API of the Week: GoGo, IBM and Weather Company Reduce Flight Turbulence

By Rich Tehrani
June 24, 2016

We are literally in what seems to be a golden age of API integration. No, APIs aren’t new - but something magical seems to be happening in the space as evidenced by the huge amount of news related to the topic in the last few days.  Twilio, an API company, had a blockbuster IPO debut. Without Twilio, some of the best Uber communications features wouldn’t exist.

Yesterday, Red Hat purchased API management company 3scale and will open-source the technology and a week ago, The Weather Company (WSI), GoGo and IBM announced an innovative system which uses technology to determine turbulence on one airline in order to send the data to other airlines to ensure they don’t go through the same rough patches.

Yes, an API from Twilio makes life easier by keeping your phone number hidden when communicating with your driver but this GoGo solution makes life easier and safer and saves airlines millions of dollars at the same time.

I’m just waiting for the next iteration of the app where it realizes your flight is being re-routed and calls your driver from the plane so the car is at the airport when you arrive. I’ll let you know when it gets here.

In the meantime, I conducted an API of the Week interview with B Sergio Aguirre, Gogo Business Aviation, SVP Product Management & Business Development. This interview is being done in conjunction with the All About The API conference to be held this July in Las Vegas.

We hope to see you there – especially at the IBM API keynote.

How did this amazing idea come to be?

Based on a true market need. Prior to this solution the way turbulence information was delivered was through the experience of other planes flying through turbulence, radioing the information to a control tower, or other nearby planes to notify them that your plane had flown through turbulence. 

Gogo’s system delivers real time diagnostics so other planes using the similar flight patterns will have better, more accurate weather and turbulence information delivered more quickly. It turns the plane into a moving weather station in the air and crowdsources data to create more transparent information quickly.

What were the first steps from your perspective?  

For years, Gogo has been the leader for connectivity to the aviation industry. Given our unique position of providing not only the smart gateway on an aircraft but the network as well as the cloud-based storage, we realized we had the opportunity to help provide access to aviation data. And that data could be used to help improve the safety, productivity and experiences on aircraft during flight. Partnering with WSI and IBM was a logical and natural fit because we both want to improve the information transparency around weather.  

How did APIs play a role in ensuring this solution was achievable?

APIs play a critical component of the overall project.  The movement of this approach from traditional service (using avionics and ACARS) to the new approach (using Gogo network and APIs) means that the overall capability is migrating to an “IP” approach.  The advantage is that it provides better scaling in the market and expansion opportunities over time.  The use of APIs is a first for this project, and was crucial to its success. 

What other possibilities are there in terms of adding technology to flights from your perspective?

We’re at the beginning of changing how information is delivered, gathered and received both for aircraft in the air and for other uses on the ground.  In fact, we just published a book, “From the Ground Up. How the Internet of Things will give rise to “connected aviation” that includes insight and perspective from thought leaders across the aviation and technology fields with insight from a multitude of industries. We want to help enable data monetization in the network and we want to ignite a wave of new ideas – which can only happen through broad collaboration.  We feel that if we can provide access to data then the world’s smart entrepreneurs will be able to craft new solutions the help better our lives and our planet.


What else should we know?

As mentioned above, this is just the tip of the iceberg. What we are doing in IoT with aircraft will connect the skies with our reliable networks that allow us to capitalize and enable data monetization through our products and services. And it takes an entire ecosystem with partners from all industries to fully realize what is possible, which is the exciting part to watch unfold.

Come see the world of APIs at All About The API. Our event will feature a variety of intensive hack-a-thons, in-depth company-focused workshops helping attendees understand the value propositions from key vendors, powerful keynotes, daily and nightly networking opportunities plus an exhibit hall full of companies demonstrating the latest innovations in today’s market place. Every business has to pay attention to the new opportunities they are presenting or potentially be displaced. We hope to see you July 18-21 2016 in Las Vegas!

This is the only event where you can network and see keynotes from these thought leaders:

  • Darko Vokovic Manager, Product Management, API Platform at Oracle
  • Gareth Jones, API Architect, Microsoft Graph
  • Jose de Castro, CTO, Cisco
  • Juan Carlos Soto, Vice President, Hybrid Cloud Integration and API Economy, IBM
  • Tony Jamous, CEO, Nexmo
  • Alexis Bonillo, COO, Zenly
  • Rob Zazueta, Director, Digital Strategy, TIBCO Software
  • Neil Trevett, Vice President Developer Ecosystem, NVIDIA

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

Group Editor-in-Chief, TMC

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