By Jim Peters, CTO, SITA

As IATA’s Head of Digital Transformation Tim Grosser says, “you must focus on where you want to innovate by looking at the big challenges … look at new technologies and see where they are providing new opportunities.”

I couldn’t agree more. For one thing, as part of its community remit the SITA Lab is investigating potential opportunities for air transport across an array of technologies. They include artificial intelligence, conversational systems, the Internet of Things, virtual reality, blockchain, big data, analytics, wearables, robotics, drones and more.

Crucially, we’re focusing on areas where we believe these new technologies and innovations will have a transformative impact on our industry; where they will make a real difference to processes, costs and ways of working.

Easing pain-points

Our mindset is to constantly foster innovation to tackle pressing industry issues – where our initiatives take the industry a step closer to solutions that will drive a more efficient travel experience for passengers while easing some of the pain-points faced by airlines, airports, government agencies and ground handlers today.

It requires a highly collaborative approach, working hand-in-hand with airlines, airports and technology specialists globally, through numerous pilots and trials within a secure environment. In addition, every year SITA Lab hosts an Innovation Day where some of the most innovative companies in the aviation sector from around the world are invited to share their latest projects.

Start-ups

We’ve also established SITA Ventures, focused solely on investing in early stage funding of travel related start-ups. As SITA Lab continues to build a community of like-minded innovators, it’s as much about disseminating our own extensive knowledge and experiences as it is about taking learning from others.

This includes sharing technology with other research bodies, on the basis that good ideas get better when shared, helping to push the tech envelope further, and build a better air transport community.

Community needs

Part of SITA’s mandate has always been to drive technological innovation for the benefit of the wider air transport community. For that reason, SITA has committed to five Community Innovation programs that actively seek solutions to improve passenger flow, save money and drive greater efficiency.

They include new baggage tracking capabilities; identity management to enable secure and rapid passenger flow through airports; an industry-wide disruption warning system; and enhancing cybersecurity across the industry. We are also working on the facilitation of IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC).

  • Our baggage tracking initiative will offer the community a solution to meet IATA Resolution 753, which requires that, by 2018, airlines should keep track of every item of baggage from start to finish.
  • In another key area for the industry, we are bringing to bear the power of game-changing technology, blockchain, which underpins identity management as well as developments in single travel token technology and cybersecurity.
  • Disruption, one of the biggest challenges for airports and airlines, is being addressed by our program to put into place a global disruption warning system, sharing information on disruption across the entire community – including everything from a major situation.
  • For cybersecurity, given ever rising threat levels, SITA is assessing how it can play a significant role for the air transport community, through a platform to support increased exchange of contextualized cyber threat intelligence.
  • And finally, over the next few years SITA will work together with IATA to develop technology to drive NDC adoption and deliver key capabilities that will ensure that NDC becomes a reality.

Roadmap

SITA is investing millions to explore new solutions in these focus areas, says Peters, on top of the company’s usual continuous investment in new products and developments.

”The focus on these programs helps to provide a clear roadmap of where we can make the most difference. If, in any of these focus areas, we can help make it easier to do business in the air transport sector, then we will have succeeded,” he concludes.

3 Feb 2017

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