Streamlining operations

By Brian Fonseca  |  Posted 2004-07-20 Print this article Print

Britannia chose to deploy Casio EG-800 PDAs running the Pocket PC operating system for cabin crews, and IBM x30 laptops for pilots using Microsoft Corp.s Windows 2000 to improve its workflow and streamline operations.

Previously, cabin crews and pilots relied on an intranet to print out information to carry aboard the plane before a flight. With the new system in place, data is now replicated from the intranet directly to users PDAs via Wi-Fi during mandatory preflight meetings. With such updated information at their disposal, the planes crew can better prepare meal serving times based on things like flight times, turbulence, weather patterns and so on.

Click here to read about Qualcomms legal in-flight cell phone calls.
Boulton said the Casio EG-800 was chosen for its "ruggedization" and hardened plastic shell. It was no secret that the devices would need to withstand the constant handling throughout the day by a full- and part-time staff, being stowed away into compact areas aboard the plane and being shelved for indefinite periods of time. The Casios will operate only with the addition of a separate data card, used as a secondary backup, in conjunction with the wireless card.

Each PDA features its own Secure ID card and records when a PDA user has read a file or document through to the end, creating a daily audit trail.

"There are a lot of safety-related issues around paper, and were seeing more and more around that across the transportation industry. People are given reams of paper, and they dont read it properly," said Cavill.

From the captains perspective, the wireless technology puts routine checks and engineering issues and features, as well as required flight manuals, at his fingertips.

Britannia is running iAnywheres UltraLite database technology on its PDAs, and the Adaptive Server Anywhere SQL relational database for its IBM laptops. The airline is using iAnywheres MobiLink to enable synchronization from each database back into enterprise data sources.

Pylon Anywhere tools offer access to corporate e-mail, PIM (personal information manager) custom applications, calendars and personal contact lists. Administration, remote support and management of all Britannias field mobile devices occur through iAnywheres Manage Anywhere Studio. Livelink, a document management system from Open Text Corp., of Waterloo, Ontario, is used to integrate iAnywheres mobile extension at the back office.

LogicaCMG is developing a project to put engineering systems data onto the PDA, minimizing repairs and inventory-order time frames. Additionally, RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology has been examined to simplify inspections rather than the current system of unbolting physical hardware structures. Cavill said 22 other airlines have approached the systems integrator about Britannias PDA and laptop mobile access deployment and operation.

Martyn Mallick, senior product manager for iAnywhere, of Dublin, Calif., credited LogicaCMGs understanding of mobilized applications and the transportation industry with enabling iAnywhere to integrate and run across Britannias IT architecture seamlessly.

"Essentially, when you get started with a project like this, the systems integrator aspect is very important because iAnywhere may not have specific domain expertise for the vertical industries our technologies play in," said Mallick.

To the surprise of many, the outcome of those efforts resulted in Britannia saving upward of $910,000 simply by removing paper from its system. A total of $795,000 in cost reductions was achieved via streamlined administration tools.

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Brian Fonseca is a senior writer at eWEEK who covers database, data management and storage management software, as well as storage hardware. He works out of eWEEK's Woburn, Mass., office. Prior to joining eWEEK, Brian spent four years at InfoWorld as the publication's security reporter. He also covered services, and systems management. Before becoming an IT journalist, Brian worked as a beat reporter for The Herald News in Fall River, Mass., and cut his teeth in the news business as a sports and news producer for Channel 12-WPRI/Fox 64-WNAC in Providence, RI. Brian holds a B.A. in Communications from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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