What is ‘Big Data’?

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

A new hype shakes up the business world. Everybody talks about “Big Data”. But what is that all about?

Source: AP Photo/Google, Connie Zhou

Basically it’s an utterly normal issue. More and more data is collected, increasingly larger amounts of data have to be analysed and made “usable”. And this is the crux of the matter, even NSA faces problems with. Because you can’t see the wood for the trees. And to call for the example of the Needle in the Haystack… As I showed years ago, that “problem” is none, but can be solved quickly with the right tool (a strong magnet)…

But what the “experts” try here, is to find from a randomly found pine tree needle from the forest, all the other needles that originally belonged to the same tree. And the forest grows!

Source: Microsoft, 123RF
Source: Microsoft, 123RF

The first, Big-Data-experts came up with, have been personal profiles, coming from a variety of different sources. That Google and Facebook still offer me young Russian ladies for marriage is a good sign that they are way off even that goal. It makes their life not any easier that I don’t work at German Mail in Bonn, neither being the treasurer of Kassel.

Big Data is simply a reality, no “hype”. But it remains a “problem”. To manage “big data”, I need the matching technology on the one side, on the other intelligent and fast fitering algorythms. And as the amount of data grows faster than the processing power, the real problem is predictable. Either I filter the large amount of data very rough, or I filter smaller amount of data very detailed. A question of width and depth of information. So what does NSA do with the data? First, filtering it by catch words and phrases. Then have a highly paid analyst try to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Two dangers:

George Orwell 1984, NSA 2013
George Orwell 1984, NSA 2013

1. False Positive. This defines information that is incorrectly assessed. I.e. in Spam an important message the computer considers Spam. Is it about people and the NSA, a “false positive” can have devastating repercussions, such as the denial for totally innocent people trying to enter the U.S. (such happening).

2. Privacy Protection. It’s being compromised and I keep lately quoting the former U.S. Presidents Franklin und Truman:

“Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” [Benjamin Franklin]

“we want no Gestapo or secret police. FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail. J. Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him”. Ersetze FBI durch NSA… Und was, wenn die “Teaparty” tatsächlich an die Macht kommt (vergleichbar bei uns der NPD)? [Harry S. Truman]
Replace FBI by NSA… And what, if the “Tea Party” in the U.S. really get’s to power (comparably our NPD)? We call it something falling into the wrong hands.

In aviation, we also work daily with “big data” and not just British Airways develops ideas to merge their customer profiles with the public profiles of their clients from the Social Networks… We also have to think about how far we want to go. Or if there are other areas of “big data” of interest, such as operations management.

Food for Thought
comments welcome

0 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

Expanding the Situational Awareness Horizon

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

“The high accuracy of the tactical forecasting of the de-icing demand by arosa de-icing allows us to pro-actively prepare for upcoming delays or flight cancellations with the ground handling companies, airlines and other involved partners. Our partners have come to understand this high accuracy to give them a tactical advantage compared to other airports working without such tool, allowing them to prioritize their flights and manage not just the current situation, but to prepare for it.”
Urs Haldimann, Head of De-Icing Coordination, Zürich Airport

“arosa PMS is a vital tool to early identify capacity constraints, we have it usually on the ACC’s center screen. Its identification of upcoming delays allows us and our partners in the ACC to take preliminary action, minimizing the real delays and their impact to our travelers.”
Thomas Hansen, Head of Airport Control Center, Düsseldorf International Airport

Source: eluniversal.com

One of the issues I keep discussing and explaining these days is the necessity to expand the situational awareness horizon in operations (aviation).

Today, most experts in operations are working based on “experience”. Though in stress, errors and misconceptions are likely. Where the traffic normally is ambitious, it is worse when all flights are full in high season. Taxiway constructions has impact to runway capacity, more ad hoc traffic than normal and then there is that weather front that might worsen the situation. The weather front? Which weather front. Ooops, missed…

“Pre-tactical” my colleagues call it, as “forecasting” in operational terminology is used for seasonal forecast. That you could imply to forecast traffic development or de-icing delays for the upcoming hours? Heretical!

Is it? Or did aviation simply loose it’s bite in embracing technological possibilities? One hyped word today is “Big Data”. If you embrace “Big Data”, why would you recoil from the idea of mathematically sound forecasting of several hours of flight planing?

Food for Thought
comments welcome
0 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

What is A-CDM?

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

As many ask(ed), the blog might be the best to address your questions, about my new life @delair… And beyond.

As a student lately quoted to me, she expected airlines and airports to be on the forefront of technological development and integrated processes. She was surprised to find the truth being (mostly):
Nobody speaks with anybody.


