Data In The Air

Boeing and Microsoft's partnership marks a move forward in aeronautical data use


The aeronautical industry is still one of the most exciting in the world. They tend to adopt new technologies frequently and the competition between companies like Boeing and Airbus means that innovative new ideas are being constantly sought.

They are also beginning to truly embrace big data and data analytics to improve aircraft and customer service, with a series of moves from some of the big players in the industry coming in the last couple of months.

One of the most exciting is the partnership between Boeing and Microsoft, which aims to centralize Boeing's digital aviation applications. The idea behind this is for Boeing to create a more easily manageable system and build a data focussed after sale package for those buying their aircraft. However, the benefits do not only come from the process of centralizing data, but also through the system utilizing AI and machine learning to develop the database and allow users to create genuinely actionable insights into how they use their aircraft.

Boeing will be transferring their apps to Microsoft's Azure system and will then be utilizing the company's Cortana intelligence system to allow the database to become smarter and learn from the data being input. The move has the potential to have a big impact not only on Boeing, but more importantly, the airlines who use Boeing's planes.

The idea behind this is to try and improve plane services by taking a more data-driven approach, with a key part of this being reducing delays or passengers. According to, 21.49% of flights in the US since May 2010 have been delayed and a key to stopping this is through predictive analytics, something this system will aim to provide.

Through predicting wear on parts, IoT technologies tracking sensor feeds throughout planes and tracking common issues with planes in specific areas or of certain age will give airlines the best chances to prevent mechanical faults or fix them without needing to delay or cancel flights.

It will also work with scheduling of staff, allowing airlines to provide intelligent stage rotas for pilots, cabin crews and maintenance staff. For instance, it may be necessary to have more people on standby at a certain time of year due to sickness or increased chances of technical faults. In fact, according to Boeing, companies who already use their crew scheduling apps have managed to save as much 7% of overall scheduling costs.

Through adopting these kinds of approaches, airlines give themselves a considerably better chance of reducing delays, but as the systems become more intelligent and can begin to connect more data points, it could even start to set routes and schedules.

At the moment we are at the beginning of this transition, with very few benchmarking examples to help guide airlines. However, with Boeing on board and Microsoft having a vested interest in its success, the likelihood of success is considerably higher. 

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