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IoT, Registries, and the future of Air Traffic Management

Originally published on LinkedIn:

Air Traffic Management and Internet of Things elements including planes, tower, runway with obstacle, database, computer, and file folder

For some time now, the leaders in Air Traffic Management (ATM) have sought to create an information infrastructure for global management of air traffic through the development of registries for system wide information management (SWIM), Their objective is to achieve higher levels of safety and greater fuel efficiency, while supporting an ever growing volume of air traffic.

Such an infrastructure will build on existing Internet Protocols and technologies and, in particular, will leverage web services. In this sense, the future of SWIM Registries is very similar to that of the Internet of Things (IoT), with a globally-connected network of “devices” incorporating a wide range of web service consumers and providers. ATM web services provide a broad range of information through SWIM Registries, including aircraft status, airport states and landing procedures, weather events, navigation aids, and airspace definitions.

SWIM Registries, like other IoT applications, may be modified dynamically, and there is no one source for design guidelines and no single locus of control. Nonetheless, the system must function harmoniously through online collaboration. This is a broader notion of SWIM than some people might think of, and while it will clearly include devices in the obvious sense (like navigation aids and aircraft transponders), it will also include web services that support pilots, regulatory agencies, and airports.

In all cases, devices will need to register information that others need to know, such as how to access them, how they can be controled, and the context within which they operate, and there needs to be a suitable means to discover and readily consume this information. This is a process where Registries can play a key role.

Registries offer a content-agnostic approach to aviation data web services. A registry can readily store aviation artefacts using web-based transactions, and these artefacts can be encoded in any manner whatever. Specialized encodings such as AIXM, WXXM, and FXXM can be used even if they are not GML application schemas (as would be required, for example, if the information were accessed through an OGC Web Feature Service). Since registries use GML for encoding geometry, the capability to discover and retrieve such artefacts using geographic criteria is fully supported. Moreover, geographic criteria can be combined with properties, relationships, and taxonomic criteria to provide a very powerful and flexible discovery mechanism.

Registries are ideal for cloud deployments as they are already, by definition, web services. This means that standard methods for horizontal scaling using load balancing can be supported.

Registries also offer a single open standard web-based protocol that can work with all of the emerging standard aviation information models. They support OASIS XACML-based access control so that the right people see the information and no one else, and they provide support for wide area integration through automated pub-sub data delivery.

Registries will be a key component of IoT solutions, including SWIM Registries deployed in Air Traffic Management.