Almost half of airports to invest in AI development in next five years

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SITA’s latest research has found that airports and airlines are embracing new technologies and are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to support their customer service offering. According to the SITA 2017 Air Transport IT Trends Insights report, 45% of airports will invest in research and development (R&D) focused on AI in the next five years, whereas 52% of airlines plan major AI programs or R&D in the next three years.

Airlines will focus on looking at how technology can help minimize the impact of disruption on the passenger experience and their business. Over the next three years 80% of them plan to invest in major programs or R&D into prediction and warning systems, which rely heavily on AI.

Another technology catching the attention of the industry is chatbots. Today, 14% of airlines and 9% of airports already use chatbots. The report shows however, that there is significant appetite among air transport chief information officers to embrace this technology over the next three years. By 2020, 68% of airlines and 42% of airports plan to adopt AI-driven chatbot services.

SITA’s report also shows that mobile app development is a top priority among airlines and airports. Over the next three years 94% of airlines and 82% of airports plan major mobile programs or R&D. The main area of focus is in the commercialization of their mobile services with airlines looking to boost both direct and ancillary sales via their apps. In fact, airlines expect sales via their mobile apps to double by 2020 and reach 17% of their total sales. Streamlining services into one single app to deliver a seamless experience is a priority for almost every airline (94%) and a high priority for more than half (58%).

Jim Peters, chief technology officer, SITA, said, “We know that passengers prefer to use technology and when it is well designed it can really improve the passenger experience. Airlines and airports are investing in AI and mobile programs to make services even better for the passenger, supporting sales and providing customer support, particularly during times of disruption.

“The industry is using a healthy mix of in-house and outsourced development which will combine expert and industry-specific knowledge with emerging approaches to tech offerings.”

Nearly three quarters of airlines use in-house developers for their passenger apps but 42% also use bespoke developers or large tech companies. In contrast, 46% of airports develop their passenger apps in-house and the same proportion use external developers.

Airports plan to use chatbots for services such as notifications and airport guides. They are also looking to beacons and sensors to help provide context and location-aware services. SITA’s research shows that 40% consider this area a ‘high priority’ for app development and a further 43% consider it a ‘priority’. Airports clearly recognize the opportunity to provide useful and relevant mobile services to passengers to optimize time spent at the airport.

To view the full SITA 2017 Air Transport IT Trends Insight report, click here.

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Dan joined Passenger Terminal World in 2014 having spent the early years of his career in the recruitment industry. As assistant editor, he now produces daily content for the website and supports the editors with the publication of each exciting new issue. When he’s not reporting on the latest aviation news, Dan can be found apprehensively planning his next DIY project.

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