Skywise: Airbus bet on big data

Airbus wants to create the leading data platform for the aviation industry

Skywise: Airbus bet on big data

Overview

The aviation industry is renowned for its operational complexity. Billions of passengers travel each year across cities, countries, and continents in extremely complex machines supported by a vast ecosystem of companies and infrastructure.

As with all other complex industries, an incredible amount of data is generated constantly by the aviation industry. New-generation commercial aircraft can produce more than 30GB per day (measuring more than 40,000 operational parameters for different components and systems). Airlines generate an immense amount of data such as commercial data, scheduling data, and operational data recorded by pilots, flight attendants, engineers, maintenance technicians, airport representatives, among others. Suppliers and OEMs are also a source of information [1].

But, is the airline industry really using all that data?

Airbus is trying to make sure it is, by creating a platform to connect and aggregate information across the aviation industry enabling diverse stakeholders to work and share data.

Skywise

Skywise is an open data platform design and developed by Airbus in partnership with Palantir for the aviation industry. The main purpose of Skywise is to provide insights from the incredible amounts of data that until now was locked in corporate silos. [2]

Skywise is designed to handle integrations of commercial and operational systems, processing large volumes of data such as time-series data coming from aircraft sensors, structured data from operational and maintenance data and unstructured data such as technical documents. It provides tools for users to prepare, aggregate, analyze data and templates to create applications inside the platform.

Since its launch, in June 2017 [3], Skywise has grown to host data from Airbus, suppliers and more than 100 airlines.

Value Creation and Capture

Skywise creates value for airlines and suppliers by providing them with a powerful platform that integrates multiple systems that historically have been disconnected in most airlines. Using Skywise analytical tools airlines can generate insights with both code-free and code-based environments.

Some examples of projects or problems that have been tackled by the platform are the following: reduce maintenance issues and prevent technical delays, identify defect patterns and predict failures using AI, increase fuel efficiency, optimize part replacements reducing operational costs, minimize flight schedule changes impact on passengers and operations for complex flight networks and automate reporting of several regulatory documents. [4]

Airlines can host a number of analytical and operational apps on top of Skywise using all their data. Many airlines do not have the talent nor the systems to create such a platform on their own, and Skywise is an opportunity to enable all of them to use a state-of-the-art data management system.

But why is Airbus providing such a platform? How are they capturing value from this initiative?

The main benefit for Airbus is that the platform is designed in such a way that airlines and suppliers can share part of their data directly, and in real-time, with Airbus. This data centralization and collaboration across the different stakeholders enables Airbus to be much faster responding and supporting critical operational issues and can help airlines and suppliers to prevent problems before they cause a delay or other type of disruption in their operations.

In the long-term, having access to some of the airlines’ operational data will enable Airbus to understand how their aircrafts behave in reality (across different geographies and business models) and to improve the design of new aircrafts models. Better aircrafts will improve reliability, decreased operational cost, and increase safety in the aviation industry. This translates, in the end, in better customer experience for passengers, creating a positive feedback loop for all the stakeholders to work together sharing data.

At the same time, by providing part of their data to Airbus, airlines benefit by having access to a number of anonymized benchmark metrics. Comparing their performance with the rest of the industry is a key piece of information that allows airlines to identify opportunities across their processes, fleets, components, airports, etc.

Conclusion

Skywise is a platform that creates value for the aviation industry and provides Airbus with the opportunity to capture this value by improving operations in the short-term and by creating better aircrafts in the long-term.

While it is true that the platform has been growing in the last few years, if Airbus wants to convince more airlines and suppliers to join it is extremely important they deliver in two fundamental aspects: privacy and performance.

Privacy concerns are a reality in a competitive industry and the benefits of sharing data with Airbus have to be assessed against granting too much power to a corporation that basically is part of a duopoly (Airbus and Boeing). At the same time, adding more and more airlines and suppliers puts pressure on the infrastructure that supports the platform, and both Airbus and Palantir have to make sure the platform is able to work and perform under such pressure. Any disruption could affect the operations of hundreds of airlines in the future.

References

  1. Airbus. 2020. Airlines Using Skywise Core. [online] Available at: <https://skywise.airbus.com/en/products/for-airlines.html> [Accessed 18 April 2020].
  2. Airbus. 2020. Skywise. [online] Available at: <https://www.airbus.com/aircraft/support-services/skywise.html> [Accessed 18 April 2020].
  3. Airbus. 2020. Airbus Launches Skywise – Aviation’S Open Data Platform. [online] Available at: <https://www.airbus.com/newsroom/press-releases/en/2017/06/airbus-launches-new-open-aviation-data-platform–skywise–to-sup.html> [Accessed 18 April 2020].
  4. Palantir. 2020. Skywise. [online] Available at: <https://www.palantir.com/solutions/skywise/> [Accessed 18 April 2020].

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6 thoughts on “Skywise: Airbus bet on big data

  1. Super interesting article! Given that the airline manufacturing industry gets so much of data, this definitely will add value to the whole industry. I am curious to know what are the existing procedures in place? And how much skin does Airbus have in the game today? And how open would the airlines be sharing their data with Palantir and a small startup?

  2. Great article! It is interesting to also think about how Boeing is responding to this initiative with their AnalytX, and whether airlines and suppliers would not prefer a common data-sharing platform that can include both manufacturers, provided with proper privacy and access controls (maybe Blockchain could be an alternative?).

    It would also be interesting to see if after the 737 Max scandal safety regulations do not force both companies to make more portions of their data publicly available and develop a unified standard for data sharing.

  3. Very interesting! A great example of how can traditionnal indutries leverage data analytics. I wondering what would be the boundary on the data that airlines and suppliers could share with Airbus. Will giving too much information to Airbus decrease their bargain power in future contracts? Could airlines which owns Boeing aiplanes share to Airbus their data from these planes?

  4. Interesting read Walter.

    I think this is a great example of innovation in a industry that runs on very archaic systems. For me the challenge is the integration of this new systems with the pre-existing ones. I get the privacy concern, but most of this operational data from the Airlines, is already available for Airbus. This just seems as a much better and efficient way to gather and package the information for insights.

    I really see customers benefiting from this type of service. I worked for the Helicopter division of Airbus and I can tell you that customers love the product (because it is unmatched in terms of specifications) but hate the maintenance service, so anything that could help improve the maintenance supply chain would be a huge benefit for both parties.

    About getting the data to design new aircrafts… let’s see if Airbus gives good use to the data. In the past they had the data to create amazing airplanes like the A380 or the A400M, however they made the wrong bet when reading the market trends.

  5. It is interesting that airlines would be willing to do Airbus’s job for them in sharing their internal data fully, while only getting anonymous data from others. I think the data privacy aspect if going to be key and if a competitor comes along and offers a third party solution that doesn’t share their data with Airbus, they might be able to switch easily. Also, I know much of this data is required to be disclosed publicly (routes, maintenance, etc), and I wonder how much they share in this platform which isn’t already public.

  6. Great article. I agree with a few other points around data privacy issues. In addition, I wonder what kind of redundancies lie for airlines that do this along their own supply-chain/operations as is. I assume there’s a fair amount of this within a company with a delay, food preparations, staffing, passengers, as well as expected problems that might come up like baggage mishandling etc. I’m not sure what interoperability would look like for each company but having airbus be the gatekeeper to this information would be a strategic move and could change the role they play in the industry. Very cool.

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