Efficiency and safety in the name of innovation: these are some of the values of Assaia, a young and already established software company for the airport sector. Thanks to a platform (ApronAI) based on Artificial Intelligence algorithms and the work of a team of computer science experts, this company provides accurate operational forecasts for turnaround management, i.e. the time between landing and take-off of an aircraft at the airport. The aim is to improve the efficiency of airlines and the travel experience of passengers, ensuring the economic and environmental sustainability of the whole process. Led by CEO Max Diez, Assaia was selected during a ‘Call for Ideas’ by Aeroporti di Roma, to participate in a business acceleration course in the new Innovation Hub at the ‘Leonardo da Vinci’ airport. Assaia's story is among the Infra Journal ‘Rockets’, the column dedicated to the most interesting challenges in the field of infrastructure and digital and sustainable mobility. We interviewed the team.
What problem does your start-up want to solve? And how did your idea come about?
“The approximately 45 minutes between landing and take-off of an aircraft are known as the ‘black box’ of the airport. During this period, called turnaround, more than 300 tasks have to be completed by more than 75 different people. In most cases, no one has visibility of these actions or interactions that contribute to preventable problems such as delays, estimated losses of up to $48 billion per year, and even excess CO₂ emissions. Using intelligence and computer vision together with our database of over 1.5 million monitored flights, Assaia is able to bring visibility to all turnaround processes, which then translate into fewer delays, greater efficiencies and a more sustainable airport.”
What is the story of your company?
“Assaia has its head office in Zurich, Switzerland, and another office in the United States, in New York. Founded in 2018, it is composed of a combination of aviation industry veterans and IT experts.”
What is the added value that you can offer, in its way of working and thinking, in comparison to competitors?
“Assaia optimises resources by providing real-time awareness of airport assets and human capital to enable proactive decision-making, thus saving costs, ensuring effective collaboration, impacting on-time performance and ultimately, passenger experience. We are the only AI solution for airports and airlines that is implemented and tested, and by giving ground staff a complete view of every activity, we enable them to focus on what really matters, while making the working environment safer.”
What results have you achieved so far?
“We are working with more than 30 major airports and airlines, including Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, JFK International Terminal, London Heathrow, Alaska Airways and British Airways. Each of our implementations has measurably demonstrated that ApronAI is a necessary solution to significantly increase efficiency and safety, while also improving sustainability.”
How does the technology behind your innovation work?
“Assaia transforms the ‘black box of the airport’, that moment affecting operations between landing and take-off, into a glass box, allowing not only real-time situational awareness, but also accurate forecasting and efficient decision-making during turn-around. Assaia ApronAI uses computer vision to detect events occurring in this time frame from video streams, and exploits previously unused operational data to bring efficiency, safety and sustainability to the entire process.”
What are the quantifiable benefits of your solution (in airport management/passenger experience)?
“Our customers were able to optimise resources, ensure safety in the parking area and manage their sustainability metrics to comply with legislation. At London Heathrow, Assaia was able to predict the impact of reduced waiting times (buffers) for gate planning operations, which would result in four additional slots available for a gate during peak hours. Computer vision enables monitoring and alerts for security incidents throughout the turnaround process, ensuring full control of passenger, personnel and resources safety. A 60 per cent reduction in unsafe behaviour was observed at Aberdeen Airport. Using Assaia's Predicted Off Block Time (POBT), Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) run-time monitoring used for the production of energy not directly used for propulsion, alerts and real-time data, CO₂ emissions can be reduced and reported to ensure compliance with statutory metrics. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport was able to reduce emissions by 1.5 million kg of CO₂ per year thanks to our solutions.”
What market opportunities have you found and what strengths do you think make the content of your project attractive?
“Interestingly, we found that the cost of implementing our solutions decreased as the technology evolved, even during a period of inflation. Currently, Assaia's costs represent a very small percentage of airport technology expenditure and yet offer proven financial and sustainability value.”
What are the next steps you intend to take, in the business acceleration process)?
“With increasing economic concerns around the world, airports are looking for ways to do more with less, without compromising safety, sustainability and passenger satisfaction. Artificial intelligence offers the perfect opportunity to utilise the data that airports and airlines already have, so that they can predict and plan more efficiently, saving costs exponentially. Today, fast turnaround management allows for optimised airport operations, and investing in new technologies that improve safety and efficiency is crucial to meet our customers' needs.”
What is Rocket
'Rocket' is Infra Journal's column dedicated to the most interesting start-ups in the world of infrastructure, mobility and smart cities. In the foreground, there are innovations, stories, ambitions and the faces of those who work there, to get to know the added value that distinguishes each of these young entrepreneurial realities. Rocket is a journey through innovative answers to common needs, a journey designed to discover how these emerging companies develop and grow, the strategies to put their ideas on the 'launch pad' with the aim of 'taking off' and 'flying' on the strength of their business, establishing themselves on the market.
A special space is reserved for projects developed by startuppers from all over the world and presented at the Innovation Hub at Leonardo da Vinci Airport, for an 'open innovation' initiative of Aeroporti di Roma's airport management and services. In response to ADR's 'Call for Ideas' some 530 start-ups expressed interest, of which 96 (62 Italian and 34 foreign) applied to take advantage of the investments offered by ADR to support innovative ideas.