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Reinventing the airport operations control interface of the future with Digital Twins

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By Maneesh Jaikrishna, Vice President – Indian Subcontinent, Dubai, Eastern & Southern Africa at SITA

With passenger numbers growing rapidly in airports around the world, together with an increased focus on digital transformation, the volume of data being produced by the air transport industry is growing exponentially. Without the right tools to make sense of this growing mass of data, the air travel industry is facing an information overload.

Today, information about everything that happens at an airport is largely available in the more advanced control centers.

However, because the various elements are collected and presented independently, it can be difficult to see the overall picture, and how all the elements interact with each other. It can also be hard to generate a historical view to review how the airport previously handled disruption caused by bad weather, for example.

Innovations like digital twin can be a great technological solution that can help airport management interact with information in the future.

‘Double Vision’ – What is Digital Twin?

A digital twin is the virtual replica of a physical asset. Our concept is to create the operations control interface of the future, using digital twins to bring together everything that’s happening.It covers arriving and departing aircraft, the number of passengers involved, queue wait times, escalator operations, passenger satisfaction with restrooms, traffic flows at drop-off and pick-up and much more.

They can prove to be a great boon for the air travel industry as they have the potential to be the universal interface to get the needed value out of information across all the stakeholders in the airport, in many different ways.

Busting silos for better decision-making

Digital twins can help bring all the siloed information to one place for better analysis and decision-making. It uses gesture-driven 3D visualizations of the airport environment with large displays in central command centers, mixed reality on mobile devices, and immersive holographic interfaces. This pairing of digital and virtual world allows analysis of data monitoring of systems to head off problems before they even occur, prevent downtime, develop new opportunities, and plan for the future by using simulations.

Digital twins have the potential to be the universal interface to get the needed value out of information across all the stakeholders in the airport, in many different ways. The result is improved decision-making, based on the holistic view of the airport operations.

Digital twins have the potential to not just show what is happening now but can also help analyze a moment in history and play back exactly what happened in the past. It is a very effective way of investigating the handling of disruption, to identify what can be done better next time.

Predict and Control

One of the biggest challenges facing the industry is disruption which is costing airlines around $25bn every year.

Better visibility of future scenarios is vital in tackling this challenge. The digital twin does this by leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to transform the data into actionable insights in the form of perception, prediction, recommendations, and simulation. AI can highlight what to pay attention to right now, predict what’s coming, and enable simulation to understand the impact and effectiveness of compensating actions. Much like a weather app, many data elements can be layered on the airport landscape such as aircraft and passenger movements, queue lengths, and the ocean of IoT telemetry that will materialize.

By feeding in flight information, weather data and other operational information, the digital twin can predict what will happen next at an airport.

The potential is becoming clear

Digital twin can help in automating menial and repetitive activities and to free up employees to focus on important activities like customer service, operational excellence, and safety. A single communal experience can make digital-human interaction better as compared to endless application views.

The recommendations made by digital twin technology for a problem will help inform the decision-making and the technology will eventually learn which recommendations are typically accepted and suggest a new rule to make the process even more efficient.

A fully-functioning productized digital twin of an airport is still some time off. But as we build it out more widely and deeply, the full extent of its potential is becoming clear. It can empower the industry with a social collaborative consciousness to maximize efficiencies and accelerate the time it takes to recover from problems. But more importantly, it will prevent problems from happening in the first place.


If you have an interesting article / experience / case study to share, please get in touch with us at [email protected]

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1 Comment
  1. Nidhi Shah says

    Reads quite similar to the SITA blog

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