Industry Insight: 'IoT will change how we maintain our core assets'

We talk to Patrik Forsstrom, Head of Business Intelligence Competency Center at Cathay Pacific


Ahead of his presentation at the  Big Data & Analytics Innovation Summit in Hong Kong on April 26 & 27, we spoke to Patrik Forsstrom, Head of Business Intelligence Competency Center at Cathay Pacific.

Patrik is an airline expert with more than 16 years in the airline industry. He has worked within the industry in several different roles in both IT and Finance. He was a Shared Services Director at Finnair establishing a new captive Multifunction Shared Service Centre nearshore to Finland, producing a broad range of services for the Finnair group.He has also worked extensively in airline Business Intelligence, Enterprise Data Warehousing and Analytics and has been leading both the Cathay Pacific’s and Finnair’s Business Intelligence Competency Centres. In addition he has run several strategic restructuring projects within the airline industry across the different business functions.Hi is very passionate about the potential benefits of both Internet of Things and Big Data for the airline industry.

Having moved from a data driven company in Finland to Hong Kong, what has the main difference in data use between the companies been?

I think that Finnair started its digital journey a bit earlier. Finnair strived to be a digital airline almost 15 years ago, creating services like SMS boarding, electronic serial tickets, self-service check-in and automated e-gates for boarding much earlier than most other airlines in the world. Of course, customer experience was partly driving this for Finnair, but the company has been very focused on cost optimization and thus different kind of digital services had been in top management’s focus for long. All this required well-integrated data and good capabilities for analyzing it, and therefore Finnair created relatively sophisticated capabilities with their partners quite some years ago.

Whereas Cathay Pacific has been a frontrunner in creating sophisticated analytics on customer data, well ahead of most other airlines. I really think this is in the DNA of Cathay as we strive to provide exceptional customer recognition & customer service. Therefore it is quite natural that we have a customer analytics-centric approach. I also think that self-service wasn’t really the key focus before relatively recently. Also, today digitalization is driven from a customer services perspective.

To conclude; I think that originally quite a different approach to data and analytics with these two airlines, at least that is how I see it. Anyhow, when I look at both airlines today there are very similar initiatives ongoing with a lot of focus on creating new and innovative digital services and an emphasis on Customer Centricity.

You have worked in the airline industry for 17 years, how has the use of big data changed in that time?

With the old technologies, we were not able and could neither afford to store all the information that we thought could be useful. I personally really believe in the data lake concept and think a data lake is optimal both as a landing zone for your enterprise data warehouse and will also act as a data foundation for additional big data analytics and integration. The cloud technologies are now enabling you to relatively quickly deploy the database and the data processing etc. and the new challenging part is now finding the right people and skills.

What are the unique data challenges you face in the airline industry?

For me, the industry’s biggest challenge is the huge amounts of data produced by several ERP systems and the IoT that ideally should be integrated for analysis. The data in silos are interesting and important, but when we are able to cross reference it the value creation is immense. It is all about creating a unique and specific customer experience across all the touchpoints combined with true operational excellence is the ultimate goal.

How has the use of the IoT and smart sensors within planes impacted the industry or will impact the industry in the future?

This is truly a game changer. IoT will change how we maintain our core assets (Airplanes and Engines), how we locate & assign staff and ground equipment. It will be key in the future provide excellent customer services in the airports and in our lounges.

I think that there is so much potential with IoT for an airline and also for the airports themselves, not to forget different service providers in the ecosystem like ground handling providers, cleaning services and engineering providers. Combining IoT, Big Data, AI and Robotics is going to be the ultimate target to get ahead of the game.

What will people take away from your presentation at the summit?

I hope that I’ll be able to shed some more light on what the airline industry is doing with data, analytics, and the IoT. I’m very excited about the potential we at Cathay have with Big Data and IoT.

You can catch Patrik's presentation at the  Big Data & Analytics Innovation Summit in Hong Kong on April 26 & 27.

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