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The Power of Connected Ecosystems in Aerospace and Defense

Capgemini
9 June 2023

The connected aerospace and defense industries have undergone significant transformations since the 2000s, when the primary target was to achieve interoperability and radio communication means for network-centric operations. Nowadays, the focus is more data-centric- providing the right information at the right time to the right people.

As connectivity becomes increasingly important across business processes, there is a growing need for collaboration and synergy. We look forward to exploring this need more in our chalet at the 54th annual Paris Air Show. Ahead of that, we’d like to explore the current perspectives in aerospace and defense, the benefits of connected operations, and the opportunities presented by new business and operating models with connected ecosystems.

The current perspective in aerospace

Connectivity is becoming increasingly important across all business processes in the aerospace industry. From manufacturing to in-flight operations, landing, passenger services, and maintenance, seamless communication and data exchange demand is more significant than ever. The labor-intensive nature of the industry also calls for increased automation to streamline processes and improve efficiency.

What we refer to as “Connected Aerospace” aims to address these challenges by developing new operating and business models from manufacturing to operations. This includes optimizing design and development through engineering automation, intelligent testing, and embedded software factories. Next-generation technologies, such as green aviation, UAVs, smart mobility, air-to-ground communication, and next-gen inflight communication and entertainment, are also being incorporated to enhance the overall experience.

Intelligent operations, such as smart factories and supply chain monitoring, ensure efficient processes throughout the industry. With end-to-end 4G/5G connectivity powered by private networks and connected equipment, superior operational performance can be achieved. This includes remote operations, industrial automation, data-driven industrial control and monitoring, thereby increasing security and safety.

Across all of this, there is a strong emphasis on application layers, data-centric operations, mesh networks, and securing data access and use.

By embracing connectivity, the aerospace and defense sectors can elevate towards a more sustainable future, revolutionizing how aerospace and defense operate in the modern world.

The current perspective in defense

The defense industry faces the challenge of managing an overwhelming amount of information. This data must be sorted and digested for end-users, ensuring they can access essential insights quickly. There is a growing need to incorporate modern connectivity technologies into the military space to address these challenges. However, since the defense industry is legacy-heavy, long-lasting equipment must be maintained and updated to meet connectivity and data needs.

Connected Defense can now become a reality as the technologies finally exist and are proven to function in the non-military environment. This will deliver the vision of full interoperability, leading to unprecedented situational awareness at the speed of relevance while guiding precision, and more compliant military operations.

Implementing operations presents various challenges, including technical ones like dealing with complex systems and integrating with legacy systems, as well as organizational and procedural challenges such as managing larger ecosystems in order to achieve success.

This is in contradiction to the need due to a changing geopolitical environment to develop much faster systems that inform faster and can act faster.

The ‘Smart Forces’ will create a multitude of data compared to today, which must be sorted and digested for end-users, ensuring they can access essential insights quickly. There is a growing need to incorporate modern connectivity technologies, leveraging AI and establishing a ‘cloud way of working and thinking’ into the military space to address these challenges. At the same time, Connected Defense also has to function in highly contested and congested environments, which imposes specific requirements. Yet, the spin-in of available advanced technologies out of the non-military environment is inevitable to progress at the pace desired towards Connected Defense. However, since the defense industry is legacy-heavy, long-lasting equipment must also be made connectivity and data-ready.

The avalanche of connected technologies

The rapid advancement of technology has led to a convergence of multiple innovations, which have accelerated almost simultaneously. Integrating these emerging technologies can revolutionize these sectors’ operations, enhancing efficiency, security, and overall performance.

Sensors and IoT

Integrating IoT technologies in aerospace and defense allows for more efficient resource allocation, predictive maintenance, and enhanced security measures. For example, sensors on aircraft can monitor engine performance, fuel consumption, and structural integrity, enabling maintenance crews to identify potential issues before they become critical. In defense applications, IoT devices can monitor borders, track assets, and detect potential threats, improving response times and situational awareness.

