Application of Context Aware Systems to Support Knowledge Work in the Aerospace

  • Yifan Xie

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Engineering (EngD)


This thesis describes research of an Engineering Doctorate research project jointly facilitated by Airbus and University of Bath. The overall research aim was to investigate the application of context aware systems to capture and utilise context to support knowledge work in the aerospace industry. Context aware systems provide the potential capabilities to capture and utilise context to distribute information relevant to users' needs. These capabilities are perceived to be ideal to support knowledge work, however there is still much to be learnt about how context aware systems can be developed and applied in daily engineering activity. Resulted from the literature review, the classifications of context and context aware techniques reflect how context were defined and dealt within existing literature. Applications provided by existing context aware systems to support knowledge work were summarised. Additionally, research issues of industrial applications for context aware systems were discussed. The research gaps, resulted from the state of the art review, identified potential areas for research and development. After industrial case studies, the context requirements for an ideal context aware system to support knowledge work were identified. Key findings from these research activities were then synthesised to clarify research directions in the latter part of the research. In the latter part of this research, an experiment was designed and executed to capture and utilise domain context in the Wing In-Service Support department. Using the repair case search activity as the engineering use case, the context aware system Daedalus was developed to enable Feedback Based Context Capturing (FBCC), and then utilised the captured context to facilitate search terms expansion and search terms suggestion to support repair case search. The experiment data generated from this experiment enabled the following studies: a detailed examination of the domain semantic context of Wing In-Service Support; evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of the FBCC approach; and evaluation of Daedalus in terms of adoption level and impact on repair case search activity. From the study results of the experiment data, a number of contributions of this research were confirmed. The in-depth examination of domain semantic context revealed key insight for future research and development of context aware systems. The FBCC approach can be regarded as a novel approach to facilitate user-driven context capturing in a cost-effective manner. The Daedalus system was proven to have provided significant efficiency gain to the Wing In-Service Support department.Since this research, the usage of Daedalus has been maintained with the existing user base and also expanded to new In-Service teams. These post-experiment usage, maintenance and development of Daedalus can be considered as evidence of continuous industrial impact of this research on the collaborating engineering department as well as wider engineering communities within Airbus.
Date of Award9 Dec 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SponsorsEngineering and Physical Sciences Research Council & Airbus Operations Ltd
SupervisorStephen Culley (Supervisor) & Frithjof Weber (Supervisor)


  • context aware system
  • semantic technology
  • aerospace
  • knowledge management
  • information retrieval
  • knowledge reuse
  • lessons learned

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