What can we decipher about a passenger called José García who’s about to enter our airport? Is this passenger male or female? Is he Spanish? The name suggests perhaps so, but equally it could be a Colombian or Peruvian name. Is José travelling for business or leisure? Such questions are fundamental for airports seeking to offer more personalised services and unique revenue generating retail propositions.
According to Amadeus’ Head of Analysis and Research, Rodrigo Acuna Agost, a machine learning prototype being deployed by Amadeus can draw on non-identifiable data drawn from many different sources to make effective predictive decisions on such questions. Such advances in machine learning can help airports, airlines and ground handlers form clearer judgments on what passengers are likely to do with their time at an airport, supporting offers for ancillary services such as lounge or spa access. This was just one example from a day defined by innovation.
Next the audience heard about how innovation is popping up in places you might not expect to see it. Katherine Grass, Head of Amadeus’ venture arm, explained how even the humble suitcase is being transformed by a start-up called Bluesmart so it connects with a traveller’s smartphone offering GPS location of the suitcase, digital scales for weight calculation and a built in charging port for mobile devices. Barry Volinskey, CEO of Evature LTD, another firm in which Amadeus has made an investment, went on to demonstrate a chatbot – acronym for ´chatter robot´- in action. Posing questions such as ‘what’s the status of flight UA50?’, ‘Which hotels are available near Madrid airport?’ and ‘Where is the United Airlines’ lounge’, his company’s chatbot returned impressively relevant responses in an instant.
Innovation is clearly emerging in multiple areas of technology but, when it comes to the airport, a traveller is still concerned about his or her bag. At Icelandair’s hub, Keflavik International Airport, the implementation of Amadeus’ Baggage Reconciliation System has helped the airline reduce mishandling by 18% whilst saving circa €500,000 annually in the process, half from mishandling associate cost and half on messaging costs they will not pay since they use our Altéa DCS. “Amadeus is anything but traditional” said Patricia Maya, Product Manager Baggage, to announce further plans in this area. “Our aim is to disrupt conventional technology that triggers high costs for airlines when exchanging baggage messages with airports.”
Similarly an improved focus on the baggage process has been just one strand of a major transformation programme at Copenhagen Airport. Delegates heard how Copenhagen Airport is in the process of adopting a range of solutions from the Amadeus portfolio and according to Copenhagen’s representative, Lene Magnussen, this type of technology application “leaves more room for the extraordinary” and will contribute to the airport‘s ambitious plan to grow passenger numbers from 26 to 40 million.
To close the conference, Frog Design’s David Cleaves offered a refreshingly human-centric perspective, which reminded the audience that despite the benefits of technology the industry should always be striving to understand how they can design “joyful moments” into the airport experience. For Cleaves, the need to appreciate innate human requirements such as learning and discovery or social recognition must be considered. Singapore Airport has already embraced such principles by offering passengers a tropical garden within which to share self-esteem boosting social photos.
There certainly have been some great takeaways but the most rewarding one for me was to hear our customers say they are going back home with new ideas in mind and they are ready to put them into practice.