Parveen Raja, Airside’s publisher, spoke with David Read and Jean-François Bouilhaguet from Resonate MP4, primarily about XOPS – the brand name of the digital, ‘SMART’ fleet and operations management system offered by the France-headquartered company. Bouilhaguet is the co-founder and CEO of Resonate, while Read is the general manager of Resonate UK
Raja: Tell me about your latest products and contracts…
Bouilhaguet: First we will start with the latest projects. We specialise in telematics and now we have a new web-based application dashboard for the electrical management of all of the new electrical GSE equipment, all their various new battery power systems, now coming onto the market.
GSE operators need to have very precise control of their energy consumption and we developed [this] in the first instance for Hong Kong, where XOPS has been used for GSE pooling at Terminal 2 for several years now. Plus, for the next ten years we have been selected in the recent Terminal 1 tender. Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) has decided to have 100% electric and to start to implement electrical charging points everywhere.
Raja: Can you tell us more about this?
Bouilhaguet: We are helping to manage between 600 and 1,000 pieces of GSE provided by HKIA and used between its three big handlers – SATS, HAS and JAAT – as well as supporting the cargo activity at the airport. Approximately 7,500 drivers will share the equipment thanks to XOPS.
The GSE equipment to be used must be in good condition and with the correct level of battery charge; otherwise, if a ground handler arrives to use the equipment and the battery charge is too low, they will not be able to complete their ground handling task and this can delay the aircraft’s departure. That is why we had to develop something very accurate and – especially with all the many GSE suppliers now coming from China with new battery power systems – we have to work closely with these suppliers. Now most of the battery power systems on the market can be monitored with our XOPS system. That is for the electrical side…
Read: Another important commercial point is the ability to invoice for the use of the vehicle.
Raja: How will that work?
Read: So, the XOPS system records precisely how much power is used for any task and how much time the GSE is used for. That data allows the overall fleet manager to send an invoice to either SATS, HAS, JAAS or HACTL [Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminal Ltd, a cargo handler at HKIA] – whoever is using the piece of equipment. This is a critical part of the process of ensuring the commercial aspect [of pooling] can be managed.
Bouilhaguet: Of course, HACTL works only on cargo. It has around 15 loaders of its own using XOPS, but it can also access the GSE fleet and sometimes uses the loaders belonging to Hong Kong Airport. Pooling was mainly done for companies with a [ground handling] license on the passenger side, and only three were licensed.
After the electrical management side of things, which needed to be strong because everyone is going green, the second thing is that we have recently developed – with a partner – an integrated in-vehicle camera with XOPS. With the integrated camera, a GSE operator is able to store the data, typically for about seven days, in the internal camera memory. Thereafter it can be deleted if it is not needed to better manage data storage costs. If there is an incident or accident, then video footage data can be accessed locally or remotely for further analysis as required.
Raja: Are you selling it directly to the ground handlers, or are you selling it to the GSE manufacturers?
Bouilhaguet: We are selling it mainly to the ground handlers. Some basic cameras can be limited because uploading many images from a camera’s memory for further analysis can become a significant, unviable cost to the business. With the XOPS integrated camera system, the existing XOPS telematics logs a list of customer-defined vehicle events, or ‘triggers’, such as when it stopped suddenly, or attached to an aircraft, or a GPU was plugged in, and then, automatically, when a trigger comes from the XOPS telematics system it sends a message to the camera to request footage for a customer-defined period (such as from 20 seconds before the event to 20 seconds afterwards).
This means that when an incident or impact occurs, the system will automatically record events before and then after the incident. Just this limited time stamp of video can then be transferred via the GSM network to the XOPS server automatically. Through this ‘integrated managed process’, a piece of video footage becomes a relatively small amount of data, so the cost of transmission becomes much less expensive and 100% incident-related. When you are handling with 700 GSE units you can’t go to each handler asking the driver, ‘did you have a collision today? Let me know because I must upload the images’, because, of course, the driver may never tell you that they had had an incident.
