data analytics, blockchain, the Internet of Things, mixed reality and more.

There are far too many to cover, but here’s a flavor of some that are helping to contribute to the value SITA provides to the air transport community.  

Identity management at every step

Whole journey identity management using biometrics is evolving fast. As it does, SITA’s Smart Path™ common use biometrics solution is seeing increased interest and adoption.

It’s now in use or has been trialed with a growing number of airlines, airports and border agencies across the world. They include Hamad International (Doha), Muscat (Oman), Orlando (with British Airways and the US Customs and Border Protection - CBP). 

Earlier in the year, Miami International Airport introduced Smart Path™. Not long after, Athens International Airport became the first airport in Europe to trial it. Passengers flying with Aegean Airlines from Athens are being offered a faster, more efficient journey through the airport by merely scanning their face at check-in and at security points.

More US, European and Asia Pacific airports are coming on stream. Now rolled out globally, Smart Path™ plays an essential role in moving towards a truly end-to-end self-service experience, to enable the vision of a seamless passenger journey.

Using facial recognition, it creates a secure digital travel ID for use at every touchpoint, be it check-in, self-bag drop, border control or aircraft boarding. This removes the need to show a passport or boarding pass. Vitally, it integrates with SITA’s existing common-use infrastructure of check-in kiosks and boarding gates around the world.

For airlines, Smart Path™ eliminates redundant document checks and automates self-service operation. At the same time, airports can increase capacity within existing infrastructure, giving passengers more dwell time airside. Governments gain certainty of the data – which allows resources to be redirected towards high-risk passengers.

Self-Sovereign Identity – ‘lifetime identity’

SITA continues to explore Self-Sovereign Identity. This lifetime portable identity allows holders to present verifiable credentials in a privacy-protecting way. Global players – such as Cisco, IBM, T-Mobile and Viridium – have joined the Sovrin Foundation. Its mission is to enable self-sovereign identity online.

As a Founding Steward of the Foundation, SITA is playing a pioneering role. In 2019, the SITA Lab began working on three use cases with partners on the Sovrin Network. The plan is to showcase these to the industry, demonstrating how SSI could give control back to passengers.

Turnaround times and on-time performance

SITA has set up a new Turnaround program. Its objective is to help airlines, airports and ground handlers to optimize their turnaround performance –  to improve on-time performance (OTP) and minimize disruption.

To do that SITA will be introducing data-driven turnaround where:

  • Collection of information, or ‘timestamps’, is automated through Computer Vision
  • We’re able to leverage valuable industry data thanks to SITA’s messaging footprint (such as Bag messages, ACARS, Movement, etc.)
  • We’re able to train Artificial Intelligence (AI) models to predict delays and disruption

It’s well known that disruption remains a major issue for the community. Flight delays cost the industry US$ 25bn a year, almost US$ 70m a day. With one-in-four flights arriving 15 minutes or more after the scheduled arrival time, flight predictability is a daily challenge (Flightstats, August 2019).

Using AI and Deep Learning, SITA has been trialing flight prediction capabilities with major airports like Changi to indicate which flights will be delayed and by how long. This enables proactive disruption management, with the optimum allocation of resources.

Utilizing aircraft data for improved performance

SITAONAIR’s e-Aircraft® DataHub is another example of innovation for the community. It enables airlines, at no cost to them, to share selected aircraft data from diverse fleets, aircraft models and formats with third parties. This is whether they’re OEMs, third-party maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) teams, or airframers.

e-Aircraft® DataHub captures data from the aircraft and sends it seamlessly and securely to the OEM, for example, Rolls Royce, which became the launch customer in early 2019. DataHub aggregates and decodes all relevant information, providing context to the information, and enabling the OEM to deliver the highest possible digitally powered service to the airline.

This is good news for OEMs, as they can keep a close eye on how fleets are performing. Rolls Royce can learn exactly when an inspection or repair is needed as soon as an aircraft lands. This is instead of having to rely on restricted, untimely and sporadic data collection or unplanned AOGs.

Digital Twins deliver better operations

SITA’s continued research into Digital Twins attracts increasing attention. Aircraft engine manufacturers use them, creating a virtual twin of the actual engine. From this, they review performance and make changes to the digital twin to model how the engine will react. A process which is faster, and cheaper, than making changes to the actual engine. Digital Twins have great potential for modeling the complexities of the airport.

One major US airport working with the SITA Lab is trialing task allocation and tracking. They’re also building prediction models to identify passenger queuing hotspots. Initial feedback shows a noticeable impact on enhancing collaboration and opportunities to improve and meet performance requirements.

Digital Twin trials have subsequently taken place at another major US airport, as well as two other major airports, one in Europe and one in the Middle East. The trial in the US aims to optimize use of constrained resources – such as stands, bag carousels and check-in desks. The Digital Twin will also run in the airport’s Operations Control room. It will give staff visibility of what’s happening across the airfield, even though they don’t have line of sight of the airfield.

The other Digital Twin trials visualize inbound aircraft and estimates the flow of passengers into immigration, with plans for simulations and modeling to evaluate changes in the airport. Watch this space during 2020.

Augmented reality helps to train cabin crew

Augmented reality is another area of opportunity for the air transport community. Working with a Virgin Atlantic, the SITA Lab helped to use augmented reality as part of cabin crew training. It included a high definition 3D model of a 787 with an augmented reality portal viewer that works on iPhone or iPad for use by crew during classroom-based training. The app is being used internally for crew training.

A big step up for air transport communications

The next generation of communications and connectivity for the air transport community will bring great bandwidth, resiliency and efficiencies. Throughout 2019, it remained a major focus of SITA at airports across the world. It will continue to be the case in the years ahead.

By 2030, 18.000 airline communication connections will be needed at the world’s airports. SITA continues to meet demand through its AirportHub™ community initiative. This is a unique shared infrastructure allowing airlines to connect applications and IT systems at the airport, their data center, headquarters or cloud providers.

Now deployed in 550 airports in 166 countries, it’s expected to cover around 600 airports by 2020, more than 80% of international destinations. At the same SITA is upgrading the AirportHub™ platform to use SDN, to provide faster, more resilient and agile connectivity. By the end of 2020, 100 airports will be SDN-enabled.

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