Airport Economic Value study published!

The Modelling Airport Economic Value Study recently published (link here) has been made by the University of Westminster (Andrew Cook, Gerald Gurtner, Graham Tanner and Anne Graham) and Innaxis Research Institute (Samuel Cristobal), supporting EUROCONTROL (Denis Huet and Bruno Desart) within SESAR Project 06.03.01. The study provides a better understanding of the interdependencies of various key performance indicators (KPIs) and assesses the existence and behaviour of an airport economic optimum, in a similar way to the early 2000s, when estimating the economic en-route capacity optimum.

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By gathering for the first time real operational, financial and passenger-satisfaction-related data over 32 European airports, it was possible to develop and calibrate a model which produces reliable and realistic results. The fully calibrated results show the presence of a trade-off between the cost of extra capacity and the increase in the number of flights operated. As a consequence, all 32 airports exhibit a maximum in net income as a function of capacity, when the marginal cost of operating extra capacity is sufficiently low. This threshold in the marginal cost is, however, rather different across airports, and only a few airports can sustain a high cost of capacity: these are the largest and most congested airports, which clearly need extra capacity. This threshold is roughly consistent with the airports’ current operational cost of capacity, which means that they should be able to manage this growth, subject to the availability of investment.

The team has also developed a tool that provides access to all the features of the mathematical model with out having to dig into the equations. The underlying mathematical module is written in Python, while the interface is written in Matlab. The communication between the modules is transparent to the user and the software is capable of auto-calibrate the airport model using the existing or new data. The tool is flexible to explore the parameter space and different views of the output variables can be selected for a better understanding of the model outcomes. Results can be saved then in common format for further use (txt, csv, png, fig, etc.)

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We warmly invite you to read the full report here!

Congrats to Samuel/UoW colleagues for such a superb study 😉

 

INXmas greetings, 2017

We have had lots of fun innovating in 2016, so we are eager for a 2017 full of harder technical and scientific challenges, new research threads and complex innovation.

All the Innaxis team wish you a Merry Xmas break -including some fun and rest-  and a superb 2017!

ho ho ho!!!

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Information, time, knowledge

We live in a world that gathers exponentially increasing amounts of information/data coming from endless sources, and a limited time to analyse it.

What is the current speed of “creating” information/data? What about knowledge/wisdom? What is the role of Data Science and Big Data in this context?

Food for thought for your -deserved- summer break! Enjoy, charge your batteries and get ready for a 2016/2017 year full of cutting-edge research, innovation (and Innaxis blogposts!)

 

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Innaxis at ICRAT 2016

Between June 20 to 24, our PhD student Seddik Belkoura went at the very doorstep of the famous Rocky Balboa Statue, as the seventh edition of the International Conference on Air Transport (ICRAT) was held at Drexel University (Philadelphia, USA) . This successful event, co-organised by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration-USA) and EUROCONTROL, put the emphasis the next generation of researchers, with a strong participations of students keen on interacting with more mature and expert minds.

 

In Seddik’s presentation during the conference, he wanted to highlight the dynamic nature of the delay propagation process in Air Transportation. He showed in his talk that abnormal delays at a given airport (those with an unexpected magnitude) can perturb the way the delays are propagated in “normal” conditions. The quantity of “surprise” necessary to disrupt an airport can be quantifiable, and an approximation of the additional delay necessary to disrupt the propagative dynamics of each airport have been proposed by Seddik. The audience’s interest at this point indicated that work have still have to be done to master all the complex behaviours of some processes like delay propagations.

 

The event was a success, and the areas of investigation within Air Transportation were quite wide. One special note have been noticed by Seddik: the growing number of presentation (and attention) to drones. The recentness of the concept and the velocity with which it develops and spreads is such that it deserves a special attention. Legislation are not yet fully explicit and a lot of work to design the “future” if happening right now. It is the moment to use our experience with Aviation to better fashion the drone system. Specifically, the importance of data should be pointed out, to allow a better development and a continuous improvement of this new and growing complex system.

