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The Tech Behind the Travel  – Celebrating Airline Technology on National Aviation Day

August 19 is the National Aviation Day in the US. The country celebrates various developments and innovations relevant to the Aviation industry. Started back in 1939, FDR issued a presidential proclamation that designated the anniversary of Orville Wrights birthday to be National Aviation Day. The holiday serves as a chance to celebrate the development of aviation over the years.

NASA flyer for NAD
NASA flyer for NAD

On this occasion, industry leaders from the tech community spoke to our journalists at AiThority.com.

But, first, some quick stats on how the aviation industry is shaping around the technologies – Big Data Analytics, AI, Machine Learning, IoT, Robotic Automation, Customer Experience Management, and AR VR.

According to the FAA, every day there are more than 44,000 flights and 2.7 million airline passengers that make the journey across air space. To power these airplanes, it takes a variety of technologies such as Machine Learning, Big Data, Analytics, Software Development teams and layers of cybersecurity protection. With new challenges sprouting for the US airline industry, specifically due to Boeing’s troubled 737 MAX aircraft, AI and Customer Experience Management platforms have a tight-rope future. According to Forrester, Southwest Airlines has a dent on its business now.

Forrester states

Southwest’s CX Index score for 2019 is down a statistically significant 2.9 points. That’s a wake-up call for any brand that loses sight of the fact that they are part of a customer experience ecosystem that includes their suppliers, partners, employees, and customers.

  • The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released performance figures for 2018 showing that global air connectivity continues to become more accessible and more efficient. 4.4 billion passengers flew in 2018
  • Airlines are hoping Big Data might prove one antidote to the pressures of tight profit margins and intense competition.
  • Revenue Management specialists are using AI to define destinations and adjust prices for specific markets.
  • AI-based algorithms are also used to efficiently manage complex distribution channels, manage airline seats to keep the aviation industry competitive and customer-friendly.
  • Datafloq states top applications of emerging technologies in various departments of the Aviation industry. AI ML and AR VR are of particular interest in managing crew, training pilots, and offering personalized airport experience to travelers and in-flight passengers.
  • According to the IATA, “The business environment for airlines has deteriorated with rising fuel prices and a substantial weakening of world trade. In 2019 overall costs are expected to grow by 7.4%, outpacing a 6.5% rise in revenues. As a result, net margins are expected to be squeezed to 3.2% (from 3.7% in 2018). Profit per passenger will similarly decline to $6.12 (from $6.85 in 2018).”

This is what our journalists gathered from the tech industry leaders on National Aviation Day.

Read More: INTERNAL Raises $5 Million to Solve the Problem of “God View”

Plug-and-Play Experiences Coming to Aviation Faster than Previously Thought

Orion Cassetto, Director of Product Marketing at Exabeam, thinks that customer experience is paramount in an industry as competitive and prone to issues as air travel. Orion said, “Every month, there are 1,000 cyberattacks across the air transport industry. At the same time, just 35 percent of airlines and 30 percent of airports believe they are prepared to deal with cyber threats today. The industry is constantly innovating to stay ahead of the technology curve, but these innovations are actually creating new vulnerabilities.”

To deliver a great experience, airlines are implementing emerging technologies, from mobile apps to mood lighting and entertainment systems. From purchasing a ticket to using miles to upgrade, to making a connection, more data than ever is being used to protect passenger privacy and keep departures on time.

An area that’s less visible to passengers is the activity monitoring and data collection airlines conduct across a wide range of applications. This information is used to improve operations that impact every stage of the journey.

Machine Learning, Big Data, and Analytics are all being used to gather data and set a baseline of normal behavior, which makes threats and anomalous behavior easier and faster to identify. Systems that can detect and escalate unusual patterns and help pinpoint event timelines provide deep insight on security events that may be the source of the anomalies. Gaining access to that insight before something happens is critical because it allows officials to stop problems before they start.

Data Privacy, Governance and Safety: Typical Challenges, Unique Solutions Come to Fore on National Aviation Day

Setu Kulkarni, Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at WhiteHat Security, explains the role of securing data at all levels and how it remains the biggest pain-points for Aviation players.

Recently, the United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) fined British Airways to a tune of 183.4 million pounds ($230 million, €205 million).

Reason: Computer hackers stole customer data, according to its parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG).

Another reported case of data breach into Cathay Pacific demonstrated loopholes in governance and security protocols in the industry. It was reported how cybercriminals maliciously gained unauthorized access to the IT infrastructures of Cathay Pacific managed to seize the passport numbers, travel histories and contact details of 9.4 million customers in “what is the biggest data breach in the airline’s history.

Setu said –

“The Cathay Pacific and Air Canada data breaches were clear warning signs for the airline industry to take ‘digital safety’ as seriously as they take aviation safety. Despite increasing dependence on new technology for both internal processes and customer-facing applications, airlines have been slow to embrace the level of security needed to protect those systems.”

Airlines encourage travelers to use mobile apps and kiosks for checking into flights and accessing digital boarding passes, but this convenience introduces new cyber risks that can lead to real privacy and safety consequences. Airlines need to model their security endeavors around the hundreds of thousands of travelers who trust them to protect the private information they share in order to fly.

