NIIT Technologies' CEO discusses the impact of digitalisation on aviation

Sudhir Singh, CEO, NIIT Technologies, opens up on how airport operators and airlines are implementing cybersecurity technology and artificial intelligence
Sudhir Singh, CEO, NIIT Technologies.
Sudhir Singh, CEO, NIIT Technologies.

Since its founding back in 2004, NIIT Technologies has fostered a solid reputation as a provider of enterprise technology to the travel and transportation industry. While also equally as active within the insurance and financial services sectors, the company has, to date, built up an extensive portfolio of over 100 aviation-related clients.

The systems integrator’s portfolio comprises of a wide-range of services, which includes business process management, infrastructure management, as well as application development and maintenance.

“We play not just across services but across products. We have a product around revenue accounting for mid-sized airlines, which sends across Europe, Middle East and South America, and that’s a product where the product development team is based out of Germany itself,” comments Sudhir Singh, CEO, NIIT Technologies.

“The larger thing we do is services in the general space. We tend to be a complete full spectrum organisation. For example, for airports, we have done everything from disaster recovery, provisioning for disaster recovery and front-end e-commerce web suite application development.

“For one of the airlines in the Middle East, we landed a mandate around a security operation centre and for other airlines and some airports, we help them significantly on the security front, from an infrastructure security point of view.”

When asked about the type of services currently sought out by airport operators around cybersecurity, Singh explains that the integration of smart technologies into the airport environment, such as artificial intelligence and biometric security, presents an interesting challenge.

Ensuring that the security component isn’t comprised with all the different technologies in play and interweaving with each other, requires both the capacity to understand how these solutions are developed, while at the same time having the ability to view the entire architecture from an aggregate level.

The other ask that we see quite a bit of, a lot of airlines are looking at the infrastructure that they have and while they are making their migration to the cloud, they want to have something that is both cost-effective and efficient. That’s where they are looking for security operations centres, which is the equivalent of the classical network operating centres that used to exist in the legacy infrastructure world,” adds Singh.

In terms of other leading technologies permeating the airport environment, NIIT Technologies’ CEO notes the increasing, “injection around artificial intelligence and machine learning tools”, in one of two ways.

In the first scenario, airport operators and airlines alike are actively looking to incorporate AI across a variety of applications or processes related to day-to-day operations. Users are essentially using AI to sift and analyse data generated by the airport’s infrastructure to identify ways of optimising the efficiency of their processes in real-time.

The other application of the technology is around what is called narrow AI, a term used to describe an artificial intelligence that is solely focused on one narrow task.

Primarily sought out for use in a call centre role, both airlines and airports are using AI to interact and engage custom with pre-programmed responses built in a sophisticated decision tree, coupled with the ability to continue expanding capabilities. Such artificial call centre agents would be able to contend with roughly 30 to 50% of the typical questions asked by customers. Queries that are more in-depth are transferred over to a live agent.

Moving forward, Singh does expect a wider adoption of AI across other aspects of day-to-day operations at an airport terminal. Illustrating with an example, he laid out one potential application in the handling and transport of cargo.

“We see that happening around cargo handling. We’ve had some interesting preliminary conversations—around what AI potentially can do as an enabler of non-intrusive customs … We can start looking at patterns about what is loaded into a shipment at port x and before it lands at port y, such as flying issues that might be a concern,” concludes Singh.

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