 

Seddik’s paper and the presentation about drones will be soon available on the official website of the conference (http://www.icrat.org/)

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Mainstream economics are not delivering what humanity needs

Innaxis at the XIII International Colloquium of the World Academy of Arts and Science (WAAS)

Lisbon 11th -13th May 2016

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WAAS members where invited during a three day conference at the Lisbon School of Economics and Management to discuss “Post 2008 Global Dynamics and Structural Changes: Economic, Political and Eco-Societal Transitions”.

The international financial crisis in 2008 sparked a plea for systemic paradigm shift regarding the orientation of policies of economic management. The request amongst decision makers and international organizations for profound changes in our economic system have unfortunately only been very short-lived.

Instead a “business as usual” agenda has been put in place driven by unquestioned mainstream economic theories.

However the present interconnected crises of unemployment, growing inequality and environmental destruction (just to name some of them) show that these challenges are not correctly addressed by the current dominant framework of economic thought.

In light of these developments, the aim of the meeting was to discuss the future of “Economics” as a science, its inherent shortfalls and usefulness.

The participants of the colloquium examined the changes since the period in which most prevalent economic concepts were formulated and assessed their relevance to the radical changes that have transformed economic activity since then.

Carlos Alvarez Pereira President of Innaxis, presented at the Colloquia « Towards a Society of Living » the vision of a new work programme currently under development at Innaxis. In his presentation he explored the shortcomings of our current understanding of economics and the gridlocks that prevent us from transforming our societies. In addition, he stressed that the transformation paths have to go beyond narratives based on technology-driven solutions, which are currently, in times of rapid digitalization, very appealing but insufficient or even misleading. He proposed pathways for reformulating economics as part of a larger, complex societal-scale system which addresses human needs in harmony with nature.

During the meeting WAAS members decided to produce a new academic curriculum for students, based on alternative economic theories including human-centered, value-based, ecologically sustainable economic thinking.

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Complex networks, data mining, causality, and beyond

Over the last few weeks Innaxis has published two papers that may be of interest to air transport researchers, among others.

The first paper is an extensive review on the combined use of complex network theory and data mining. Not only do complex network analysis and data mining share the same goal in general- that of extracting information from complex systems to ultimately create a new compact quantifiable representation- but they also often address similar problems as well. Despite these commonalities, a surprisingly low number of researchers take advantage of methodologies, as many conclude that these two fields are either largely redundant or totally antithetic. In this review, we challenge this perception, show how this state of affairs should be relegated to contingent rather than conceptual differences, and that these two fields can in fact advantageously be used in a synergistic manner. The review starts by presenting an overview of both fields, and by illustrating some of their fundamental concepts. A variety of contexts in which complex network theory and data mining have been used in a synergistic manner are then presented. Finally, all discussed concepts are illustrated with worked examples through a series of hands-on sections, which we hope will help the reader to put these ideas in practice. If you ever wonder how a real-world problem can be tackled by these two techniques, you should definitively read this review!

 

 

The second paper addresses the common misinterpretation of correlation vs causality. Following this idea, many causality metrics have been proposed in the literature, all sharing a same drawback: they are defined for time series. In other words, the system (or systems) under analysis should display a time evolution. Associating causality to the temporal domain is intuitive, due to the way the human brain incorporates time into our perception of causality; nevertheless, such association results in some rather important problems.

For instance, suppose one is trying to detect if there is a causality relation between the workload of an ATC controller and the appearance of loss of separation events. These events are only defined at one point in time. To illustrate, one can detect an instance of a loss of separation and check the corresponding workload; afterwards, perform the same actions for another event; and so forth. In the end, the researcher would get two vectors of features, which do not encode any temporal evolutions – in other words, consecutive values are not correlated. So, in this situation, how can we detect if a true causality (and not just a correlation) is present?