I have been aware of FAA NextGen before, but you may already see the shortcoming of it: It only addresses the time from a departure to the arrival at the airport…

Now A-CDM (theoretically) takes care of the processes from the arrival to the departure and starts to develop the concept of an integrated solution beyond the airport itself. A-CDM stands for Airport-Collaborative Decision Making. So the reality at most airports today is that the different companies servicing and serving the airport are communicating by telephone, fax, telex or other inefficient means with each other and the level of automatism at airports is simply devastating.

But this addresses two parts of a process, largely ignorant of the other. To solve this, the ANSPs (Air Navigation Service Providers) organizing the “air space” need to interface with the ground handling processes of the airports, involving airlines, ground handlers, government bodies, etc., etc.!

In reality, the two approaches should interface to each other in a collaborative approach too, so far, the ANSP pushes data to the airport: “Eat This”…


Airlines think in “rotations”, usually on a “weekly” basis. An aircraft takes off Monday Morning, flies all day to different airports, overnights, flies again, until it’s Sunday and the aircraft is back home where it started for another weekly rotation. And there are technicals (i.e. aircraft grounded due to engine failure or a warning light malfunction), weather (such as caused by an ice-rain or thunderstorm), or other operational delays, making the live of an airline network planner and the operations control center (airline department trying to cover the afore-mentioned problems) not any easier. Now add the complexity of inefficient ground handling processes and air traffic control and you wonder that any flight takes off “on-time”…

DUS ACCAs my first “job” in delair, I happened to be at the Dusseldorf Airport Control Center (ACC), where the airport created an operations center, bringing together intentionally the different stakeholders in the ground-handling process, being the airport’s own departments, the airlines, ground-handlers, but also the government bodies – not the ANSP (yet) I am afraid. And with a worldwide unique tool by delair, they not only react “on-the-fly” to the operational situation, but the software forecasts the traffic development for the next 12 hours (arosa PMS, Performance Management System). Enabling the ACC to see bottlenecks before they hit them and take pro-active counter-measures to minimize their impact or even avoid such completely. At all other airports, these bottlenecks are handled, when it hits you in the neck. Not very professional in my eyes. Predictive chaotic and uncontrolled situations is the opposite of situational awareness and it adds to the incurring delay.

Example: If the country faces heavy snow, the de-icing process reduces the airport’s capacity to take aircraft into the air. If you see that coming, you may be aware hours before, that you will have to cancel at least 50% of your flights. But which ones? In the current environment at most airports, it is ad-hoc decisions. In a controlled “predicted” situation, the airlines may select a short-haul return-connection to be cancelled, but a flight where the aircraft is needed at the destination airport to be prioritized. Say the airport needs to run with 50% reduced capacity for three hours – predicted two hours before. To have the shuttle flight leaving to the nearby airport, likely to face same weather problems, does not make sense. The flight to the (warm) South though, does make sense, as until it comes back, the weather should be back to normal…

Hear me at WinterOps.ca: De-Icing Swiss style (a case study)

[Updated: Link to presentation added]

Keep in mind, thinking about this dilemma: Only an aircraft that flies makes money. Cancel the flight and see your hardly accumulated profit margins evaporate like butter in the summer midday sun! By paying passengers compensations applied by government legislations beyond reasonable scope. Sure the airline calculates such into their prices. Making tickets more expensive. An airline looses not only by less flying in winter, but a large sum by paying for cancellations and delays resulting from bad operational support from airports and ANSPs. And so far, the airline pays. Though I heard of first examples, where the airline sues the airport or ANSP for inefficiency-caused expense. Though even those cases do not claim the cost on the entire rotation, but on the individual flight. So far. I truly believe that will change soon!

All that more or less nice and smooth so far, right…? It does not help anything, as long as the ANSPs stay out of the development loop or develop their own ideas without any “collaborative” approach. Sure, there are people there who do think beyond their own, but the feedback I got during the last months shows an extreme level of neglect of the overall situation. Go back to the airline rotation… I could cry.
Consider the weather situation again… Thanks to the snow-storm, several routes have airborne capacity problems. As have the destination airports. But the approach is always local! Even Dusseldorf is largely unaware of the situation in the airspace or at the destinations. As the ANSPs remain ignorant of the needs of the airlines, airports or the rotations. They get the aircraft delivered to the runway and then we face a break. Good luck… And given the weather: The ANSP will handle the flight, no matter if the destination airport can handle it back. So aircraft may be brought in to an airport, when it would be reasonably known that the airport will close soon due to weather development. Ignorance instead of situational awareness! And another likely break in the rotation of that aircraft, causing a ripple down the line.


