Big data and predictive analysis are set to transform aviation in the next five years, according to the annual transport industry survey by law firm Norton Rose Fulbright.
Respondents were asked what technology besides better engines would drive the most change in the next five years, and almost half said big data.
The second-most popular choice, favored by 13% of answerers, was automation of air traffic control.
It is easy to see why data analysis is so popular given its potential to improve customer knowledge and enhance maintenance support.
No distinction was made between the data’s use on either side of the hangar door, but it would be interesting to know whether those surveyed were more excited about its application to sales and marketing or to predictive and preventative maintenance.
Most likely it was the former and, indeed, there is a case that bigger strides will occur quicker in passenger analysis.
After all, the study of customer behavior is a huge, lucrative field that draws in all sorts of new ideas and entrepreneurial minds, whereas MRO is a more niche pursuit.
However, the aftermarket needs more attention in this area: Thanks to smart components, modern aircraft and engines are generating ever more data, but the ability to meaningfully analyse it is not growing at anywhere near the same pace.
From the latest engines, for instance, about 90% of their operating data sits untouched on servers.
Aviation has been traditionally a late adopter of new technology, but there are signs of that changing with airlines in the vanguard of efforts to promote end-to-end user experience, making themselves relevant to the passenger well before, during and long after a flight.
Perhaps some of that zeal will rub off on the aftermarket.