In this paper we propose a novel metric able to detect causality within static data sets, by analysing how extreme events in one element correspond to the appearance of extreme events in a second element- refer to the picture above for a graphical representation. The metric is able to detect non-linear causalities, to analyse both cross-sectional and longitudinal data sets, and to discriminate between real causalities and correlations caused by confounding factors.

If you are interested in these ideas, feel free to have a look at these two papers:

M. Zanin et al., Combining complex networks and data mining: why and how. Physics Reports (2016), pp. 1-44. http://authors.elsevier.com/a/1T3yF_8QfbYE-k. Also available at: http://arxiv.org/abs/1604.08816
M. Zanin, On causality of extreme events. PeerJ. Also available at: http://arxiv.org/abs/1601.07054

If you have questions about them, please contact M. Zanin at mzanin@innaxis.org

Finally, Seddik Belkoura is going to present a paper at the forthcoming ICRAT 2016, Philadelphia, about the use of the static causality metric to study delay propagation. You can find the paper on the official website of the conference (http://www.icrat.org/), and also by contacting him at sb@innaxis.org.

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Innaxis farthest east: CHINA! 1st EU-US-Chinese symposium on CS in Air Transport

Between April 10 to 12, our Principal Researcher Massimiliano Zanin made a long trip. The objective: co-organise the first Chinese / EU / USA Symposium on Complexity Science in Air Transportation, which took place in the Beihang University, Beijing.

The event has been a success, including invited keynotes of leading researchers like Shlomo Havlin, of the Bar-Ilan University, and Mark Hansen of UC Berkeley. Noteworthy has also been the participation of the ComplexWorld network, through Andrew Cook (University of Westminster) and Fabrizio Lillo (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa).

As for Massimiliano, he presented an unconventional idea in his talk “The air transport vs. the human brain: two worlds apart?”: the human brain and the air transport are two systems not at all different, which can (and ought to) be studied using the same techniques drawn from statistical physics. By considering the air transport as an information processing system, the strategies used in neuroscience can seamlessly be adapted, in order to improve our knowledge of processes like delay propagations. This idea has been illustrated using several examples, drawn from some research works done in collaboration with Seddik Belkoura and Andrew Cook in the past two years.

 

 

More information about the event is available at: http://airnets.de/Symposium2016/index.html

Additionally, if reading Chinese is not a problem for you, you may be interested in the press release in the Beihang University website: http://news.buaa.edu.cn/zhxw/95477.htm

Innaxis at EASA-OPTICS conference. Cologne 12-14 April

Developing the future of a safe and growing aviation business, whilst also reassuring the travelling public that it is safe to fly, is a major vision for both EU and national aviation policies, however:

What role do policy makers play?

What are the recent, implemented safety measures?

Who is guiding the safety topics within aviation research?

EASA, the European Commission, the Advisory Council of Aviation Research & Innovation in Europe (ACARE), and the EU’s OPTICS Project organised a three day event in Cologne (12-14 April) in order to provide answers to these types of imperative questions, and furthermore define the way forward to ensure continued aviation safety in Europe. The event had a number of presentations and workshops within several aviation safety areas.

Two Innaxis’ team members David Perez (dp@innaxis.org) and Hector Ureta (hu@innaxis.org) attended the interesting event and took part in several of the workshops, explaining how can Data Science and BIG data can boost aviation safety. Hector  also presented some of the latest data science techniques and tools in safety research, based on SESAR-COMPASS project, during the third day of the event.

 

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Hector Ureta (Innaxis) presenting the Data Science research done in COMPASS (Cologne 14 April 2016)

 

The presentation, “Data science and data mining techniques to improve aviation safety: features, patterns and precursors”, is available online in this link.

If you’d like further information about data science in aviation, big data or aviation safety research completed by Innaxis, please feel free to contact Innaxis team (innovation@innaxis.org).