So after that introduction, a quick excursion to my new world (as the blog topic of the day)… As mentioned, A-CDM defines the ground-based process enhancements. The “arrival manager” (AMAN, mostly on the ANSP-side) organized the delivery of incoming aircraft, prioritizing the runway capacity – unfortunately, largely unaware of the airport’s capacity or processes. Based on the scheduled and planned arrival information, the airport now struggles to handle the ground-based processes. From organizing the Follow-Me-vehicles, to deciding where to park the aircraft (stand), could be at the gate or on the apron with bus-transfer, mobile staircase and additional time needed for transfer apron-terminal (and back out). Oh yes, and the airport and ground handlers usually have a limited number of “bridged” gates where the aircraft stand is right at the terminal, limited number of staircase-vehicles, follow-me’s, busses, etc. At Erfurt Airport, there are four gaterooms (and four aircraft stands at the terminal), but only one baggage belt. So you better schedule your arrivals to not have four aircraft like A320s arriving within 30 minutes… Luckily, they don’t have the traffic to use A-CDM or need it, but it is the same at many larger airports that such bottlenecks exist.

So you also manage the baggage belt, staff rosters to assure you not only have the technology, but also the people to do the job. And the customs/immigration counters (and staff) to manage the arriving aircraft.

Ignoring the idea (just here in the blog, not in reality) to taxi the aircraft to maintenance or park it for overnight or … we then go into the “outbound process”. The passengers want to check-in, so you allocate the check-in-counters. As well as you need to make sure, you have the aircraft positioned to a fitting gate – there are usually domestic and international ones (where for the sake of ease, I do consider “Schengen” as “domestic” in the process). So you send the passengers to the gates. And you better understand that airports mostly do not make much income on the flight handling, today they make money on the “non-aviation-business”, such as the shops between check-in and aircraft. You need to manage the lounges, assure the border security, baggage control and passenger screening to be efficient. See my article about Check-in 2015 for ideas on that…

ATCThen another fun part comes… They are in time checked-in, they are at the gate. But due to ATC-constraints, there is no slot. There might be one at your airport, but at the destination…? Do you board the passengers and stick them into the plane if you know there’s a 30 minute delay? Very likely, if the delay is at the remote airport, you will… Thank you. If it is at your airport and they use A-CDM and a “Departure Manager” (DMAN), they do organize the departure based on the runway capacity. Did I mention that usually a runway is not used for departures only? Sorry, aircraft also arrives and uses capacity… But I only know of one working AMAN/DMAN combination in use. And you do need to consider not only the ATC-slot of the aircraft, but now need to take into account parameters such as taxi-times, maybe de-icing, the flow of aircraft on the taxi-way (you don’t like to have an outgoing aircraft on the same taxiway of an opposite directed incoming one)…

So considering all that data, based on the ATC-slot, you specify the TOBT and the TSAT, the “targeted off-block-time” and the “targeted (engine) start-up-time”… Then you deliver the aircraft to the runway and … pray.

What is my scenario for an efficient operation of air services?

Yeah, right… First of all, the ANSPs need to harmonize their problems. Because in most economies (maybe not that much in North America), there are a number of national ANSPs and there are projects to work with “block spaces”, which is another way of a work-around to inefficiencies… An optimized process should not start with the ANSP or the airport or the ground handler, but with the airline. What does it help the airline to have a “slot” at an airport, if it does not fit the rotation needs. Or if the airline must calculate a “planned delay” in the process as the aircraft will not be efficiently “turned around”, but handled on the apron instead of the gate, as the airport sold beyond capacity. Or worse, held in holding pattern on approach due to excessive demand. And every winter, you add the weather problems, that sure take everyone by surprise… Again…

Aircraft Rotation Planing

Why IATA does handle “slot conferences“, but does not address a neutral slot optimization for complete rotations is simply beyond me. Yes, it is complex, but using flight plan data, IATA could develop software to suggest improvements to slots for all involved airlines at a neutral level, taking the rotation as a basis and not – as is today – an individual flight! Today, the airline as the operator struggles to match the available slots to their aircraft operational planning on rotations basis. A common complain by airports is, that airlines have slots assigned, but the aircraft is always early or late, interfering with slots assigned to other airlines. To call that efficient? And the reason is known as soon as you have a closer look: The rotation. A “planned” difference from the assigned slot… Because the “needed” slot wasn’t offered…
Ahh, isn’t the “buzz-word” at the moment in IT? Big Data…

