Eye in the Sky: How AI Can Improve Airport Operations and Security

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The airline industry faces a number of challenges, and its solutions to date have been uniformly cumbersome, costly, and frequently ineffective.

Maintaining airport security is the most pressing problem. The risk of terrorist attacks is always present, and there’s simply no good way to identify threats without long lines, invasive checkpoint inspections, and burdensome regulations.

These security “solutions” are a major source of headaches for airlines, and a huge inconvenience for customers. They are frequently cited as one of the most hated aspects of air travel. At best they’re a nuisance, and at worst they’re intrusive violations of personal privacy.

The industry is faced with a delicate balancing act. They need to satisfy regulators and maintain security at a high level while trying to mitigate the impact on the customer’s experience. Up until now, passenger inconvenience has only increased in scale with security threats, but AI is poised to change that.

Current Security Measures Are Dependant on Imperfect People

Today, we need human operators staring at screens in order to identify possible threats. People are required to manage checkpoint traffic flow, check IDs and verify flight status, and monitor security cameras for suspicious activity in crowded airports. At each stage, operator error or lapses in concentration can have severe consequences.

Additionally, humans aren’t effective multitaskers. Therefore most airline operations must run in a linear fashion; one passenger is checked in at a time, security scans must follow one after another, and lines build to painful proportions as a result.

AI (artificial intelligence) isn’t limited to a linear model. Properly designed AI systems are capable of performing many concurrent processes, making them uniquely qualified to increase the efficiency, and the effectiveness of airport operations, those involved in security and elsewhere.

How is AI Being Used By Airports Currently?

AI has already been embraced by airports around the globe, and quite a few have pilot programs in place to test out the potential of the technology.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Delta Airlines rolled out facial recognition kiosks to run concurrently with their standard boarding procedures in the second quarter of 2019. The kiosks were well-received by international passengers, with 93% of customers having no issues with the technology.

The kiosks automate the process of comparing passenger faces to their passport photos, and while the rollout is an interesting proof of concept, Delta estimates that on average they only save about two seconds per passenger. There is significant room for improvement.

The bulk of today’s active airport AI programs revolve around safety and user experience. Air Canada is currently working on a predictive maintenance system that uses AI to identify likely maintenance needs before parts fail so that they can be repaired or replaced when the aircraft isn’t needed.

Sendai Airport in Japan is testing an AI-powered chatbot that airport patrons will be connected to automatically when accessing the airport’s free Wi-FI. The chatbot uses natural language processing to parse spoken questions and respond with appropriate answers.

Customers will be able to ask questions about flights, ground transportation, hotels, restaurants, exchange rates and a host of other topics. The system is designed for English-speaking tourists visiting the country.

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Future Applications of AI Are Even More Exciting

These initial forays into airport AI services only scratch the surface of what’s possible. Facial recognition kiosks are interesting but still suffer from linear service issues. Imagine if, instead, an airport could monitor every single passenger, passively identifying them at a distance, allowing an AI system to track them throughout the airport.

Crea Vision has built a groundbreaking computer vision and image analysis system that is capable of this feat. The system uses innovative camera designs fashioned after the human eye to capture highly-detailed imagery coupled with a novel peripheral vision system that allows networks of cameras to organically track objects throughout a space, no matter the size.

In the future, airports could use this system to keep tabs on every person within the building and identify threats long before they reach security checkpoints. Identities could be verified passively, reducing the need for human involvement.

Camera systems could also employ machine learning algorithms to analyze the gaits and actions of airport patrons to detect suspicious behavior without the need for human operators. These systems could automatically send alerts to security, localized to the area of action.

The smarter these AI-powered camera systems get, the more they could replace standard security protocols, improving airport security overall, while reducing the bottlenecks faced in today’s invasive security checkpoints, to the pleasure of everyone that flies.

Contact us now to learn how you can integrate a customer-friendly, efficient, and always-on security solution with Crea Vision. Our demos are free and well worth your time.

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