As you will know from Part 1, Vistair supports a LinkedIn Group of some 1,200 professionals dedicated to smart technology for aviation, simply SmartTech for Aviation. Over the past year, the Group has been contributing to a survey about the sector’s thinking. 50% of respondents are owners/board members/senior managers/departmental heads and 42% of the survey’s contributors are directly involved with smart tech usage or are users themselves.

Part 1 dealt with the current situation. However, we also asked respondents to look forward. This Part 2 is the result.

Is Smart Technology – specifically tablets – robust enough for aviation?

We began by asking whether respondents had concerns about continuing tablet use. Encouragingly, 52% replied with a straight No, while 15% said there was nothing worth worrying about. Yet that still left a third who had concerns for the future. Some were very specific about those concerns.

“Tablets introduce new procedures and information into the cockpit. It is paramount that the flight crew is aware of what the tablet is doing, and how the system providing the information to the tablet makes it available with respect to latency, number of updates, and the relationship of the update provisioning vs. when the weather and AI products become available,” commented one contributor. Another added a concern about: “Information security endpoint to endpoint, operational approval, hardware acceptability for an airplane environment, application without process changes (slavish duplication of paper form on tablets).”

As for the devices themselves, there was some negativity about the performance of tablets in direct sunlight and the slow loading of apps.

However, the Vistair survey went further, asking all respondents to rate the issues they saw as the constraints to increased use of tablets in future. They identified eight. The table below shows the greatest to the least level of concern and the arithmetic weighting each received.

1

Ruggedness/suitability for role

6.39

2

Malware/virus

6.24

3

Training

5.53

4

User acceptance

4.88

5

Cost

4.09

6

Pace of technology

3.47

7

Reliability

2.82

8

Regulation

2.53

 

Who will win the Operating System war?

In most circumstances, committing to a specific operating system appears to be a key decision impacting future development by a company. So we asked contributors which operating system would be dominant in future. Over the period of the survey, the field has heated up as Android has made major market share gains but the results show buyers and users still rate their choice of OS providers as:

  • Combinations of more than one OS (45%)
  • Apple (31%)
  • Microsoft (14%)
  • Google Android (7%)
  • The missing few percentage points were from those who wish to see Linux enter the market, which even they saw as unlikely!

But there's more behind these statistics. In the conversation that followed, there were significant qualitative comments, substantially addressing Apple's iOS.

“Within aviation and defence, security of the device and system attached peripherals, including airframes and weapons systems, is paramount. Currently Apple's iOS leads in industry hardware/software security.”

“The restrictive nature of Apple's App Store means that it less likely to be subject to malware and virus attacks, making iOS a better choice for aviation than open source operating systems. Unfortunately I suspect that it will also create problems in terms of certification as the Apple version control and QC is less robust than that which is really required for aviation applications.”

It is the only constrained platform with a standardised operating system. Makes development much cheaper and easier to manage. Mobile apps are not static and should be continually developed to deliver the best user experience and the Apple platform actually permits this by offering a controlled technical space. Contrast this with the Windows space and the Android space. Development on these platforms might appear simple to start with but try maintaining that over years and OS upgrades on to multiple machine specs.

Beyond today's SmartTech

Technology cannot yet beam people and things directly across the globe, arguably the most impact science could have on aviation! Our expert respondents were rather more conservative in their assessment of the greatest steps forward they expect to see over the near future.

In order of importance, this chart sets out their expectations:

1

Enhanced tablets

27.14%

2

Connectivity with instruments

21.43%

3

Eye technology

15.71%

4

Tablet/phone hybrids (phablets)

11.43%

5

Wearable technology (eg for monitoring crew fitness)

8.57%

6

Gesture input

5.71%

7

Enhanced phones

5.71%

Yes… but! The follow-up from this straight vote is equally revealing.

One comment regarded connectivity in a narrow but achievable way. “Improved data link connectivity to the cockpit such that this data link can be the exclusive means of obtaining aeronautical and weather information needed for safety of flight and compliance within the operating rules.” Another wanted “Editorial control of data” but didn't say who should have such control. A possibly commercially-driven statement was none-the-less of value. “Enhanced tablets that can integrate with the instrument system. Aspen Aviation's Connected Panel is key. Provision of internet services to the cockpit that the tablet can take advantage of so that the flight crew can make use of System Wide Information Management services, and other information authorized by their OPSPECS. Presentation of the information to the pilot to reduce distractions are under development, especially in the military services.”

Other wishes were for voice recognition, aircraft mounts with power and FMC data, then applications that allow crews to complete the flight plan on the device itself and complete all pre flight briefing tasks on the device. Developers, take notice! These are product opportunities for the coming year. However, one developer sounded a note of caution: “Developing apps for these platforms is not to be taken lightly. Once you have one app on three platforms you have a lot of development resource tied up keeping that maintained. The app has to have a back end and that needs to be highly functional for the airline to get the best out of it. Once you start on this product development road it gets very steep very quickly. The clients don't always grasp that.

Who has the most need for SmartTech products in future?

For every business investing in aviation SmartTech, this is the closest you will ever get to seeing a definition of the market's segmentation. It is our humble opinion that this next chart should drive your R&D, marketing and sales effort. You have just reached the most valuable bit of this whole survey for suppliers – thanks for sticking with it.

We asked the market place: “Which areas of aviation are likely to benefit most from SmartTech growth?” The chart speaks for itself.

 

Segment

PERCENT

Airline flight operations

29%

Airline ground operations

13%

Airline safety/monitoring

13%

Airline passenger service

8%

Airline cargo and/or logistics

6%

Maintenance

8%

Business/corporate aviation

6%

Control and communications

4%

Airport operations

4%

Essential/public service aviation

3%

Airport passenger service

1%

Airport monitoring

1%

Light fixed-wing

1%

Rotary

0%

Emergency management

0%

The average comment? “All of the above.”

Next action?

Thank you for reading the results of the LinkedIn SmartTech for Aviation survey, enabled by Vistair. If you have a few moments and thoughts on this initiative, please share on your favourite networking site.