You cannot do such a cross-airline rotation based slot optimization by hand. And rotation may include the airline’s wish to meet certain “waves”, the transfer-windows at hub airports. But I believe, IATA could and should invest into a solution that takes the rotation planning into account and enable improvements to capacity. And the airports should not consider capacity only on the maximum good-weather capacity and wishful thinking, but they should consider bad weather and make contingency plans together with the airlines in the early stage – if flights are being cancelled frequently, the business traveler will reject them as unsave and plan pro-actively on alternate transportation – with severe impact to the airline’s financial calculations. And the airline will be faced with the compensation to the customers and the missing profit from the flight! So at this time, the “looser” is (and remains) the airline. But I heard in the last A-CDM task force meetings, only one airline attended. Which I believe is the cause of the dilemma. You got to involve yourself as an airline and voice your needs. Another nice example by Dusseldorf. Air Berlin as a key stakeholder (hub carrier) at Dusseldorf, has been a key driver in the ACC’s development there. But talking to Route Planners at many large airlines, there is neither “vision”, nor “concept”, that and how the dilemma can be solved. And without receiving the necessary top-level corporate support, this is likely to stay as is. A planned (and accepted) inefficiency.

Yeah, I hope, I trigger quite some (controversial) feedback with this blog post, as yes, such can only scratch on the surface of things. Or cut deep on a single aspect, though there is a whole picture out there. I know the complexities of route (rotation) planning, as I know unmentioned complexities at airports and ANSPs. But

Food For Thought
Comments welcome

4 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

Social Networks …

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

A personal post today…

Do you know …

… where you usually find me online?


Many people keep telling me, they did loose my phone number… What could be easier to go to www.barthel.eu an check it out?

Some people ask me for the source of the Lazarus Long quotes I happen to use so much… Same site, simply look at “Links“.

If you are member in social networks, you are likely too to be able to link to me – at least for the big ones… Mostly I use a customized e-Mail-address to identify Spam sources. It is usually jb.[sitename] at barthel.eu, that works i.e. for Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn.

I am not in Xing any more, as I did get spam mails and when I reported them, Xing simply neglected they’d be at fault and denied to even look into it. Being neglected doesn’t help at all to proof their innocence.
Plaxo, Hi5 and other sites had so little value to me, that I never came to use them much… I have an account on StayFriends, but don’t use that much either, there are just some friends being there and not on Facebook (yet).

At Amazon, we use a family account and do maintain small wishlists, you can find that using amazon at …

I am not much using eBay – mostly the stuff is not truly cheaper than on the free market and I am not really into “second hand”, especially not for sources I don’t know. Neither Facebook’s BranchOut – it doesn’t compare to my LinkedIn-network. I link on Routes Online, but they don’t support much social networking yet, I do more with Routes on Facebook (and LinkedIn) than on the Routes-site.

yb-social-networksYulia mostly uses mail.ru and Odnoklassniki.ru (StayFriends for Russians).

Time flies
Time flies

What concerns me quite a bit… It is wonderful to be “remote” and keep the contact. But it takes too much time! At my last job, I got so many mails, if I would have answered them all, I wouldn’t have been able to do my job! And I do not talk about the Spams, they’ve been filtered away, but the once that did “require” my attention. We do not need a secretary any more to handle our writing, but we need an assistant to filter out our mails and respond to the unimportant ones! And yes, I understand, you want my second best (you won’t get my family), but I plan expenses and I won’t just spend budget “on the fly”, because your product is so hip. My day has – believe it or not – 24 hours. Out of which there is time to work, time to take care about myself, time for family and time for friends. We have something called work-hours and we have something called weekend (though in our industry, that may be mid-week or be skipped occasionally). And at work, I am there to lead my (employer’s/client’s) company to success, not “yours”… If I spend money, it is to achieve objectives – you may have nice, hip solutions, but if they do not meet my objectives (at the end of the year, a maximized income for my company).

I prefer Facebook for two reasons:

  1. facebook-logoThe communication is more personal – I believe social networks are not “all business”, but it is about friends. Friends in different stages. I wrote a story once on a blog I meanwhile disabled about the Greek definitions of “love”, ranging from Eros (sexual) and Philia (“platonic”, loving friendship), to Agape (religious) and possibly the most important here: Xenia (hospitality).
  2. I reach hundreds of “friends” within a single posting. I do not need to bother you with individual mails. And yes, I happen to not only look at my wall, but also (especially on your birthdays if I know them) visit your profile and appreciate it – and regret if we did not meet lately!

logo-linkedinLinkedIn is nice, but it is mostly a business contact list. I occasionally do “answer questions” there, but just to read and reply takes too much time – time that is in short supply!