 

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More details of the event available in EASA and OPTICS websites:

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Secure information sharing – secure multi-party computation in air traffic management

Easing confidentiality between business rivals through a clever use of mathematics

Secure Multi-party Computation is the preferred technique when multiple parties have to perform a computation, yet do not want to share private, confidential data. SecureDataCloud, the first research project about the application of SMC in air transport, has been recently completed by a team led by Dr. Zanin. The foundations of this technique are valuable for potential applications in the context of cyber-security, air transport and other domains.

The history of cryptography, i.e. the study of techniques for secure communication in the presence of adversaries, is fascinating and has been linked to social and cultural changes. Over two thousand years ago, the Caesar cypher was the state of the art. It involved an alphabet shift with a constant key, such that “abc” may be encrypted to “bcd”. This concept, while in actuality very simple to understand in present day, was a novel technique in the days of the Roman Empire.

Then, a substantial change in technology occurred in 1553, when the Vigenère cipher was invented by Giovan Battista Bellaso. This new cypher relied on a large key word, which controls the letter substitution depending on the letter used from the key word. If the key word is long enough, ideally, as long as the message itself, this schema is secure. The challenge of transmitting a long secret key was to use sentences from books that were owned by both the sender and the receiver, which in those days was less probable.

The most progress made in the cryptographic evolution has been achieved in the last decades, through the development of Secure Multi-party Computation (SMC) techniques. Previously, the scenario involved two parties trying to maintain privacy against an external adversary. However, in many modern applications, two or more parties need to maintain their privacy against each other, not just external adversaries. Yes, they still need to collaborate to exchange critical information, which is a significant change in the information security framework.

Secure computation was invented by Andrew Yao in 1982, and can be exemplified by the following problem, as originally proposed by Yao himself. Suppose two millionaires, Alice and Bob, are interested in knowing which is wealthier yet they do not want to reveal their actual wealth. To put in a different way, both parties (Alice and Bob) possess some information, respectively represented by A and B; the SMC problem is then an evaluation of a function C = f(A, B), such that at the end both Alice and Bob get to know C, but they don’t gain any additional information about A and B.

Many solutions have been proposed in the last 30 years enabling the evaluation of (almost any) functions. The mathematics involved in such computations could be complex and the computational cost associated with SMC protocols is high. Just to give an example, the secure two-party evaluation of an Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption was achieved in 2007 (Lindell and Pinkas, 2007) but the computation takes around 20 minutes. Using SMC to access your bank account could be really secure but access to the information may take 20 minutes.

Innaxis started working on solving certain information-sharing paradigms in Air Traffic Management (ATM) using SMC in 2012. In these scenarios, different stakeholders must share information to reach a common goal, as mandated by the concept of Collaborative Decision-Making (CDM). Such information may be confidential and parties may not be comfortable sharing them due to high risk and confidentiality. For instance, considering the case of slot trading, airlines may be interested in trading slots, but revealing their target price is tantamount to giving away business information (i.e. the business value of that slot, the number of passengers they expect to allocate there, and so forth). Other applications of SMC could enable the exchange of safety information; exchanging the number of certain safety critical events might be beneficial to all airlines, but this kind of information is confidential and very sensitive and would better be shared through a SMC protocol.

Can these problems be solved by a trusted “neutral-party”, which is in charge of managing the information and ensure no ill-conceived analyses are executed? Possibly, but you have to find and trust the information maintains confidentiality within the neutral-party and ensure the security of the communication links in the transmission of the data. Additionally, having a single entity with access to every piece of data makes the system very vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

Starting from these considerations, we decided to start a research line concerning the use of SMC within air transport. The SESAR programme of the European Union recognised the value of this and financed the research project SecureDataCloud. We addressed two important problems: the trading of airport slots by airlines, and the calculation of delay statistics, both processed in a secure way.

The reader may refer to the several publications that resulted from this research work, with concrete implementation details that take address and solve the mathematical and computation challenges. Specifically, (Zanin et al., 2013) outlines the main ideas beyond the project and how SMC could be applied to ATM. (Zanin et al., 2014) and (Zanin et al., 2016) study a parallel problem, i.e. the creation of a secure CO2 allowance trading mechanism. Finally, (Zanin et al., 2015) deals with the problem of creating a secure trading mechanism for airport slot allocation.

