Gogo, IBM, and Weather Company Reduce Flight Turbulence

Publisher�s Outlook

Gogo, IBM, and Weather Company Reduce Flight Turbulence

By Rich Tehrani, Group Editor-in-Chief, TMC  |  September 06, 2016

We are literally in what seems to be a golden age of API integration. No, APIs aren’t new, but something magical seems to be happening in the space as evidenced by the huge amount of news related to the topic recently. Twilio (News - Alert), an API company, had a blockbuster IPO debut. Without Twilio, some of the best Uber communications features wouldn’t exist.

Also, Red Hat (News - Alert) recently purchased API management company 3scale and will open source the technology.

Meanwhile, The Weather Company, GoGo, and IBM (News - Alert) announced an innovative system that uses technology to determine turbulence on one airline to send the data to other airlines to ensure they don’t go through the same rough patches.

Yes, an API from Twilio makes life easier by keeping your phone number hidden when communicating with your driver, but this Gogo solution makes life easier and safer and saves airlines millions of dollars at the same time.

I’m just waiting for the next iteration of the app where it realizes your flight is being re-routed and calls your driver from the plane so the car is at the airport when you arrive. I’ll let you know when it gets here.

In the meantime, I conducted an interview with Sergio Aguirre, Gogo Business Aviation’s senior vice president of product management and  business development.

How did this amazing idea come to be?

Based on a true market need. Prior to this solution the way turbulence information was delivered was through the experience of other planes flying through turbulence, radioing the information to a control tower, or [relying on] other nearby planes to notify them that your plane had flown through turbulence. Gogo’s system delivers real-time diagnostics so other planes using similar flight patterns will have better, more accurate weather and turbulence information delivered more quickly. It turns the plane into a moving weather station in the air and crowdsources data to create more transparent information quickly.

What were the first steps from your perspective?

For years, Gogo has been the leader for connectivity to the aviation industry. Given our unique position of providing not only the smart gateway on an aircraft but the network as well as the cloud-based storage, we realized we had the opportunity to help provide access to aviation data, and that data could be used to help improve the safety, productivity, and experiences on aircraft during flight. Partnering with WSI (News - Alert) and IBM was a logical and natural fit because we both want to improve the information transparency around weather.  

How did APIs play a role in ensuring this solution was achievable?

APIs play a critical component of the overall project.  The movement of this approach from traditional service (using avionics and ACARS) to the new approach (using Gogo network and APIs) means that the overall capability is migrating to an IP approach. The advantage is that it provides better scaling in the market and expansion opportunities over time. The use of APIs is a first for this project and was crucial to its success. 

What other possibilities are there in terms of adding technology to flights from your perspective?

We’re at the beginning of changing how information is delivered, gathered, and received both for aircraft in the air and for other uses on the ground. In fact, we just published a book, “From the Ground Up: How the Internet of Things Will Give Rise to Connected Aviation”. That includes insight and perspective from thought leaders across the aviation and technology fields with insight from a multitude of industries. We want to help enable data monetization in the network, and we want to ignite a wave of new ideas – which can only happen through broad collaboration. We feel that if we can provide access to data, then the world’s smart entrepreneurs will be able to craft new solutions that help better our lives and our planet.
What else should we know?

As mentioned above, this is just the tip of the iceberg. What we are doing in IoT with aircraft will connect the skies with our reliable networks that allow us to capitalize and enable data monetization through our products and services. And it takes an entire ecosystem with partners from all industries to fully realize what is possible, which is the exciting part to watch unfold.

Edited by Alicia Young