logo-skypeAnd I love Skype, as it does allow to see each other.And yes, Skype is also “social networking”. As Social Networks are not limited to “online portals”, but are about people I know! In person 😉

icon-routesI just missed ITB – the third time in 24 years. I meet friends at Routes, at French Connect, at ITB, also in Frankfurt, Munich or Berlin traveling – I don’t travel half as much as I used to and I do admit, I miss that. I don’t want to travel as much as in my “traveling days”, but it would be nice to travel several times a year long haul for business… I also admit, I can’t wait to leave Erfurt. It is a beautiful, medieval city with nice shopping and night-life, but it’s no longer connected by scheduled flights whatsoever and such for most of you “at the a… end of the world”. I want to be more accessible again and have you visiting me… As mentioned before, Xenia, the loving hospitality, is very important to me, I love to have my friends visiting. And network live and in person 😀


Lately, I got on Facebook a nice anonymous quote: “It’s been said, that everlasting friends go long periods of time without speaking and never questioning their friendship. These friends pick up phones, like they just spoke yesterday, regardless of how long it has been or how far away they live, and they don’t hold grudges. They understand that live is busy but friendship lasts.”

So … how do you use online tools and portals for social networking? How do you see the buzz word “social networking” on- and offline? Do you prefer the more personal communication and link I use in Facebook or more the “be linked and don’t bother” of LinkedIn? What do you think about my blog and does it make you think – or do I bore you? I see the blog is being read (I do have general webserver-statistics), but I do not see as much comments as I’d like? But most:

And where and when do we meet again? When did we talk last time?

Food for Thought

0 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

Always Online – the Smartphone Revolution

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

How the smart phone changes my life – and will change yours if it hasn’t already…

First a quick review, how I got “addicted”… First Yulia “fried” the mobile phone that she brought from Russia. 2009, being the year the first real “smart phone”, the iPhone 3(GS), hit the German market, it was virtually impossible to get any other “smart phone” that would allow us to install and use the phone to write Cyrillic SMS – a must have for my wife. So I had the choice to order a phone from Russia – or get her an iPhone…

As she got the iPhone, I “inherited” her iPod (1st gen.) and started to use it. To read e-Books, to hear music, to go online and quickly check things, to do many things. One of the short-comings of that iPod was the missing camera, so I could Skype, but I could make no video calls at that. So getting the opportunity, I got myself upgraded to the (at the time brand-new) iPod 4th generation and started using Skype and do again many more things with it… No, I did not take an iPhone as – at the time – I had a dual-SIM-phone and appreciated the ability to have one phone for business and private. One major disadvantage remained – I needed WLAN to use online (= smart) functions… So when iPhone 4S came out, I had waited for iPhone 5 but decided to wait no longer… So here I was… Having predicted always onlineback in 2004 at my annual ASRA presentation about e-Commerce-trends, I finally am…

c't Schlagseite 1/2003
Always Online: New Device found: Airbus A320 – Installing

Another issue I mentioned in the last years was the evolution of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), which is virtually the same as the NFC (Near Field Communication) that is expected to be part of the next smartphone generation. A sender transmits a signal that triggers the “passive” RFID chip. “Powered” by the radio waves, the otherwise “passive” RFID chip (where NFC may use “own” power) returns a given code, that can be used to identify the passport or ticket number, the suitcase’s ID, the frequent flyer number …

c't Schlagseite 15/2005
Dear valued customer! The RFID chip in your tampon reports to be filled to the brim. Fantastic offers on tampons in the next aisle, shelf 7…

Receiving that RFID it is the server to be able to use and interpret these short codes. Following the Security by Obscurity-idea, such solutions increase the security, by removing unnecessary (and time-consuming) “checks”, bothering the passengers today.

One of the new apps (smart phone programs) I got was Barcoo, giving me information about products I saw in the store, identified by its barcode I scan with the inbuilt camera. And one of the more recent trends is the QR-code (Quick Response), the “next generation barcode”. Different from the good old barcode, the QR-code has the ability to contain more complex information, it can give you a simple URL (internet address), a vCard (virtual business card), event information (calendar data), WLAN access information, … Many, many possibilities! All you need is a smart phone, maybe a small “app” (application, a program) to interpret the QR code. To create one, go online, there are tons of generators around, many are free to use. Abusing the high quality error correction being part of the QR-code, you can even add a logo or icon to personalize it (which the scanner interprets as “faulty data”):


Same principle as QR-code, just one reference area in the center
Same principle as QR-code, just one reference area in the center

So airlines us QR-codes to manage check-in-data and get you your “online boarding pass”. They will use RFID and NFC to identify your suitcase, to identify your passport and it’s “public” data, check you in automatically, enable the lounge access and charge you directly and automatically over your phone in case you are not entitled for free access. A sticker at the entrance provides you with the current (changing) access code to enter the free WiFi, etc., etc. pp.