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To mitigate risk, the airline industry must view the entire IT estate as a vulnerable asset. Comprehensive security programs protect all points of entry, including APIs, network connections, mobile apps, websites, and databases; provide proper security training and education to staff; a foster collaboration between development and security teams, and regularly test software assets for vulnerabilities.

Delinking On-Your-Screen Updates from Software Crash/ Website Maintenance

In April 2019, Air India’s server went kaboom for more than 6 hours, resulting in chaos at the airports and delays in international flights all over the world. It impacted flight schedules and left travelers in anxiety. Using AI and Machine Learning-driven algorithms can prevent these events in the Aviation industry.

Bob Davis, CMO at Plutora said, “Over 2.5 million passengers fly in and out of U.S. airports every day, and they rely on the software of major airlines to keep them up to date on flight status and where their luggage will eventually end up. But few realize that they are also relying on software for the safety of their journeys.

Today, in every airline large or small, software updates help keep planes safely in the air, but updates can’t be successful if they can’t be done at scale. Scaling a software solution in any large enterprise is a difficult task – and for industries with as much on the line as the airline industry, failure can be catastrophic. The price of failure is compounded by the nature of the industry, but the problem is the same across all industries.

Bob added, “Overcoming issues of scaling software development in a world of multiple complex deliveries is a problem that exists everywhere. The fact remains that all enterprises need to understand that getting your software right means getting your business right, and if they don’t, they will fail.”

Read More: BetterCloud Appoints Andra Milender as Chief Technology Officer

Fine-tuning Preventive and the Predictive Analytics of IT in Aviation

Steve Blow, Technology Evangelist at Zerto, said, “There may be no other industry that is so heavily regulated or impacted by outages than the airline industry – and for good reason. Real lives, safety, security, money, time and emotions are on the line 24/7/365, and dependent on near-perfect operations and uptime. No matter how big or small a system failure is, it’s important that airlines be able to cope. IT failures have severe business implications, ranging from frustrated customers to damaged brand reputation, to not being able to execute revenue-generating operations.”

Yet, regrettably, issues arise everyday and flights are forced to ground operations after experiencing system-wide computer outages in the planes. Not to mention, reservation systems outages that impact airlines and travelers around the world. The difference between being down for hours or days versus minutes or seconds is the difference between a solid disaster recovery plan and one that is outdated, barely tested or even non-existent.

Steve added, “IT can be exceptionally complex in the airline industry and many organizations may feel hopeless when faced with the idea of revamping their IT resilience strategy. However, they don’t have to feel that way. With the simplicity and affordability provided by cloud-based advancements, disaster recovery systems are now widespread. And while some outages are out of airlines’ control, much more can be done to ensure they are less vulnerable from an IT perspective. Airlines do not have to accept outages as a cost of doing business.”

Making Pilots Confident Enough to Tackle Challenging Situations

Way back in 2003, a study found out how a mix of pilot’s actions, aircraft health, and maintenance-caused events lead to loss of aircraft and passenger deaths. The 2003 International Air Transport Association (IATA) Safety Report found that in 24 of 93 accidents (26 percent), a maintenance-caused event started the accident chain. Overall, humans are the largest cause of all airplane accidents.

Aviation Safety magazine and Boeing independently report 80-90 percent of crashes were due to pilot error.

Lex Boost, CEO at Leaseweb USA, said, “Aviation has been part of Leaseweb since day one. While working as professional pilots, our founders understood the importance of reliability and global connections and brought with them the directive of a captain–‘sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight’. When you’re sitting on a flight, getting ready to take-off, that’s one of the things you’ll hear the captain say, and Leaseweb carries that same ethos.”

Pilots have to be aware of their surroundings, be precise and use their experience to resolve any problem. This could mean the difference between a pleasant flight (smooth, secure connection) and one that could put others at risk (vulnerable, unreliable connection). Leaseweb provides high-quality cloud hosting services, allowing our clients to focus on the important aspects of their business while we steer the flight.

Read More: AI-Powered Technology Delivers Smarter Sleep Experiences

Tech Adoption and Sustainable Fuel Keys to Growth in the Aviation Industry

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO, had said, “Airlines are connecting more people and places than ever before. The freedom to fly is more accessible than ever. And our world is a more prosperous place as a result. As with any human activity, this comes with an environmental cost that airlines are committed to reducing. We understand that sustainability is essential to our license to spread aviation’s benefits. From 2020, we will cap net carbon emissions growth. And, by 2050, we will cut our net carbon footprint to half 2005 levels. This ambitious climate action goal needs government support. It is critical for sustainable aviation fuels, new technology, and more efficient routes to deliver the greener future we are aiming for.”

In an ever-growing and digitally transforming Aviation industry, we foresee a future for emerging technologies, especially focused at delivering highly contextual information to pilots, crew, airline operators, manufacturers, data governors, and passengers. In the end, it’s all about traffic regulations, safety, maintenance, and saving lives – that technology can assure of shielding.

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