Read: So, to summarise, I think the key point to that is it’s the combination of the camera technology and the XOPS software which allows the end user to manage and target the footage that they want to record and then analyse, and it’s that recording and analysis that makes XOPS so different from most normal camera solutions – you are only getting footage for the incidents that you want to see whether it is an accident or something else.
There are two main types of camera systems, a simple one that is either just forward facing or both forward facing and cabin facing, and then we have a system that fully surrounds both the interior and exterior of the vehicle using multiple cameras. So there is an entry level and then a more specialist requirement level, if you like, for any of the higher value GSE, such as an aircraft pushback where there can be a business case to have cameras covering the full 360 degrees.
Bouilhaguet: Here, in fact we have the simple KP2 model with two cameras: there is one camera you see on the front of the vehicle and another one inside the cabin. The first one is fixed but the cabin camera can be removed so that if there is a policy preventing this being used it can be removed.
A good real-life example for this camera would be when GSE operators use the camera during training, such as for a new towbarless system, the trainer (who may have several people to train) can sit in the vehicle to train each user for an hour and then monitor them from their computer while they continue to operate the GSE alone. If something is wrong, identified by the telematics, the trainer can contact the user and discuss the problem with the aid of the camera.
Bouilhaguet: During a training period people agree to be filmed in the cabin because it’s better having the camera rather than someone standing nearby. When the equipment is stopped because the driver is waiting for a new task the camera will stop; this means when you get outside nobody can take an image. Its only when you start the GSE that you get the image.
Read: There are two important things to note. Number one, a lot of the ground handlers need to have cameras as it can be in their licence as a requirement at an airport; in this case they are able to buy their camera solution along with the telematics. That way they can use one supplier to provide an integrated capability.
Secondly, an integrated telematics and camera solution can offer significant operating advantages.
Rather than having a camera system and a separate telematic system and having to work out whether a particular piece of footage relates to a particular incident, with XOPS it is all integrated so that when the incident happens, the relevant footage just pops up on the user screen. The combination of the telematics and the camera makes it very easy and less expensive for the ground handler to buy and use the service. We also offer a managed service so if the ground handler wants us to do the analysis for them, we can do that too.
Raja: Are you working more with the airports or the ground handlers?
Read: We work with airports, airlines, ground handlers and in some cases others who are on the periphery of the airport. It really depends on project by project so if you take, for example Heathrow, we work primarily with Heathrow Airport, in Hong Kong we work with a combination of the airport authority and their appointed contractor to manage all the GSE. If you take Paris, we work a lot with Air France and its suppliers such as [Groupe] Europe Handling and all the ground service providers.
Every project is different. Usually, once we are working within an environment, like Paris, you find that the community starts to say, ’Okay, if Air France is using XOPS, then as a ground handler I’ll use the XOPS system as well.’ It takes time for XOPS to establish itself within the community as the telematics solution of choice.
Raja: Sure, and how did the Hong Kong contract come about?
Read: I think that like many of these contracts, it came about by attending exhibitions like this one at Le Bourget year after year. Bouilhaguet has been doing this for around 10 years now. The Hong Kong airport authority did their research, they met Bouilhaguet and many other vendors many times and in about 2018/19 the appointed contractor at Hong Kong airport, a company called DAS, was awarded the contract to manage the fleet. They came to Bouilhaguet to manage the installation of the telematics. So, it came about over several years of meeting with the airport authority, meeting with the relevant contractors in Hong Kong until the tender was announced, then we supported the tender and that’s how we got the contract.
Bouilhaguet: With Hong Kong, we first won the international tender in 2018. It was only for one terminal but last year they reopened a new tender just for T1 – and XOPS was again successful, being awarded the second tender and now has the full airport for the next ten years.
Raja: You said when the ground handlers
use the GSE they will be invoiced. Which invoicing system is being used? Is it an XOPS system?
Read: We can do invoicing, but most customers have their own invoicing system for their business, so they don’t want a special invoicing one just for GSE pooling. XOPS generates the supporting data and like many systems the data is then exported or delivered by integration into a billing system which then generates an actual customer facing invoice document.
