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July 19, 2016updated 31 Aug 2016 11:17am

HeliOffshore and Jive: Can cloud collaboration and data analytics save lives?

C-level briefing: HeliOffshore CEO Gretchen Haskins explains how her company is using Jive and Tonic technology to boost safety for offshore aviation.

By Alexander Sword

Collaboration is important to any business, but when there are lives at stake ensuring that all of the parties involved in providing safety can efficiently work together is critical.

But how can these parties achieve a collaborative way of working when they are not only working in different companies, but in different industries? As with most problems these days, there is a technological solution.

HeliOffshore is a global safety association for the offshore helicopter industry, comprising helicopter operators, global manufacturers, aviation regulators, academics and other stakeholders. This includes aviation companies such as Airbus, Agusta Westland, Bell and Sikorsky.

Founded in October 2014, the not-for-profit aimed to establish a global forum for all these parties, even competitors, for the greater benefit of ensuring safety to those who depend on helicopters in their work. Since then the company has expanded to 88 members from all around the world.

The company was facing obstacles in ensuring communication between its members, according to Gretchen Haskins, CEO. Different companies have different processes. People were often in different time zones, for example, adding an additional layer of complication.

The company started trialling Jive in November trialled collaboration solution Jive on the Health and Usage Monitoring Systems (HUMS), which essentially monitors how a helicopter is functioning.

“The maintenance engineers loved it,” says Haskins. “We’ve got over 40 experts across the world actively collaborating and they used the functionality of the surveys, they comment on documents.”

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She mentions the commenting function, which allows people to share documents and ask each other questions, raising issues and getting suggested solutions.

“In some cases, they are having a conversation about what the best working practice would be, and then defining best practices for the industry.”

The solution uses UK-based analytics company Tonic’s red.thread data analytics platform, integrated with Jive to blend online discussions with important data from aircraft operations, manufacturers and aircraft assets themselves.

Helicopter operators can securely exchange data about safety-related events, while HeliOffshore runs analytics and monitors dashboards to spot overall trends and risks.

More generally, Haskins says that the technology has provided ways to break down barriers between the processes of different companies.

“In other cases companies will have different software tools or reporting methods. What the workstream does is allow people to put summary data into one place so that we can compare across different data sets.”

She says this can also extend to sending out poll surveys, getting people to answer questions from knowledge and experience rather than their internal company process. She compares this to the Apple user forums, where people exchange information about problems and potential solutions.

Haskins agrees with the suggestion that being founded as an organisation in 2014 had allowed it to escape the trappings of legacy system and to fully embrace the available technology.

“From a safety point of view, people used to pay very close attention to accidents and incidents and learn retrospectively from each one. The way safety is evolving worldwide is paying more attention to the things that people do from day-to-day that help prevent accidents: things like diagnosing potential technical failures before the helicopter even takes off.

“Then we look at getting data from the front line about how well that is done every day.”

She says that the association is aiming to move towards using the concept of big data in its work.

“That’s very important for safety, because it helps us perceive trends or developing issues before an accident can occur so that we can prevent it.

“If a way of working is effective in one organisation, how we share information about why and helping everyone achieve the best practice available.”

Haskins says that HeliOffshore’s motto is safety through collaboration and that a collaborative tool like Jive “really helps us achieve that aim.

“Because the CEOs from the top of all the companies have pledged their people and resources to help deliver results to the front line, we just have that singular focus.”

Haskins sees some powerful applications for collaborative technology in other contexts where safety provides a point of intersection for several different parties, such as in the medical field or in the military.

“Whether it’s safety or productivity or anything where you’re trying to improve or work together to get great results in the front line, I think you can use this kind of tool,” says Haskins.

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