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Is the Internet of Things age upon us?

Nowadays in aviation we commonly hear terms such as connectivity bandied around, often in relation to highly advanced aircraft and their sensor-heavy components. In more recent times one of the offshoots of the connectivity drive, the Internet of Things (IoT), has become a bigger part of the conversation and is increasingly viewed as a key element of civil aviation's future. But could it be that the age of IoT is already upon us? In his latest guest article for MRO Network, Bhoopathi Rapolu, head of analytics EMEA at Indian engineering firm Cyient certainly appears to think so. He believes 2015 marked a year when the next generation of aircraft powered by IoT capabilities and Big Data “hit scales that have never seen before.” Rapolu says the engine powering Bombardier’s CSeries aircraft, unveiled at last year’s Paris Air Show, is an example of the sheer size of the data scale. He explains that the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G family engine has around 5000 sensors able to generate up to 10GB of data a second,

But could it be that the age of IoT is already upon us? In his latest guest article for MRO Network, Bhoopathi Rapolu, head of analytics EMEA at Indian engineering firm Cyient certainly appears to think so. He believes 2015 marked a year when the next generation of aircraft powered by IoT capabilities and Big Data “hit scales that have never seen before.”

Rapolu says the engine powering Bombardier’s CSeries aircraft, unveiled at last year’s Paris Air Show, is an example of the sheer size of the data scale. He explains that the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G family engine has around 5000 sensors able to generate up to 10GB of data a second, while a single twin engine aircraft with an average of 12 hours flight-time can produce up to 844TB of data.

As a comparison, an older aircraft engine still in operation will have around 250 sensors.

And yet, engine OEMs and MROs appear to be well set up for the great data influx; after all, they’ve had decades to prepare as high volumes of data in aircraft engines is certainly nothing new.

Big industry names such as GE Aviation and Rolls-Royce have been notable examples of companies working to meet the data surge, and having spoken to smaller firms on the topic in the past year, there is a widespread awareness of the importance of maximising data and embracing relevant technologies to better enable this.

But while most parts of the industry appear readily accepting of the IoT phenomenon, avionics has been pinpointed as one of the aviation sectors needing to get up to speed. However, this is a formality according to some industry figures. With IoT technologies progressing and expanding in scope all the time, its prevalence in aircraft avionics is expected to gather pace in the coming years.

“With rapid advancements being made in the Internet of Aircraft Things and data analytics, it’s a truly exciting time to be working in the avionics industry,” says Rapolu. “Soon, thousands of sensors will be embedded in each aircraft, allowing data to be streamed down to the ground in real-time.

And following its breakthrough 2015, Rapolu speculates the reach of IoT could extend even further. adding: “Who knows, in time, this [IoT] could drive the famous black box to simply become a backup device!”

Given the pace at which IoT’s momentum has gathered in recent times, such bold statements could yet become sound predictions.

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