Raja: And would that be the airports themselves that receive that data from XOPS and then would they send out the invoice to a GSE user?
Bouilhaguet: In the case of Hong Kong, the airport authority does the invoicing, identifying first the aircraft/flight number, and then matching this with the correct ground handler to invoice them for the use of the equipment based on the time it’s used for the flight.
At the end of the year, if one ground handler is faster than the competition then by using XOPS there can be a difference in the actual amounts charged to each ground handler based on actual usage, whereas at the very beginning of the project it was a fixed price, which meant that a GSE user would get invoiced for 45 minutes regardless of the time actually taken.
Raja: And will HKIA have enough equipment to service the three major ground handlers?
Read: Yes. There are usually two goals; one is to always have enough equipment and the other is to reduce the amount of equipment used so as to be efficient both in terms of cost but also in terms of pollution and congestion at the airport. So, our customers use XOPS in order to make sure they optimise the levels of equipment and also balance their positioning, because most large airports have multiple terminals over large areas to support.
If you take Charles de Gaulle Airport, for example, it has Terminal 1, Terminal 2 and Terminal 3, spread over a huge amount of land. If the GSE is not in the right place at the right terminal for the morning, afternoon or evening peak, with XOPS they can reposition the equipment as needed and then over the course of several weeks/months they can use the data to identify which types of GSE they need less of and what they need more of, as well as where and when they need to be positioned based on changing aircraft schedules. But yes, overall, XOPS is designed to allow and make sure they always have enough equipment for the ground handler to be able to do their scheduled activity.
Raja: Do you have more contracts in the pipeline that have been awarded to XOPS?
Bouilhaguet: We have recently grown our business in the catering sector because we now serve one of the global leaders in catering that have one operational support system and process worldwide that uses one single IT technology – and it has selected XOPS.
All of its catering trucks are tracked and managed by our system and we assign the trucks automatically to a flight, and manage the task completion performance. This helps the customer on the ground to optimise the allocation of vehicles and drivers based on daily flight schedules and then reduce the mileage that the catering vehicle fleet does in one day.
Resonate has developed an artificial intelligence model that works in real time, checking the drivers and directing where they should go with the optimal vehicle for the task to make sure that, at the end of the day, mileage and energy consumption are limited only to what is necessary for the task or tasks to be completed efficiently. From this project we have already equipped 10 airports in the US.
Read: That’s right, nine main airports and one auxiliary airport. Our first project was Washington IAD, then we moved to San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, La Guardia, Denver, Newark and San Diego.
Raja: Are you working directly with this catering customer?
Read: In this case we are. It has been an excellent customer because it has understood how to use technology to change its business processes. That is such an important part of the success of XOPS as once you have a piece of technology that tells you how to make a change to improve you then have to change your business process – for example, how you cater for a flight and how you manage your business operations around this.
Bouilhaguet: In addition to the US, we have also equipped Servair at Paris, and we have the potential for further expansion in Europe and in Asia and North America.
Raja: Are you working directly with any ground handling agents or airlines?
Bouilhaguet: Yes, we won the tender for Europe Handling and we already have its branch in the UK, Cobalt [Ground Solutions]. We are also the unique provider for Ryanair with hubs at Stansted and 27 airports in Europe.
Raja: So, what are you doing for Ryanair?
Read: The first project for Ryanair was Stansted Airport in the UK. It decided that to improve performance, one key aspect was ground handling. Previously the airline had outsourced its ground handling but it had problems with achieving the performance needed, so it decided to buy its own GSE and effectively self-handle. So, Ryanair has its own GSE and uses its own staff. In order to manage that we put XOPS into the business, which allows the airline to now control and monitor the performance of its turnaround teams.
If you fly Ryanair, you know that when the plane lands, 20 minutes later it takes off again. The airline now manages that critical 20 minutes internally via all the GSE that it owns and operates itself. In a nutshell, Ryanair wanted XOPS to provide the visibility to the data in real time so that it could both see and impact how well its turnaround, baggage, fuelling and other teams were performing.