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Fly smarter: 3 ways IoT and artificial intelligence help the airline industry

April 30, 2019

Fly smarter: 3 ways IoT and artificial intelligence help the airline industry
Commercial airlines are expected to generate combined revenues of nearly $855 billion dollars this year alone, according to Statista. More encouraging for the industry, commercial aviation has been in a moneymaking “golden age” since 2009.
Does this time of prosperity create the perfect storm for innovation? Will airlines invest heavily in technology such as AI and IoT? Sure, the industry is cutthroat, and dollars must be wisely spent, but that begs the question: Is it a risk not to invest big in such technologies?
Some airlines are beta-testing AI and IoT, but adoption is slow. For starters, customers would love to avoid the full-service line at the ticket counter. As always, our experts have opinions …
AI and IoT can do this for airlines:
1) Eliminate physical ID and passport checks
Eliminate what? Isn’t the TSA trying to tighten up—not lighten up—security? Yes, that’s why we predict mainstream adoption of AI- and IoT-enabled biometric screening at airport security checkpoints. This could include fingerprint, facial recognition and iris scanning technologies. To increase efficiency and accuracy, your biometrics can also serve as your boarding pass. Remember, it’s easier to fake a document than your unique fingers, face or eyes.
2) Deploy sensor-enabled bag check
Although airlines already feature self-service check-in kiosks, with some airlines offering self-tagging of bags, we’re yet to see the full utilization of AI and IoT sensors in the process. For example, customers may print tags for their luggage, but the airline still pays someone to weigh them, which takes time.
Imagine reducing airline headcount while shaving off 5 minutes per traveler, per flight. It adds up.
Sensors at kiosks could weigh bags and immediately inform customers if they make or exceed limits for weight or total bags. If limits are exceeded, customers would then have the option shuffle items around or pay extra fees—without holding up a line at the ticket counter.
To thwart customers attempting to cheat the system—such as adding items to bags after weighing and tagging them—all bags are weighed later in the automated conveyer screening system. Bags that don’t match the data on the tags are flagged and customers are automatically charged excess fees. Repeat offenders are warned or banned from the self-service process altogether. 
3) Automate the knowledge worker
Airlines have long relied on human “knowledge workers” to comb through mounds of files and documents that enter the organization. We’re talking every passenger complaint (including online reviews), every violation, every delayed flight, every customer dollar spent on in-flight food and movies … the list is endless. Unfortunately, when it comes to terabytes of data, humans are error prone and can’t scale like machines.
This structured and unstructured data—which is information-intensive and varies widely in formats—must be carefully examined to increase customer satisfaction, increase revenues and meet compliance and regulatory standards.
After decades of “educated guesses” from humans, we think machines will start making the big decisions in the aviation industry. Harnessing AI, big data and machine learning, structured and unstructured data can reveal game-changing discoveries for airlines. Imagine it taking only minutes—not months—to compile this data and recommend changes, including the potential cost-savings down to the penny. For example, let’s say human number-crunchers recommend adding seats to airplanes, since more passengers means more money. (Heck, they’ve been packing customers like sardines for years.) What if a machine could prove that removing seats will make more money than adding them, since greater customer satisfaction results in greater revenues and brand loyalty?
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