The aviation sector has always been a leader when it comes to technology, so it should be no surprise that the industry has been quick to embrace the potential of big data.

In many ways, it's no surprise that there are many opportunities for data to have an impact. With millions of people taking to the skies every day, this gives airlines a huge pool of resources they can use to improve services and determine trends. 

Meanwhile, the advent of Internet of Things sensors offers airlines greater ability to conduct activities such as predictive maintenance, as well as giving manufacturers more insight into what is happening on the factory floor.

Among the companies looking to take advantage of this is Boeing, which has just announced a new agreement with Microsoft that will see it use the technology firm's Azure cloud computing platform to run a range of analytical operations.

Big data analytics operations that will benefit from this include real-time information on purchasing and leasing aeroplanes and engines, as well providing customers as route planning, managing inventory, and maintaining fleets.

For instance, Boeing's advanced airplane health solutions are currently used on more than 3,800 airplanes operating around the globe and allow customers to use real-time data to optimise operational performance, fuel use, maintenance, and supply chain performance. Meanwhile, nearly 13,000 aircraft a day benefit from digital navigational tools. 

The manufacturer also claims that the use of big data-based crew scheduling applications can reduce the costs of these operations by as much as seven per cent.

Kevin Crowley, Boeing vice-president of Digital Aviation commented: "Boeing's expertise and extensive aviation data resources coupled with Microsoft's cloud technology will accelerate innovation in areas such as predictive maintenance and flight optimisation, allowing airlines to drive down costs and improve operational efficiency."

Elsewhere, budget airline Ryanair has also announced a new partnership with visual analytics firm Qlik this week, which is says will consolidate data from across the company and allow employees instant insight into what it going on within the business.

It hopes that in the future, the use of this data will allow the airline to make better business decisions in time-sensitive departments such as flight and ground operations, as well as improving the services they offer to passengers.

For instance, Ryanair aims to boost its in-flight retail offering, as well as helping to optimise the supply chain by understanding the anticipated passenger mix on a given flight and matching this with an appropriate range of products and sufficient stock for the flight.

"We're building a complete overview of what’s going on across the business and it is playing a major role in the way we are evolving the services we offer to customers," said Shane Finnegan, senior BI developer at Ryanair. "Ultimately, we want to find the best ways to make our customers happy on-board, while being able to offer them the lowest fares on the market."