Massimiliano Zanin will present SMC for air transport applications in the forthcoming Eurocontrol Cyber-security workshop, next March 23rd in Toulouse. If you need more details, about this talk or SMC in general, please feel free to contact Massimiliano, at mz@innaxis.org.

 

References:

Y. Lindell and B. Pinkas, “An efficient protocol for secure two-party computation in the presence of malicious adversaries,”Eurocrypt 2007, vol. Springer LNCS 4515, pp. 52-78, 2007.

Zanin, Massimiliano, et al. “SecureDataCloud: Introducing Secure Computation in ATM.” SESAR Innovation Days,Stockholm (2013).

Zanin, Massimiliano, et al. “Enabling the Aviation CO2 Allowance Trading Through Secure Market Mechanisms.” SESAR Innovation Days, Madrid (2014).

Zanin, Massimiliano, et al. “Design and Implementation of a Secure Auction System for Air Transport Slots.” Services (SERVICES), 2015 IEEE World Congress on. IEEE, 2015.

Zanin, Massimiliano, et al. “Towards a Secure Trading of Aviation CO2 Allowance”. Journal of Air Transport Management, in press, 2016.

The Case for Mobility Modelling in Europe

INX_Mobility Modelling

There are many performance targets for the European aviation system. It is clear that performance-based frameworks are needed and utilised, especially when decision makers need to act on legislative packages or when operational managers need to make procedural changes or decisions regarding technology in aviation. This overarching model of operations proves that any costly decision must ultimately result in an increase in performance.

Different performance frameworks look into different aspects of the European aviation framework, with varying goals that are not necessarily compatible or align in the same direction. To illustrate, the FlightPath 2050 envisions an air transport system that improves safety levels but also guarantees a time-performance for the future passengers in Europe; up to four hours maximum door-to-door travel time for 90% of travellers. This number is not arbitrary, as it corresponds to the type of experience high level experts had envisioned for European passengers. However, punctuality and efficiency metrics are mostly flight centred. Passengers are rarely considered on time performance schemes and therefore very little is known about the actual door-to-door time performance from the passenger perspective. Decisions such as ‘when’ or ‘where’ to act in achieving this goal have proven to be more challenging than initially expected.

The European Commission Single European Sky Unit is working on the Reference Period 3, which delves deeper into the performance scheme for air navigation service and network functions. This performance framework is very detailed, but unfortunately does not yet include provisions for passenger time-performance. Due to the complexity of different, non-interchangeable metrics, the KPAs and goals of the different performance schemes do not necessarily match.

SESAR and CleanSky have detailed, technical performance goals. By looking into specific technology pieces or procedures, it is clear their technologies will surely improve the performance of many concrete operational elements (e.g. runway performance), however it is unclear how much those programmes will contribute to other performance frameworks. For instance, Europe may need additional funding to ensure better technology or have a different distribution of effort across the different technology research areas.

Mobility Modelling with Mercury
It is not realistic to believe a top-down Performance Framework can rule all initiatives. Each initiative has its complexities which justify executing independently, in occasions working with different groups of stakeholders or professionals. Nonetheless, a single vision for European mobility is needed.

Innaxis and the University of Westminster have been working for over 5 years on an integrated mobility model that provides a wide range of performance and mobility metrics, for use by a variety of airlines, network managers and policy makers. This integrated mobility model is called the Mercury Air Transport model (Mercury).

Mercury is capable of modelling passenger connectivities inside the European aviation system, along with a wide range of flight and passenger prioritisation scenarios. In order to cope with this monumental tasks, Mercury uses Soft Computing techniques and it runs in a cloud-based infrastructure. Mercury has been validated by airlines and captures airline decision-making and related costs by fusing a variety of data sources. Furthermore, Mercury works within the integration of different Performance Frameworks to produce the most accurate and useful metrics for each stakeholder.

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