Airport of the future: AI puts analytics into action

Airport

One of the great challenges and opportunities of the 21st century will be to sort out what human beings do best and what’s better left to machines and artificial intelligence (AI).

How can airports best leverage AI?  In many ways, AI picks up where analytics leaves off. With analytics, organizations collect and analyze data so they can make better decisions. For example, airports might want to know which airlines get the most traffic so they can determine how many gates each should be assigned. They might also use data to determine which retailers to place within their facilities and where to put them.

AI puts that analytics data into action. It analyzes all the data and executes tasks that would take hours or even days for human beings to complete. Based on the benchmarks for airport analytics we outlined in the last blog, here are three ways AI could use data collected by airports to improve the passenger experience:

  1. Location. Today, airports depend on an audio message that runs every few minutes out of the master PA system warning passengers to be aware of unattended bags. AI has the potential to make those annoying messages obsolete. Once a passenger enters the airport, a system could track her location and that of her luggage. While security cameras scan constantly for unattended baggage, AI could help identify when the passenger accidentally walks away from her bag, and could have the security system send a text message alert to the passenger or notify security, which would then dispatch an agent to find the passenger and remind her not to leave the bags unattended. AI can also use location data to determine that a passenger has left a laptop at a charging station, and either send an agent to return it to the passenger or text the passenger to retrieve it from the Lost & Found.
  2. Preferences. Analytics on passenger preferences – such as what food they eat at the airport – gives airports data on which food outlets to provide. AI takes this one step further. When the passenger comes to the airport, an AI system could notify her that she has time to spare before the flight, and use preferences data to offer a 20-percent discount coupon to her favorite restaurant.
  3. Weather. The future has arrived at many airports in the form of drones that inspect runway safety during inclement weather. Why have humans track weather conditions outside during sub-frigid temperatures – in places like Minnesota or Colorado – when AI-based machines can do it more efficiently? And for passengers, AI can more effectively notify passengers when weather-related incidents may cause delays.

We’re also just now seeing the vast potential of drones. Sure, they can help airports manage aircraft more effectively, but drones can also be used for something as routine as notifying maintenance that an airport bathroom needs to be serviced.

Airports today are just scratching the surface with AI, potentially using it to track unattended baggage, help passengers retrieve lost items or offer a discount to a favorite restaurant. As they become fully digital, airports will continue to build vast databases on passengers, aircraft and retail trends. How they use AI to bring that data to life could enhance the passenger experience in exciting new ways. The opportunities are enormous, but it’s up to us to embrace them.

This is the third in a series of posts about the airport of the future. See the second post.


Michael S. Deittrick was chief technology officer for travel and transportation at DXC Technology. He left the company in February 2018. A thought leader in digital enterprise transformation and business outcome enablement strategies, he is responsible for enterprise solution development and digital strategy for the travel and transportation sector. Mike focuses on the “why” of technology to derive greater business outcomes for his customers. He is the original media geek, having worked on consumer media and technology convergence strategies in the mid- to late 1990s with the MIT Media Lab and Cyberworks (IPG-Campbell-Ewald).

RELATED LINKS

Airport of the future: From vision to reality

Airport of the future: The importance of analytics

Can artificial intelligence out-smart cities?

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