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Boeing and IBM Research Pilot Experimental Air Traffic Management Initiatives


ARMONK, N.Y. - Boeing (NYSE: BA) and IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced today that they have successfully completed a pilot research project designed to show how officials from multiple organizations can have more timely, consistent and complete information to resolve fast-changing or unpredictable aviation events.

The quicker availability of better information potentially can help authorities make more informed decisions to protect passenger and national security when airspace anomalies are detected, such as when an aircraft is found to be traveling off course. The project has demonstrated that advances in software can accelerate and orchestrate the flow of information from sensors and networks on a nationwide scale.

To better assess and manage these events, officials have been striving to implement “network centric operations” -- the quick exchange of information from a variety of electronic sources -- to gain better “situational awareness” of the many aspects of an aviation event. These situations require the sharing of updated and detailed information about temporary or ongoing airspace restrictions, flight plans, reports about weather and natural phenomena such as volcanoes, radar and beacon tracks, or the track of an aircraft sent to investigate an unfolding, midair event.

The Boeing-IBM project involves the research and development of new technology to overcome the technical challenge of assembling and delivering such a variety of information at a moment’s notice. The team has applied “Responsive, Reliable and Real-Time” (R3) Messaging, which can help ensure that complex data gathered from distributed sensors -- located on aircraft, radar and other ground locations -- can arrive at a specific time and in a sequence. Additional software can then correlate and analyze the information efficiently.

“One can well think of the R3 Messaging technology as a kind of mail carrier, train conductor, telephone switchboard operator and traffic police officer, all rolled into one, synchronizing nationwide -- or even worldwide -- logistics,” said Paul Giangarra, an IBM Distinguished Engineer who linked IBM’s messaging technology with Boeing’s business needs. “It moves information gathered from sensors in a secure, predictable manner.”

Added IBM Researcher Dr. Hui Lei, who managed the project team: “R3 Messaging exploits novel techniques to discover routing paths and schedule message deliveries with remarkable dependability. It is quite useful for moving critical and time-sensitive information between the physical and digital worlds. By integrating those two spheres, it makes it easier to make better and smarter decisions.”

The project was part of IBM Research’s First-of-a-Kind Program, leveraging internal research and development performed by Boeing Research & Technology’s Advanced Air Traffic Management group. The program pairs IBM researchers with clients to explore how emerging technologies can solve real-world business problems.

“R3 messaging is directly applicable to the work we do in aviation information management,” said Paul Comitz, Boeing Advanced ATM chief architect, System-Wide Information Management. “It provides capabilities that we need.”

Enterprise messaging technology, and the ability to manage a barrage of large amounts of data, has existed for some time. But until now, it has only been able to ensure the routine delivery, at an unspecified time, of electronic information within a self-contained computer network. Using new, patent-pending algorithms, IBM computer science researchers have now taken it further: For the first time, messaging technology ensures the synchronization of rapidly changing business events on a massive scale, with the ability to handle diverse and complicated systems.

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