How Two Recent Trends in the Industry Enable Our New App for Crew Briefing
During the last weeks, our latest product took the second and most important step towards being developed. Lido mBriefing will be a native crew briefing app for tablets combining offline capability, updates via onboard connectivity and Navlog functionality for post-flight analysis. It had first been presented as a prototype to existing Lido Flight customers at the Lido User Group Forum in Frankfurt, Germany, in November 2016. After further market analysis and careful consideration of customer feedback, the Lufthansa Systems board has now approved the development of the application. This was of course very exciting news to the team that developed the prototype in just four weeks! In this blog post, I want to explain the broader picture of trends that led to our new product, and what Lido mBriefing will be all about.
For me, the fact that we are going to develop Lido mBriefing is an indicator of two trends in aviation and IT that we have been seeing in recent years: The rise of mobile connectivity and the introduction of modular software architecture.
The first one already has a big impact on many aspects of society and our personal lives: Massive technological improvements as well as the development of solutions like Lufthansa Systems’s BoardConnect allow us to stay connected seamlessly above the clouds. Airlines around the world increasingly fit their aircraft with broadband connectivity via satellites and 4G. In a few years, it will be very common for passengers to have internet access on board from their smartphones, tablets and notebooks. This is of course not only an opportunity for passengers to stay connected, but also for flight crews. When equipped with mobile devices, pilots and their airlines can profit from onboard connectivity in several ways: While operating a flight, cockpit crews can receive real-time data like updated weather images or opportunities for improvements of the flight track from their ground stations. This allows them to change their route inflight to optimize cost, to avoid dangerous weather conditions or to make sure their passengers arrive on time, thus raising customer satisfaction. In addition to these benefits to an individual flight, the trend towards onboard connectivity helps airlines optimize their flight operations as the actual track and fuel consumption data can be entered and sent back and stored for analysis with minimal effort.
The second trend I am referring to isn’t as new in the IT sector in general, but airline operations IT is special in this respect: In aviation IT, we focus on safety first and we have to make sure that operations software is very reliable. This is one reason why innovation is sometimes adopted a little slower than in other areas. Therefore, micro service or self-contained service (SCS) software architecture is not yet very common in aviation IT. With the introduction of Lido Flight 4D, we apply this concept to our flight planning software, transforming it from a software monolith into a solution comprised of independent services or modules connected via defined interfaces. This not only allows us to connect to 3rd party or customer-specific crew briefing systems, but also made it possible to develop the prototype of an app for iOS devices in a very short time. Another advantage of this modular design is the independent development of services. Enhancements to one component can be delivered to our customers independently from changes to other modules.
So, what is the new app all about?
In the past, a pilot retrieved their pre-flight briefing packages from a web browser or from a computer terminal situated at their airline’s offices. With Lido mBriefing, he or she can get flight briefing anywhere. They just pull out their iPad, open the app, and the briefing package containing flight route and crew details as well as weather and all other relevant information will be downloaded to their device.
This information can be used and processed during the flight in several ways:
- The pilot will be able to look up detailed flight information like NOTAM information and weather charts within the app at any time.
- The flight route can be transferred seamlessly to the Lido mPilot navigation app and displayed on an interactive map.
- With increasing connectivity onboard, in-flight updates will be possible as well.
- In case of any short notice changes, an update notification will be sent to the device, so that the pilot can react.
One other functionality that customers will benefit from is the built-in Navlog. The navigation log helps pilots track their fuel consumption and other flight operations indicators. After the flight, the documentation can be signed digitally and sent back to the airline’s data warehouse for post flight analysis.
The user interface of Lido mBriefing was developed by the Lido Flight team in cooperation with Nagarro, our strategic partner for software development, and Lido Navigation in a modern look & feel following the principles of Google Material Design. As this design language is also used by Lido mPilot and Lido AMM, using these apps simultaneously will give the crew an intuitive, consistent user experience during flight preparation and execution. Deeper integration of the products is planned for the future, as well as support for triggering takeoff and landing performance calculations directly from Lido mBriefing. For the time being, our new app will be developed exclusively for iOS. Support for Windows devices is foreseen at a later stage.
I am looking forward to seeing the development kick-off of Lido mBriefing very soon, and also to your feedback & comments about this topic!