Now… Computer hardware looses about 50% in size every two years, doubling the capabilities in the same time. Only the necessary screen size today is an issue, why that technology is not (yet) in a watch – or any other “aesthetic” jewelry or gadget you may prefer.

iPhone’s Siri to me is still a female bitch. Usually she simply claims not to understand me… But as soon as that improves (and it will), you can have a small hearing device behind your ear to telephone. The microphone being a stylish necklace (or the entire thing a small headset). If you need to go online, you unfold an external flex-screen or put on some stylish sun glasses. You won’t need a mouse, as Siri’s grandchild will understand your wishes and/or your eye movement is tracked: “Blink to Enter”… Remember the Visa advertising?

What did they know 2000 about “smart phones”? Where will be in another 10 years?

Yes, please share your thoughts: For those who agree or disagree, it is the exchange of ideas that broadens all of our knowledge. [Richard Eastman]

Food for Thought…

2 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

CheckIn 2015

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

No, this has nothing to do with my CheckIn-domains. After having discussed that topics at various options, I think it’s time to bring the topic up here to simply refer to it and not always repeat myself 😉

What will the check-in-process look like in 2015? How will RFID and NFC change the check-in-process?

rfidYou may have seen these ornament-like looking stuff on the back of the supermarket labels, electronics superstores and such and may have wondered what it is. It is the future…

It is called RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) and in short: A radio sender sends out a signal on a special wave length, that triggers the antenna and generates a little energy – just enough to reply with a small radio signal with the code that is on the little chip. Which is a binary code similar to a barcode.

Depending on the strength of the original signal and the quality of the RFID antenna+chip, RFID may reply over the distance of several meters. Such chips are in your passport, can be in your frequent flyer card, about anywhere.

Now a similar technology is NFC (Near Field Communication), you may have heard about to be implemented in the next generation mobile phones (they were expected to be in the new iPhone, but).

NGsecurityNow consider this scenario:

Your frequent flyer card and your passport contain a RFID chip. The airport provides you “preferred parking”, for which you also put a sticker (with such chip) behind your window. Your suitcase is equipped with an RFID. Your telephone identifies you via NFC.

rfid-bp-printerYour car approaches the airport. The intelligent airport parking system directs you to the best (or pre-reserved or VIP) parking lot available. When you exit the car, your suitcase (known from a previous flight to be yours) is identified. You need no bag-tag, as it is already tagged with it’s own RFID. While you enter the terminal dropping of the bag at one of the default baggage check-in-machines, your passport is triggered and directly identified. It contains a (chipped) visa for your destination. Your seat and boarding gate, together with an invitation to the VIP-lounge is transmitted to your smart phone. As you accessed the airport WiFi before, you are automatically connected to it, no 3G-charges apply. You walk through security, having your carry-on and your retina (eye-identification) checked, but as your boarding pass is your RFID and your passport is known, you are not further held back. As you miss your departure time while working in the lounge, the system detects you. You are not called out publicly, but the lounge manager approaches you and reminds you to get to the gate quickly.

In the aircraft, it is automatically checked that you take your seat in the right area of the aircraft, you sure have access to the onboard-WiFi.

Arriving at your destination, your passport and your visa is triggered the moment you leave the aircraft. Your ID is checked, as you approach customs and imigrations, you are not bothered about your passport, but leave the airport. Noone can leave the baggage area with your bag, as your other RFID signals show you away from the bag – an alert immediately calls in security.

Sounds futuristic? But it makes the painstaking airport security easy again, for passengers and the controllers alike, at the same time increasing the security level. It also reduces manpower needed to process the flight, once established, it’s simple decreasing the cost and improving customer (traveler) satisfaction. And the first steps are already taken! A chip label costs 3-5c or even less. There are customer cards having them available – many trade fairs allow the quick access with RFID-tagged tickets. The boarding pass printers supporting RFID are available and in use (so far local benefit only). It’s nothing that needs to be invented, simply requires some standardization for the chips.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome

2 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

A Road Warrior’s Dream

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

These days, I just thought about all that new technologies and gadgets and why I use some and some use others.

Smoke Signals for Communication
Smoke Signals for Communication

Working with a company, I was faced one day with the fact that they used Laptops for their management and sales people, but these laptops were not set up to work outside the company’s own cabled network. WLAN? A risk. UMTS? A risk. Internet? A risk. What they never considered was the fact that a road warrior, an employee meant to travel and not be in the office may need the laptop to access mail and files in the company’s environment. Instead to providing professional solutions, the company’s IT-manager shut down the network and opened Internet only with greatest reluctance. That was and is the one side of the issue.

