Joerg Liebe, CIO of Lufthansa Systems talks data analytics, predictive maintenance and efficiency

By: Steve Jones

13, May, 2016


Airlines - Connected Industry - Data - Germany - IoT - Predictive Maintenance - Speakers -


The exploration of Internet of Things (IoT) and other nascent technologies represent a shot in the arm for an airline industry that “shed[s] a lot of money for a minimal profit.
That is the view of Joerg Liebe, CIO of Lufthansa Systems. Speaking to IoT Tech Expo before the Central Europe event in Berlin on 13-14 June, he argues the benefits of greater data analytics and predictive maintenance lead to greater efficiency, which leads in turn to greater costs – and it is airline customers who are part of this process.

Mobility and the consumerisation of IT is for us a huge topic that we can benefit on,” he says. “We saw the consumerisation of IT and mobile devices, and the proliferation of those, beneficial to airlines because instead of shedding millions to equip your aircraft now, you can do it much easier.

Liebe argues the airline industry is also ideal for the flood of data to come because of the data that is already there. “You could view an aircraft basically as a system full of sensors,” he says. “Be it the engine, the fuselage, there are so many sensors and data is collected throughout an aircraft that depending on who you ask there are a tremendous amount of data points collected and accumulated over a flight.

Depending on who you ask, you would get anything between a couple of gigabytes up to a couple of terabytes per flight, and certainly the newer the aircraft, the more sensors are built into [it], and therefore more data you would accumulate,” he adds.

Liebe explains the main purpose of this data is currently for safety purposes with a delay of 24 to 48 hours on average, while the vast majority of it is simply overwritten for the next flight. Yet predictive maintenance is the next step – working out potential delays before they happen is a convenience for passengers, but a vital business case for the airline itself. It’s similar to what engine manufacturers describe as ‘engine trend monitoring’ – using sensor data in the engines to avoid spiraling repair costs when parts break down. “We want to look at all this data, find those correlations, and with the knowledge of those correlations, even in-flight, we want to use that knowledge,” explains Liebe.

Efficiency doesn’t have to just be based on time however. At this year’s Mobile World Congress Isabelle Droll, CIO of TUI OneAviation, described the importance of mobile projects, greater data outlay and better communication saving weight on flights; less weight, less fuel, more economical as well as environmental. Liebe agrees, saying airlines are already curious about such ventures, and argues another example is through an aircraft’s auxiliary power unit (APU) and its air conditioning system. In fluctuating weather conditions, Liebe argues you don’t need both on at all times, draining power in the process. Yet not all airlines are doing this.

Meteorology comes into play again when Liebe goes back to the old bugaboo of revenue streams. “You collect a lot of data in wherever you’re flying, and you [could] basically make this data available to weather forecasters,” he says. “That gives a new data feed to weather forecasters, and they may be able to get even better in their forecasts.

This is just to give you a view of what’s possible,” he adds. “That would be something where airlines haven’t dug into right now, but that could be a new revenue channel for an airline to use their aircraft basically as flying sensors in the air to give weather forecasting institutions a new data feed for making those forecasts even more accurate.

This is definitely moving towards the hype – but if there is one thing Liebe is not going to mention in his talk at IoT Tech Expo, it’s the ‘h’ word. “We do work with 300 airlines worldwide, so we do have a view of what’s going to happen in the airline industry,” he explains. “The perspective we tend to take from here is [that] for the airline industry, it’s certainly not a hype, but something that’s extremely important and that will change the industry.

Interview by James Bourne, Editor, TechForge