How big data is solving problems across the airport landscape


One of the start-ups selected for this year’s Hangar 51 accelerator, Emu Analytics’ data visualisation platform has been able to identify airside problem areas that prevent cargo getting on a flight on time. CEO Richard Vilton explains how the tech works

How does the tech work?

We build software that processes and visualises data, and specifically data around the movement of things or populations over time and space. It’s very map orientated and has a time context, so any data that shows things moving, like planes, vehicles or cargo, can be processed and presented in real time, and dealing with massive volumes too. From a visualisation perspective, it’s designed to be engaging and accessible, not just for technically trained data scientists, but accessible to operations and commercial people, and people that can make decisions based on what the information is telling them.

What can you measure with the software?

What we’re doing for IAG Cargo relates to all the telematic devices that are in Heathrow, so all the vehicles that the business operates at Heathrow have a tracking device so you can monitor the position of that vehicle. There are several hundred of these devices that are constantly moving, and there are a number of challenges around the efficiency of getting cargo to the aircraft in a timely way – so we take that data, process and present it in real time through our interface. We then calculate business insights that the teams can use to determine whether a delivery might not make its flight because of a range of factors, or if there are any other metrics that will impact the operation, so the business can be more reactive or proactive.

How did you develop it?

We’re three and a half years old as a business – a few of my co-founders and I had worked for a big mobile phone operator developing R&D use cases around how you could take data from mobile networks, and using that to determine how populations were moving and behaving and how they interacted with transport infrastructure. We were aware that it was easier to develop innovative products outside of an organisation rather than inside, so we left that company, developed those products and realised that the movement and position of sensors doesn’t have to be limited to mobile phones, that it could be anything within the Internet of Things, or any data source. As our platform is fairly agnostic as to where the data came from, as long as it has a position and a time stamp, we could work with it in a number of industries from energy to transport, advertising and telecoms and now aviation through Hangar 51, and we’re very excited to have been selected. We’re all airplane geeks too, so it’s extra special.

So the tech isn’t so new, rather being applied in new ways?

It’s new insomuch as we’ve only developed the software in the last two years, and it’s continually evolving. The notion of being able to process quickly fast-moving, changing, real time data and present it in a very engaging interface, is pretty unique.


What stage are you in development?

Because we work in very different industries, we typically offer a baseline platform and adapt it to their use case and data. We’ve started doing that this year, and IAG Cargo is one of the first five implementations of the software. We’ve also worked with card tap data from London Underground’s ticket barriers, an electricity distribution network with sensors deployed into substations – so there are many, very different use cases, but the data that all of these things produce can be processed and used in our platform.

How’s it all going?

It’s been brilliant – we’ve had some advantages over some of our peers in the programme in that we’re a software business so we can get going quite quickly, and our only dependency on IAG Cargo was the availability of data. The use case is functional and working, we’re just adding a few enhancements to increase the business value. People can access it and we were invited to demo it at Capital Markets day, and we were name checked in the CEO, Lynne Embleton’s, presentation that day, which we’re quite excited about too.