In fact, being a road warrior, I am quite happy, to be once in a while “offline”. No mobile phone, no internet. Vacation, spend concentrating only on my company. Not the employer, but the two-legged walking, sitting next to and talking with me. Internet inflight? I know many road warriros hoping it will never truly work. It will, but it will also take of some relaxation out of the stressful enough business trip.

So sometimes, I dream of the good old days, when it was rather normal to reach the secretary, but there was no mobile phones and people were a little more patient about being called back 😉 And I hope that triggers quite some comments… 😀 Come on people, don’t you sometimes thing the same? 😉

Food For Thought

1 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

The Threat of IT and the Internet

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

threemonkeysLately I had quite some discussions about IT security. Is it the right thing to cut yourself off the hostile Internet? Corporate data security, data integrity?

As I have mentioned in these posts before, there is a valid risk of corporate spying, data theft, etc. But… Trying to shut yourself out of the Internet is not a solution. Your consumers expects you as much to be on the Internet as they expected you 20 years ago to have a telephone or fax machine. Yes, the Internet is potentially hostile and it is not only reasonable, but also advisable to secure confidential data. But then I must refer to e-Mail encryption. There are other options, such as different file servers for internal data and external access to Internet and e-Mail, firewalled and secured.

A recommendation I lately read said to type off a URL when you get it by e-Mail. That is simply short sighted. Such an idea will simply be ignored by any user for convenience reason. If he does not understand the threat, he will not follow that requirement. If he understands, there is no need for such as the user will be aware and apply the necessary care. There is an impression in IT-support called PEBKAC – the “Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair”. The user is the “problem”. There simply is no 100% security in this world. It is a constant risk and value evaluation. So instead of trying to hold back the development of your company, evaluate your risks, reduce them by technical means, as well as by properly training your IT-users.

trojanhorseIn 2004, I heard a presentation that questioned the normal user to be simply ignorant to viruses, trojan horses and the most basic other means of Internet security. To date, I get hoaxes forwarded with the best of intentions. What’s a hoax? A fake threat warning. The “best” one saying “There is a virus – to delete it do this and this” and if you do this, your Windows-PC is no longer operating.

Shall I use Internet Explorer? Why is it that even IT security experts keep that browser with known security problems as the standard company browser and not use alternatives like Firefox? There are sometimes good reasons, but that is the exception. Why is it that companies keep sending out Word- and Excel-documents and not PDF? If they’d use Open Office instead of Microsoft’s expensive commercial solution they’d not only save a lot in license fees, they could also immediately “export” into PDF (and with the free PDF import extension Open Office allows even to open and to some extend edit PDSs!). Why don’t companies incorporate S/MIME?

What truly frustrates, even agitates me is short-sighted if not even blind activism. Shut away the Internet, it is hostile. Yes. Don’t breathe, there’s all that dangerous pollution stuff in the air.

The solution is to be careful and increase user awareness. In a time of constant changes in IT, I run quite well when applying simple security measures. But it is part of our daily life and here to stay. Don’t restrict usage and application of new technologies, but emphasize your users to be careful and explain them the risks. But don’t try to shut out life, it won’t work…

Food for thought…

1 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

eMail Encryption

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

seal_wotsxc900568-email-encryptI was asked to address this in the blog as well. Since 2001 I use a digital e-Mail-signature provided in a cost-free web-of-trust organized by Thawte, one of the leading providers of digital server signatures for websites.

I also voluntarily confirm the idendity for the user(s) with 35 points. 50 points are needed to have a personalized digital signature (with your name), having 100 points you become a “Thawte Notary” yourself able to provide such points to others.

Using such a signature with S/MIME is rather easy to use with common e-Mail-programs like Thunderbird, Outlook or Notes. Once both sides have such a signature, it is very easy to encrypt mail – Good Bye Big Brother…

Similar signatures or “qualified” signatures are commercially available (for money). If you want to know the difference, want to know more or are simply interested, please feel free to contact me at your convenience.

sxc833767_sneak_a_peek_1A new project in Germany is DE-Mail, said to enable “secure communication” with administration, implying “security” that simply is not there. First of all, the servers are to be maintained by German Telekom T-Systems. Second the encryption is not controlled by the user, but this is just a “secure e-Mail-address”.
What my own Internetserver requires for years is SSL-encryption, the same used by banks and said to be very secure. This is all such service can provide, except it allows “trusted partners” to have secure server-to-server communication. Such partners sure pay for such service. And big mama government sure has access to it – as have tons of T-Systems people. And don’t we have enough examples of data theft?