Many industries are moving away from age-related maintenance schedules and visual inspections toward IoT network management, remote tracking, and preventative and predictive maintenance.

High-speed connectivity

As the volume of data generated by IoT devices and sensors increases, the need for fast, reliable communication networks becomes essential. The emergence of 5G and Edge computing, the new global cellular communications standard, has significantly changed the connectivity landscape, paving the way for innovative use cases and applications.

5G offers higher speeds, greater capacity, lower latency, and enhanced reliability compared to previous generations of cellular networks. These improvements enable real-time data transmission, seamless communication among various systems, and the ability to make quick decisions based on the information gathered. Furthermore, 5G’s flexibility and proximity processing of data at the network edge allows for implementing advanced technologies such as robotics, automated machines, increased factory automation, and augmented and virtual reality, all delivered at scale and cost-effectively through a multipurpose network.

In the aerospace industry, high-speed connectivity, particularly 5G, can improve in-flight communication between pilots, ground control, and other aircraft, enhancing safety and efficiency. It also lets passengers stay connected during flights, providing a better travel experience. In defense applications, high-speed connectivity allows for more effective command and control, enabling instant communication between units and rapid response to emerging threats. Meanwhile, edge computing can process and analyze data locally on devices such as drones, sensors, or vehicles, without a constant connection to a network. This enables real-time decision-making and rapid response to emerging threats, even in remote or contested environments with limited bandwidth availability. 5G technology is integral at the core and adds significant capabilities in the fog and edge environment.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) plays a crucial role in synthesizing and processing the vast amounts of data generated by the above technologies. AI’s ability to rapidly analyze and process data enables better resource allocation in defense applications, optimizes aircraft design and manufacturing processes in aerospace, and enhances flight operations by monitoring aircraft systems in real-time. You can enhance decision-making, increase efficiency, and improve safety while driving innovation in processes and projects.

Despite the numerous benefits of AI, challenges and considerations must be addressed, such as ethical implications in defense applications and potential vulnerability to cyber-attacks. In a 2022 report on Intelligent Products and Services from the Capgemini Research Institute, “62% of the organizations struggling to scale up IoT applications cited cybersecurity and data-privacy threats.” We can anticipate a similar trend with AI. Establishing clear guidelines, ethical frameworks, and robust cybersecurity measures is crucial for maintaining the integrity and security of connected ecosystems. By addressing these challenges, the aerospace and defense industries can fully embrace AI’s transformative power in the connected ecosystem, revolutionizing various processes and projects.

End-to-end architecture for cloud and data

This powerful combination of pervasive sensing, high-speed connectivity and powerful AI both provides and demands the ability to manage, control and deliver enormous quantities of data with various constraints and characteristics.

Systems of systems span environments from centralized cloud and networking via localized compute and network edge to local sites and heavy platforms to the lightest of platforms and smart devices. The physical requirements and available capabilities – latency, storage, computation, power – vary by orders of magnitude, as do the possible impacts of failure, the levels of integrity expected, and the traditional cycle times of updates. These differences promote different architectural principles and paradigms but must support consistent end-to-end concepts of confidentiality and identity, for example.

To achieve the speed and relevance we require, we must adapt and deploy information assets – whether operational data, AI models, or code – to the proper infrastructure with the right security at the right time. Appropriate architectures for creation, release, deployment and operation now allow us to build and train AI, in environments with few constraints and easily accessible resources while deploying into an operational domain with stringent constraints – of security, of regulation, and of potential threat,

New models linking the digital and physical worlds are increasingly able to support these needs and constraints.

A system of systems – the importance of integration

These technologies cannot stand alone to reach their full potential. Successful implementation requires a comprehensive ecosystem whereby data is shared and systems are integrated seamlessly and fast into the ‘System-of-Systems’ that Connected A&D is made of.  Companies like Capgemini play a crucial role in making this ecosystem work.

