by Chandler Harris
The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming what were once isolated items operating independently, into computer-based devices connecting to the Internet and other devices. It’s a transformative technology that is changing how our home appliances, cars, medical devices, offices and now, airplanes.
The reality, as noted in the book, From the Ground Up: How the Internet of Things will Give Rise to Connected Aviation, is that airplanes are becoming “smart,” fully-connected vehicles operating through IoT technology.
It’s part of a larger IoT trend, with approximately 3.9 billion connected devices in use in 2014. By 2020 that number is expected to increase to 25 billion.
The book, whose publishers state was created to “spark an industry wide conversation about how the Internet of Things will reshape aviation,” reveals how IoT-connected devices are being used in planes and how the future “connected aircraft” will improve operational effectiveness through applications such as flight-path tracking and optimization, predictive and preventative aircraft maintenance, and optimization of aircraft systems. It already has improved the passenger experience through in flight connectivity and onboard entertainment.
“Nearly every facet of the air travel experience, from passengers to aircraft to operators, and even airspace management, will be touched in some way by these connected systems,” the book states.
From the Ground Up was published by Gogo, which produces broadband connectivity solutions and wireless entertainment to the aviation industry. Gogo is clearly poised to profit from this trend, and the book gives you a solid overview of what to expect from Connected Aviation. Insights from leaders in aviation and technology including Air Canada, Accenture, Cisco, GE, NetJets, Zubie, Motorola, Here and more highlight how IoT will affect us all.
“While the realization of the concept of the connected aircraft may seem to be in the distant future, it’s actually happening today. The adaption by the industry and the evolution from connected aircraft to true Connected Aviation is inevitable,” said Ash ElDifrawi, chief commercial officer of Gogo. “We’ve concluded that in the next five to 10 years, nearly every facet of the air travel experience will be touched by the connected systems of Connected Aviation.”
The Connected Aircraft
We are now in the midst of the connected Aircraft phase, the book says, which began in the late 2000s, when operators began introducing tablets into the flight deck and cabin. This drove the need for internet connectivity and the transition from closed protocols to IP-based protocol. Through IP protocol, aircraft have been able to integrate new devices, sensors, and data through IP networks.
Thus, the book defines the Connected Aircraft as “the adoption of technology that uses IP data networks on aircraft to connect to ground systems via broadband.”
While adoption of inflight passenger is well established and continues to grow, connectivity for flight operations lags behind due to stringent regulatory requirements and safety standards. The thought of a hackable plane is certainly a concern. Still, the book cites the AirInsight EFB Research Project, which for the past three years has shown that respondents believe the business case for connectivity should be prioritized for flight operations (81 percent) over passenger connectivity (19 percent).
The book outlines some of the key aspects of the Connected Aircraft, including the electronic flight bag (EFB), which eliminates the weight and complexity of managing paper manuals and allows for real time updates of bidirectional data traffic. Also, real-time credit card processing helps minimize fraud. Connected logbooks for the airplane cabin, aircraft maintenance, etc. can benefit each aircraft by reducing reporting time.
Connected Aircraft Security
Cyber security and data protection remain the greatest hindrance when it comes to deploying an IoT-related project, according to a study by Machina Research and Xively by LogMeIn.
Already there have been airline hacks. Last year, American’s AAdvantage and United’s MileagePlus loyalty programs were breached, allowing illegitimate miles transactions. A security researcher claimed to hack a United Airlines aircraft’s inflight entertainment system.
“The tolerance for error on a plane is as low as any industry you’re going to find, and standards to prevent security issues or to maintain maximum cyber security will rise dramatically as the applications become more relevant to flight operations,” notes Gogo’s Michael Small.
Due to the potential consequences of an airline security breach, stringent regulations are called upon from the authors of the book. IoT security also needs to be addressed through industry collaboration.
Connected Aviation Is Inevitable
The book focuses on the inevitability of Connected Aviation, despite security concerns and hurdles of regulatory compliance. Already, manufacturers such as Boeing and Honeywell are making big investments in this technology, and we should expect a culmination of technology and market penetration within the next five years, the book says.
“By 2021, the industry will likely be relishing its Connected Aviation investments and operating on a platform that delivers results,” the book states. “By 2026, the term ‘Connected Aviation’ will no longer be necessary; it will have become the standard for everyone involved in aviation technology.”
What are your thoughts about IoT? Are you excited about the next and the new? Or does it seem a distant future? Let us know by leaving us a comment.
With more than 10 years writing experience Chandler has worked for three different newspapers as a writer, columnist and editor in chief. He has written articles for numerous national magazines, as well as written and edited official government documents, press releases, Web content, brochures, white papers, performance briefs, concept papers and instructional manuals.