MH370: Experts meet in KL to discuss ICT in aviation

  • Follow-up from Multimedia Minister’s policy statement at ITU meet in Dubai
  • ICT has evolved drastically, but black box remains unchanged from 30yrs ago
MH370: Experts meet in KL to discuss ICT in aviation

MORE than 50 high level experts from all over the world have confirmed their attendance at an ITU (International Telecommunications Union)  discussion of real-time flight monitoring even as Malaysian authorities face mounting international criticism over how they have handled the search operations and investigation into the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
The experts will be meeting in Kuala Lumpur today and tomorrow (May 26 and 27) in an ‘Expert Dialogue on Real-time Monitoring of Flight Data, including the Black Box,’ according to the Malaysian Communications and  Multimedia Commission (MCMC).
They will also discuss the need for international standards in the age of cloud computing and big data, the MCMC said in a statement.
The impetus for this dialogue is the complex investigation into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, it added.
“Malaysia is pleased to be able to host this meeting as the outcome may potentially bring a positive change to the aviation industry,” said Ahmad Shabery Cheek, Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Minister.
Ahmad Shabery mooted the idea of using current ICT (information and communication technology) capabilities to track aircraft in real-time during the World Telecommunication Development Conference 2014 in Dubai in April, said the MCMC, which falls under the aegis of his ministry.
“We are, as a nation, still coming to grips with what has happened. Despite the initial shock, we have invoked procedures in line with international requirements, to the best of our abilities,” the minister said in a policy statement he made at the Dubai conference.
He said that Malaysia believes that ICT can play an even bigger role in the aviation industry.
“For example, locating and searching for the black box should be a thing of the past, especially with the advent of cloud computing in the age of big data.
“I believe that data from aircraft, including from the black box, could be continuously transmitted and stored in data centres on ground. I urge the ITU to work with industry to develop a better way to constantly monitor flight data and what is happening in the cockpit.
“With the advancements in ICT today, we should be able to retrieve and analyse this data without necessarily locating the black box.
“I believe that this simple change may have brought a different outcome today. In this context, I cannot help but note that whilst communications technologies have evolved drastically in the past five years, the story of the black box remains unchanged from 30 years ago,” Ahmad Shabery added.
In its statement, the MCMC said that ICT is instrumental to the safe and efficient operation of tens of thousands of flights each day, and that the technology available today could aid in monitoring the location of an aircraft, thereby improving the efficiency with which authorities launch rescue efforts in emergency situations – for instance, by leveraging cloud computing and big data analytics.
Lack of transparency
Flight MH370 disappeared at 1:20am on March 8 on a scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, about an hour after take-off. The aircraft, a Boeing 777-200ER, was carrying 12 Malaysian crew members and 227 passengers from 14 nations, approximately two-thirds of them from China.
A multinational search and rescue effort, reported as the largest in history, has not found the wreckage yet.
The situation has not been helped by what many perceive as a lack of transparency on the part of the Malaysian Government in handling the crisis, and the lack of urgency on the part of its defence forces when the aircraft was first reported missing.
The Malaysian Government and the airline have released imprecise, incomplete, and sometimes inaccurate information, with civilian officials sometimes contradicting military leaders, wrote the New York Times.
Malaysian officials were also criticised after the persistent release of contradictory information, most notably regarding the last point and time of contact with the aircraft, the Washington Post noted in a blog.
In the most recent of damning revelations, Putrajaya said it could not release raw satellite data yet because it had not received these data from Inmarsat. The British satellite firm immediately refuted the Malaysian Government’s statement, saying the information had been released much earlier to assist in search and rescue operations.
Putrajaya is now saying it would work with Inmarsat to make this information available to the public.
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