3 September is Digital Day throughout Switzerland – an opportunity to also consider digitalisation in the aviation industry and present the latest digital innovations by SWISS. The aim of Digital Day is to maintain an open dialogue with the Swiss society and to share with them the latest developments, opportunities and risks in the field of digital transformation. SWISS will have its own stand in the “Mobility” section at the Zurich main station. Visitors will be able to find out more about the future of flying on the SWISS stand.
As in all social areas, digital technology is also becoming increasingly important in that of aviation. Digital products and services have recently become a significant competitive advantage, since digitalisation facilitates a new form of travelling: simple, interlinked, and with many more options. That is only one of the reasons why the Lufthansa Group (LHG) – which also includes SWISS – is aiming to become the world’s most digital airline group. In line with this, it is essential for SWISS that the airline continues to preserve and develop its digital and innovation culture in the long term. Unlike with a flight, there is no end point in digitalisation. Digital development as an opportunity to progress consistently in one’s field – this insight is absolutely in line with the motto of the 2019 Digital Day, namely “Lifelong learning”.
So what does the implementation of this aim look like in theory and in practice? Whether in the air or on the ground, SWISS is using the benefits of digitalisation to make flying even easier, more pleasant and more environmentally friendly in the future. SWISS wants to use digitalisation to further improve the travel experience for its customers, to optimise its operational sequences and to make the working day more efficient for its staff on the ground and in the air. Cabin/cockpit and ground staff are given digital tools that enable them to fulfil their daily tasks more efficiently. In 2017, SWISS issued all its cabin crews with so-called Flypads (tablets). These have made daily working life on-board much easier in many respects, leaving crews with more time for ensuring their guests are comfortable. Far less paper is also used in the cockpit. The so-called Electronic Flight Bag contains all the information required for a flight in digital form.
And with the application Aviatar, which was introduced on the last Digital Day, SWISS is also taking an important step towards virtual reality. The computer program uses digitalised data on the current state of an aircraft’s “health” to create a digital twin, the information from which can be accessed at any time on a digital user interface. This means that operational processes such as aircraft monitoring and the analysis thereof can be completed even faster and with improved precision.
One example of a mechanical innovation is the use of exoskeletons in aircraft maintenance. The term “exoskeleton” is more familiar in the field of biology and refers to organic supports that are connected to a body, such as the protective and absorbing housing of insects. The shell, or external skeleton, supports the body in all its physically challenging activities – which is something that is also of interest to the human body.
Surgery has taken the first step in the use of exoskeletons for the human body. Technical supports have been used by surgeons for assistance with tasks that are physically challenging and performed for several hours. But how does one work with such technical assistance? Put simply, it means that the member of staff puts on an additional skeleton, such as mechanical limbs. Arms, legs, back and/or neck receive additional support with any movement, which makes performing a task both easier and more efficient. It even makes it possible for an individual to sit without a chair. It makes sense that the aviation industry should follow this example: In the maintenance division in particular, exoskeletons could help to relieve the physical load on a member of staff who, for instance, is working overhead on a wing or on the engines and needs to lift up heavy aircraft components.
Following an initial test phase at Lufthansa Technik, SWISS Technics has launched a pilot project to look into the use of technical supports in other working areas on the wing, in the cabin or for general checks on an aircraft. SWISS wants to illustrate this physical benefit to visitors at the Digital Day. On the SWISS stand, they will be able to try out an overhead exoskeleton for themselves and use it, for instance, to insert metal rods in a wall and experience the difference to their body for themselves.
Digital innovations are also intended to consistently improve the customer’s flying experience along the entire travel chain and create the feeling of a seamless transfer from A to B. SWISS will be presenting a number of associated projects at the Digital Day. One of them looks at so-called Smart Assistants, which provide our customers proactively with the best possible support during their journey. LHG is working on a framework to make LHG services such as the check-in possible on as many Smart Assistants (Facebook, WhatsApp, Google Assistant, Alexa etc.) and in various input formats (tab, text, voice) as possible.
There are going to be tremendous advances in the field of digitalisation in the future – and not least at SWISS. Other pilot projects and real implementation of the same will illustrate just what role SWISS will play in making the Lufthansa Group the “world’s most digital airline group”. Exciting times are ahead. But one thing is certain in the digital world: it’s worth coming on board.
Text: Livia Cadalbert