With the number of air travellers set to double over the next 20 years, intelligent end-to-end baggage tracking will be more essential than ever. Can artificial intelligence be harnessed to help manage the problem? Frances Marcellin investigates.
Between now and 2036, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that the number of air passengers will rise from 4 billion to almost 8 billion. Airports are already processing more than 4.5 billion bags each year and with these numbers set to double, a recent whitepaper – Intelligent Tracking: A Baggage Management Revolution – by airport IT specialist SITA has hailed the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) to revolutionise airports’ baggage handling systems.
The fully-automated future of baggage handling
Harnessing the potential of AI is considered a feasible future development once IATA’s Resolution 753 comes into effect in June. At this point, member airlines, which make up 83% of worldwide air traffic, will be tracking and sharing information for every piece of luggage.
Many airlines have already improved their baggage handling performance through working towards compliance with Resolution 753. Alitalia recorded a 13% improvement in baggage reclaim times at Rome Fiumicino Airport and became the first airline to be certified by IATA in November last year. SITA confirms that Russian airline Aeroflot now provides a real-time location for all the baggage in its system.
“AI plays an important role in driving the future standard of baggage handling,” says Chris Au Young, general manager of Smart Airport at Airport Authority Hong Kong. “Powered by AI and robotics technology, baggage handling will be fully automated from the moment a passenger checks in their bag to when it arrives at the destination.”
A data-dependent solution
While airports and stakeholders hope that AI will be the answer to handling 9 billion bags a year in the future, it will not be able to perform effectively if the gathered data isn’t rich enough.
“Any AI platform will rely heavily on good quality baggage data,” says Peter Drummond, head of baggage at SITA. “It is vital that airports and airlines have the right information of each and every bag and where it is on its journey. It is also important that this data is shared with all the stakeholders.”
As a result of the bag track data generated under IATA Resolution 753, Drummond says that the air transport industry will be provided with a rich stream of data. “This can be enhanced with AI tools to create greater efficiencies in baggage operations, and ultimately, improve our experience as passengers,” he explains.
Dr Simon Tomlinson, data science business engagement manager at Lancaster University, believes that a substantial amount of domain expertise will be required from air transport professionals to ensure that the appropriate data is collected, and that permission is granted for it to be analysed and optimised.
Read the rest of the article on Airport Technology.