T.J. Horsager, Gogo Gogo

Fast 5: Gogo’s Take on Internet of Things Outcomes, Near Future

Gogo has a 2Ku inflight connectivity system installation starting every eight hours around the world. With this big ramp up, T.J. Horsager, Gogo’s director of connected aircraft, talked with Lee Ann Shay about how connectivity and the Internet of Things (IoT) are enabling outcomes in aviation. Here are five questions and answers from that conversation.

What are Gogo’s aspirations in the Connected Aerospace environment? Will it be the 2Ku provider, or is the company planning on branching out to other services?

Gogo’s vision is one of enablement. With the tools that various manufacturers have (such as GE’s Predix), we see us being a key enabler or mechanism of that technology. With the aircraft’s broadband technology and with 2Ku, we can send a lot more contextual data around what’s going on with the aircraft or engine, so it gives data scientists and analytics folks better capability to assess how that particular asset is performing.

In the maintenance space, what IoT outcomes do you see?

One of the shifts we’ll see over the coming years is the transition from being able to use snapshot reports generated by legacy systems such as ACMS (aircraft condition monitoring system) and ACARS (aircraft communication, addressing and reporting system) to being able to use a full context of what took place in a certain event on an aircraft. Relative to the maintenance space, that’s a key transformation that I see coming. A lot of the systems in place today depend on snapshot data, which is a limitation of the technology at the time. With broadband to the aircraft, the old barriers are being shattered. As an industry, we need to look at how larger data sets can be leveraged with awesome tools that a variety of OEMs can bring to the table. That’s a key difference we’ll see in the next couple of years.  

Moore’s Law is close to its end, if it’s not already. How do you anticipate future developments given the accelerated change?

Keeping our fingers on the pulse of the industry as a company that is focused on aerospace and aviation would make it seem that it should be easier for us to do than some other aviation companies, but it is difficult. We’re constantly working with our customers and working with industry standards groups and so forth to stay one step ahead of technology and technology roadmaps. At Gogo, we’re always working on improvements and evolving products so that we have future-proof technology that can last a long time on the aircraft, yet meet the expanding needs across the lifecycle of the product. It is a difficult balancing act—and one for which there is not one answer. But we have a group of technology and aviation experts that work on this every day. We work hard to anticipate and stay ahead of the evolution so we can meet the needs of our customers.

What roadblocks to do you see?

Aviation regulations always can be a barrier. Understanding the technology and the rapid advancement of it often leads to a point where standards and rules become outdated or are not applicable. Often times you find yourself in a situation where the regulatory space is not at the point where the technology is at any given day. That can take time, and if delays occur, customers are unhappy and we don’t have the ability to move as fast as we’d like to. With the regulatory framework that we have, keeping up with the rapid pace of technological change is always a challenge. That’s a barrier we work with on a daily basis. 

What are your predictions for 2018-19?

We see 2018-19 as the years of data for us. We’re looking to put aircraft data to work--to enable airlines to fly safer and be more efficient by reducing waste in their operations. That’s the Internet of Things for aviation in my mind. That’s where we’re focusing our efforts in the new term—to fuse data and our broadband connectivity to the aircraft and our 2Ku product. That’s a killer match! 

What are the cybersecurity concerns as the systems become more connected and we’re transferring more data from the aircraft?

When it comes to security and cybersecurity, our implementations are aligned with FAA regulatory guidance and various rules within the space. We have a layered approach that never ends—it’s ongoing. We continually assess cybersecurity threats. Overall, I think the industry generally has that same approach, but we always need to be on guard. We certainly have features and mechanisms that we have built into our systems to prevent cyber-related attacks and I’m sure our industry peers are doing something similar.

Editor's note: This interview was done for this article, "Internet of Things for Aviation Gets Real," published in Inside MRO's April issue.

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