Airbus Steps Up IoT Efforts

Aircraft maker’s drive to digitalize MRO operations takes it to Singapore.

Airbus has signed a contract with Singapore-based Internet of Things (IoT) network operator and technology-development company UnaBiz to advance the aircraft manufacturer’s research on digitalizing aircraft MRO operations by adopting IoT solutions.

UnaBiz is the exclusive network operator of Sigfox's low-power, wide-area (LPWA) network in Singapore and Taiwan. As such, UnaBiz claims to be the first IoT-dedicated network operator in Asia to roll out a nationwide IoT network.

According to UnaBiz, most components of the infrastructure required for digitalized MRO operations are mobile and require some form of wireless communication, especially in transmitting small packets of data over a long distance.

The Singapore company says its partnership with Airbus will allow the OEM to leverage Sigfox's LPWA network to develop IoT technologies for aircraft MRO operations. UnaBiz describes the LPWA IoT-connectivity network as a technology that is low cost in terms of capital investment and operation, ultra-low in power consumption, simple to deploy and offering global coverage.

According to a March 29 UnaBiz news release announcing its research partnership with Airbus, both companies intend to devote significant resources to the MRO digitalization project to ensure that the solutions they develop can be successfully deployed to Airbus-related MRO facilities and operations globally.

The release quotes Ivan Ho, managing director of Airbus Singapore, as saying, “UnaBiz's unique approach to device-to-cloud communications offers a disruptive IoT solution with potential for global applications.”

In the release, Henri Bong, CEO and founder of UnaBiz, states, “MRO has always been a tough aviation function to automate due to the complexity and confidentiality of sensitive data. UnaBiz is committed to using its existing deep development expertise to build intelligence in tools, components and other devices used in specific MRO processes.

“It is our mission to power cost-effective and energy-efficient connectivity for businesses as it is the only way the IoT revolution can materialize,” continues Bong. “We want to help Airbus increase operational reliability and efficiency without increasing overall costs through the implementation of IoT solutions on an affordable network.”

Perhaps not coincidentally for the Airbus-UnaBiz IoT research partnership’s purposes, Sigfox, the company which developed the LPWA network UnaBiz uses, is headquartered in Labège near Toulouse, which is home to Airbus and is also regarded as France's ‘IoT Valley’.

According to Sigfox, it has built a global network to connect billions of devices to the Internet as simply as possible while consuming as little energy as possible. Today Sigfox claims to be the world's leading provider of connectivity for IoT applications.

According to the French company, its LPWA IoT-connectivity network is now present in 32 countries and is on track to be present in 60 countries by 2018, covering a population of 486 million people.

Sigfox says millions of objects are now connected to its network and its network of IoT business partners is growing rapidly.

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