With over 340,000 employees worldwide  Capgemini is a global leader in providing engineering, IT and business solutions to the industry. Incorporating the technology shift and innovation, we build solutions for successful products and services across industries including the  theA&D ecosystem.

Whether you’re a partner of Capgemini or not, you need collaboration among various players in the connected ecosystem, including direct end-users (Armed forces, MoDs, or public sector organizations), OEMs, solution providers, and hyperscalers.

However, as the number of players in the ecosystem increases, the complexity of the programs grows as well. That is why it is essential to find smart ways to accelerate program development and deployment, such as adopting methodologies and accelerators.

Breaking silos and collaborative development

It’s hard enough to create a connected ecosystem within one organization, but now organizations must also consider how they interact with those on the outside as well.

Especially in large-scale military programs, competitors must find ways to work together effectively, despite their natural inclination to protect their proprietary information and technologies. This is where connectivity plays a crucial role, as it enables sharing of data and resources in the overall product development and concept.

Still, companies may hesitate to share certain information with their competitors during development. To overcome this challenge, they must find strategies and frameworks to work together efficiently while protecting their intellectual property and competitive advantage.

There is no way around it – you need to get the job done faster than before, sharing more data than before but at the same time protecting what’s yours. That is a big cultural transformation for two legacy-heavy industries, but one that must be made.

New business and operating models with connected ecosystems: embracing softwarization

The rise of connected ecosystems in the aerospace and defense industries drives a significant shift in business and operating models. Companies are moving from a product-focused approach to a product-plus-services model, which opens up new revenue streams and opportunities for growth.

Shift from product to product plus services

Connectivity enables companies to offer a range of services alongside their core products. For example, in the automotive industry, connected cars can access navigational services, infotainment, and other applications from the cloud. Although this example is not specific to aerospace and defense, it illustrates the potential for connected technologies to transform business models in these industries.

Platforms and synergy in the ecosystem

To successfully embrace this product-plus-services model, aerospace and defense companies need to develop platforms to synergize the ecosystem around their products. These platforms facilitate integrating various services and applications, allowing companies to offer comprehensive solutions to their customers.

By leveraging platforms and fostering synergy within the ecosystem, aerospace and defense companies can streamline their operations, reduce the complexity of their product development processes, and focus on delivering value to their customers. By leveraging the services and applications offered by the ecosystem, these organizations can focus on building their core products without worrying about developing every aspect of the solution themselves.

Final thoughts

As the Paris Air Show prepares to kick off, it is evident that the aerospace and defense industries are on the cusp of a significant transformation. The rise of connected ecosystems and the integration of emerging technologies are revolutionizing these sectors, driving a shift towards new business and operating models.

As we move forward, aerospace and defense companies must embrace the cultural transformation required to adapt to this new era of connectivity. By doing so, they can streamline their operations, enhance efficiency and security, and ultimately revolutionize how these industries operate in the modern world.

This will be one of our talk tracks at the Paris Air Show, so come and join us! We’ll be in Chalet No. 323. We welcome the opportunity to have a conversation around Connected A&D, and what a strategy for connectivity can look like for your organization.

Capgemini at Paris Air Show 2023

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Meet our experts

Tim Gerkens

VP, Intelligent Industry Accelerator, Germany
Tim is the SPOC for Connected Defense topics and lead in the Intelligent Industry Accelerator, a Capgemini group internal strategy program. Tim has 20+ years practical project and program management experience and has been involved in the design of large transformational deals towards new technology, digitization and near-/off-shoring in multi-national projects (Europe, North America, Asia, Middle East) with volumes greater than € 100 Mn. He has core domain knowledge in aerospace and associated defense platforms, rail & automotive, with experience in other industries & IT, having served Industry and public customers including Ministry of Defense.

Shamik Mishra

CTO of Connectivity, Capgemini Engineering