As one of the world’s busiest airports, (ranked No. 3 in 2018 according to Airports Council International’s world traffic report), Dubai International Airport is also a leader in using artificial intelligence (AI). In fact, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) leads the Arab world with its adoption of artificial intelligence in other sectors and areas of life and has a government that prioritizes artificial intelligence including an AI strategy and Ministry of Artificial Intelligence with a mandate to invest in technologies and AI tools.
AI Customs Officials
The Emirates Ministry of the Interior said that by 2020, immigration officers would no longer be needed in the UAE. They will be replaced by artificial intelligence. The plan is to have people just walk through an AI-powered security system to be scanned without taking off shoes or belts or emptying pockets. The airport was already experimenting with a virtual aquarium smart gate. Travelers would walk through a small tunnel surrounded by fish. While they looked around at the fish that swim around them, cameras could view every angle of their faces. This allowed for quick identification.
AI Baggage Handling
Tim Clark, the president of Emirates, the world’s biggest long-haul carrier, believes artificial intelligence, specifically robots, should already be handling baggage service including identifying them, putting the bags in appropriate bins and then taking them out of the aircraft without any human intervention. He envisions these robots to be similar to the automation and robotics used at Amazon.com’s warehouses.
Air Traffic Management
In a partnership with Canada-based Searidge Technologies, the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) is researching the use of artificial intelligence in the country’s air traffic control process. In a statement announcing the partnership in 2018, the director-general of the GCAA confirmed that it is UAE’s strategy to explore how artificial intelligence and other new technologies can enhance the aviation industry. With goals to optimize safety and efficiency within air traffic management, this is important work that could ultimately impact similar operations worldwide.
Self-driving cars powered by artificial intelligence and 100% solar or electrical energy will soon be helping the Dubai Airport increase efficiency in its day-to-day operations, including improvements between ground transportation and air travel. Imagine how artificial intelligence could orchestrate passenger movement from arrival to the airport to leaving your destination’s airport. In the future, autonomous vehicles (already loaded with your luggage) could meet you at the curb. Maybe AI could transform luggage carts to act autonomously to get your luggage to your hotel or home, eliminating any need for baggage carousels and the hassle of dealing with your luggage.
While much attention is given to the process of vetting passengers to ensure safe air travel, artificial intelligence can also improve the staff clearance process. Some airports see the most significant security threat airports, and airlines face is with airport personnel. An EgyptAir mechanic, baggage handler and two police officers were arrested in connection with the bombing of Metrojet Flight 9268 where all 224 people on board died. There have been several arrests in Australia of border force officers linked to international drug smugglers. Part of these efforts to improve the staff clearance process includes enhancing staff entrances to enable greater control with biometrics, advanced facial recognition and the use of artificial intelligence rather than just CCTV cameras and police monitoring which is used now. Artificial intelligence can look for areas of concerns with a staff member’s behavior and record for crime and violence even before they are hired. After they are hired, AI algorithms can continue to look for changes that could indicate a security problem.
AI Projects Being Explored for the Future
Emirates is developing AI projects in its lab at the Dubai Future Accelerators facility. Some of these include using AI to assist passengers when picking their onboard meals, scheduling a pickup by a taxi as well as personalizing the experience of every Emirates passenger throughout the entire journey. They are also exploring how AI can help Emirates teach cabin crew. We can expect that artificial intelligence will be put to work to solve the problems of airplane boarding by looking at the issue in a way humans have been unable to. The goal would be for AI to architect a queue-less experience.
AI at Other Airports
The first biometric airport terminal is already running at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and a similar system is running at Dubai International Airport for first- and business-class passengers. Here are some other ways airports and airlines around the world are using artificial intelligence or plan to:
· Cybersecurity: Airports and airlines have shifted from identifying cybersecurity to preventing cybersecurity threats with an AI assist in response to the expansion of digitalization across aviation.
· Immersive experiences: Augmented reality might be the future of helping travelers find their way through an airport.
· Voice recognition technology: At Heathrow Airport, passengers can already ask Alexa to get flight updates. United Airlines allows travelers to check in to their flight through Google Assistant by simply stating, “Hey Google, check in to my flight.”
As innovation gets pushed by the UAE, Dubai International Airport and other technology innovators around the world, there will be opportunities for abuse and privacy considerations when using these new AI tools and capabilities for air travel. But, if artificial intelligence can remove the biggest headaches from travel, some people (possibly most) will be more than ready to exchange a bit of privacy for a better experience when AI takes over.
Bernard Marr is an internationally best-selling author, popular keynote speaker, futurist, and a strategic business & technology advisor to governments and companies. He helps organisations improve their business performance, use data more intelligently, and understand the implications of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, blockchains, and the Internet of Things. Why don’t you connect with Bernard on Twitter (@bernardmarr), LinkedIn (https://uk.linkedin.com/in/bernardmarr) or instagram (bernard.marr)?