The global economy stands or falls on the bedrock of infrastructure. Whether it’s bridges, roads, harbours, airports, cables or satellites, nothing moves without it. Infrastructure lives and breathes, and together we must invest in 21st century networks to build a more harmonized and connected future.
I was fascinated to learn recently that in the last two years alone more information has been exchanged globally than in all of living history. So much of the world is now reliant on the transfer of real-time information, including the operation of physical infrastructure.
The most profound example in my world of express transportation services is our airports, where the real time data that flows across public and private networks affects everything from when a plane takes off to the whole commercial viability of a carrier and indeed, the industry.
On January 1, 2014, commercial aviation celebrated its 100th birthday. What a gift the inventors of that remarkable industry bestowed on us. Who could’ve imagined from that first flight connecting just two cities in 1914 that 100 years later 40,000 cities around the world would be connected through over 100,000 daily flights, generating over $2.2trn in economic output and a wealth of cultural and societal benefits.
All going to plan, the International Air Transportation Association projects that, by 2050 airlines could be handling 16 billion passengers and 400 million tons of freight. Much of the viability for carriers, however, hangs on achieving global scale, and in order to do this there needs to be greater harmonisation in the sophisticated information systems and processes that support global aviation.
We have come to expect flight delays on nearly every trip we take, and the consequences extend far beyond our own personal frustration. As seemingly minor delays and cancellations ripple and multiply across the network, they can add up to substantial – and in many cases avoidable - environmental, societal and economic costs.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimate air traffic control and gate delays cost the aviation industry over $8bn a year – that’s money that could definitely be better spent elsewhere. But it doesn’t need to be like this. Through working together – in public-private global partnerships- to create harmonisation in the information systems supporting the aviation industry, we can create universal value.
Across the world, air traffic modernisation plans continue to move on different paths and timelines, however they are converging and the benefits will be felt by all of us. One of the best examples is the Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast, where sophisticated avionics allow aircraft to talk to ground stations and other aircraft and alert them of status and positioning.
Along with other carriers, FedEx continues to outfit aircraft with improved digital avionics to help make the transition from voice-only communications to digital data communications between the cockpit and air-traffic controller. This is creating a safer and much more efficient operating environment for aviation, where aircraft are able to better navigate crowded airspace, landing and taking off with fewer delays.
Our global infrastructure is essential to the future of the global economy. Together we must invest and prioritise the information systems that drive harmonisation, automation, control and efficiency across our combined public and private networks – especially in our airports. A smart investment in our future is a smart investment in advanced 21st century infrastructure.