The use of games mechanics for purposes other than pure entertainment is called gamification. In recent years the method has been used in different settings to boost user involvement and motivation linked to a variety of activities.
"In its simplest form this may just be hype, such as awarding points for things like filling out your timesheet before the weekend", says SINTEF researcher Erlend Andreas Gjære. "But our focus is on quite a different track", he says.
Together with researchers from Italy and Germany, Gjære and his colleagues at SINTEF are going to find out how aspects of games technology can be applied in a context somewhat out of the ordinary. Specifically – how to achieve the best possible adaptive solutions to changes in information security, safety, economics and organisation in the aviation sector.
Europe's airspace capacity is at breaking point and we need better IT systems to manage this growth. Such systems may include those for air traffic control, baggage handling, communication between aircraft and flight schedule planning.
But the changes are just as much about socio-technical considerations as they are about technical systems. All IT systems have an effect on people and operational factors.
"Restructuring can be exciting, but it's often difficult to implement", says Gjære. "People enjoy doing their own thing – inside their own bubbles. They have to be seduced into working together and testing each other", he says.
PACAS is a two-year experimental research project incorporated within the SESAR2020 programme.
It started this spring and is being funded by the EU.
SINTEF is contributing with its expertise in system development and security.
Other participants are the Universities of Trento and Utrecht, and the Italian consultant firm Deep Blue.
"Our approach is not competition-based. However, we are trying to create the same experiences that computer games provide, such as the mastery of new challenges and proficiency in finding out new things and taking the lead", says Gjære.
"If there's anything that aviation experts need in the face of major IT system restructuring, it's better communication", he says.
"The aviation sector has lacked a high-level command structure for system development. For this reason, the airlines, domestic and international aviation authorities, and the safety and infrastructure organisations, will have to work effectively together. It is here that we believe that gamification can come into its own", says Gjære.
Researchers are developing a web-based modelling tool designed to coordinate and integrate all the change proposals. This will make it possible to carry out cross-disciplinary analyses. The tool shall be based on the following principles:
"We will be working on this project until March 2018", says Gjære. "And our product will not be a new computer game, but hopefully a model that can be put to good use", he says.