IoT in the Air Transport Industry - Three Keys for a Strong Implementation
By Floyd Davis, Director of Sales, Global Accounts at Solace
The air transport industry has an innovation problem.
Bogged down by legacy systems and stringent regulations, it's difficult for those in the industry to experiment with and implement new technologies that will ultimately improve operations and service. Connected devices are changing this dynamic as air carriers start to jump on the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution with the introduction of smart unit load devices (ULDs).
While the industry previously relied on inaccurate (and time-consuming) manual tracking processes, innovative ULD technology allows full visibility into the status of shipments with seamless, real-time updates.
From inclement weather to security issues, there are a number of challenges that can impact the delivery of packages or change the intended route from point A to point B. IoT helps air carriers take all the necessary information into account to better manage and route shipments, while providing customers with the most updated information.
But IoT isn't just a one-and-done solution.
Air transport companies must implement supporting technologies that connect all the moving parts and ensure critical information doesn't get lost in flight. Creating an efficient IoT strategy requires smarter data connections, stronger security, and a foolproof back-up plan.
Create connections with third-party data for real-time analysis and efficient routing
There's no doubt that IoT devices enable smarter tracking of shipments; but air carriers can take this a step further by leveraging applications that synchronize and exchange critical logistics data from third-parties as well. This can include insight on weather conditions, Traffic Flow Management Systems (TFMS) and even logistical data from specific aircrafts or airports.
Gaining an accurate picture of the status of deliveries requires more than just looking at the location of a shipment and estimating the time of arrival.
By leveraging third-party data along with their real-time IoT insight, air carriers can get more strategic about package routes. Take, for example, a shipment in Kansas City that needs to get to New York City.
If the logistics company integrates weather data, they will immediately recognize the big snow storm due to hit Missouri in the next day. From there, the system can optimize the intended route options, prompting an administrator to put the package on a truck headed toward Illinois-and ship it on the next flight out of Chicago.
Without this smart integration of third-party data, the package may have been stuck in Kansas City for days, resulting in massive delivery delays and frustrated customers.
Beyond improving customer satisfaction, taking a data-driven approach to managing shipments can allow the air transport industry to refine their operations and ultimately become more efficient in how they route packages.
Padding IoT devices and applications with smart security features
Cybersecurity is a top concern for companies implementing IoT devices. With their ability to host and share so much data, it's not just important to protect the storage aspects of connected devices, but also to keep data safe as it moves between systems.
In the air transport industry, specifically, logistics companies have pools of sensitive information at their fingertips, making it even more critical that data is not intercepted and compromised while in transit.
By using Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) connections between all their IT applications, air carriers can ensure important data is fully protected while it moves back-and-forth between all the necessary systems. In other words, every device and system will require authentication before it can send or receive messages, and every message will remain fully encrypted while in transit.
Cybersecurity is obviously a big concern across industries, but logistics companies have unique challenges and must ensure sensitive information about flights and potential issues is only seen by relevant parties.
Incorporate smart backup capabilities to ensure nothing goes missing during a disconnect
The truth is that technology isn't always going to operate completely as planned. A smart IoT strategy isn't just about making the right connections while everything is running smoothly; it's also about ensuring nothing gets lost when there's a disconnect.
Oftentimes when any device or system suddenly suffers an outage, everything comes to a screeching halt. This means that important connections are missed, but it can also create even bigger problems once things are back up-and running.
Air carriers need a failsafe way to combat this from happening. By equipping connected devices with smart applications that securely hold onto important data during a disconnect (and ensure a smooth flow of information once systems are running), air carriers can create a foolproof IoT strategy that is efficient even when it's down for a short period of time.
The air transport industry is quickly adopting connected ULDs; but IoT alone won't solve every issue for air carriers. To develop a strong IoT implementation that allows real-time tracking and management of shipments, companies must pad their devices with supporting technologies that ensure the right information gets where it needs to go, rain or shine.