Sure: Food For Thought…
And please share yours…

0 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

St. Florian’s Principle²

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

Oh holy dear St. Florian
Don’t burn my house
Take the neighbors one

Four related cases in the past weeks triggered this Food For Thought:

helpdeskGerman Rail – remember Lufthansa…

The IT system of German Rail crashed, disabling not only the entire distribution for a day, but also the train guidance system EBULA causing major delays on train schedules, stranded passengers, the whole nine yards.

The German FVW titled its blog “That wouldn’t have happened in the past”. In m comment I referred to Lufthansa’s IT-crash in 2004 (German article). It is not impossible for IT to fail: A “99,9% up-time” is an +8 hour outage. Usually at the most busiest and inconvenient times.

Purely incidentally I was once at Frankfurt airport when the system failure disabled issuance of boarding passes. To date, I do not understand, why the staff just sat back and delayed boarding for “technical reasons” until I came, wrote the seat numbers on blank boarding passes and handed them out to the check-in agents. A wonder: NO single traveler sat on any middle seat, they either had a window or an aisle seat. I think that never happened ever since 😉 And that flight was about the only one that left that day “on schedule”…

But the believe in the invulnerability of the IT-systems is as unfounded at is is common. Contingency planning for any possible natural disaster, but none for the case of a computers black out! There were processes in place “b.c.” before computer. Have copy samples of “manual documents” dusting in a folder in the closet is not much of an investment, but it could be the difference to a cancelled operation. And for the case of a power outage just a box somewhere with enough copies for a 24 hour backup could not be that expensive either…

bahnAnd even if you rely on it, German rail sure saved a few hundred Euros not investing on a cache memory for the train guidance system that would have saved them from major train delays…

Don’t they ever learn? Bean counters…

Oh holy dear St. Florian…


Image courtesy -die Welt-, click for full image series
Image courtesy “die Welt”, click for full image series

It is simply a miracle how lightly the passengers of U.S. Airways got out of a potentially fatal situation that is not uncommon in the aviation industry: Bird strike. Yes, the pilot is a hero, but as usual that means he has been faced with an impossible situation and by tons of luck was able to avoid desaster by a hair. As safe as flying is, accidents happen.

Reports do question the efficiency of the New York authorities. It’s not far from the hudson to central Manhattan. And a bird strike can disable steering capabilities… Let’s say, they got another wake up call.

wigFriends called raising a discussion related to my WIG-idea. No, that one is also “stalled”. But yes, In case of a bird strike, a WIG would not crash but simply drop some meters and float. And despite the fact that I am sure, countries in the tropical belt, especially faced with global warming should have a vital interest to push that technology, Mauritian Air Taxi just ordered a fleet replacement using standard engines.

Oh holy dear St. Florian…


nokiaYes, I know gloating is not nice. But a report last week on Nokia is a case that does make me smile. Nokia in 2007 shut down their plant in Bochum from one day to the other to replace it with a newly built plant in Romania. The result: Nokia’s reputation went through the floor (they became “the example” in Germany), their sales dropped, the Romanian plant only employs less than half of what they planned for. So the bean counters were miserably wrong with their previous assessments about the advantages for Nokia.

The closing of the report said something like: In the retrospect of the financial crisis, sure Nokia was just a little premature, but it shows how wrong it is to focus on numbers and short term profit only, underestimating social cohesion in crisis. It’s tough to calculate people’s reactions. And yes, more than 1.300 of the 2.500 former employees still have no new job… Them having the usual 50-100 friends and relatives in direct vicinity plus the usual 50-100 friends of these friends that are being aware of that, even on a conservative calculation that accounts easily up to some 5-10 million “lost customers”.

Oh holy dear St. Florian …


99% uptime = +8 hours/year outage
99% uptime = +8 hours/year outage

Speaking with the IT-expert in a German tour operator about “dynamic packaging” he gave an example of his counterparts in other companies to target 70% uptime of their GDS-based functions. The issue we discussed being “time outs” on API-calls on the GDS causing vital systems to stall. We agreed. 70% is a farce! 99.x is the necessity. 99.9+ must be the goal. Having been pace makers on the IT-networking since back in the 60s (SITA, Sabre & Co), the travel industry has lost its drive.

Asking about why the tool they use does not have a function to check on API-calls for a time-out, I was told that the IT-company developing the tool did develop it for “agent use”, not for an “Automator” working unsupervised…

Oh holy dear St. Florian …

Do you have other such cases?

0 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post