How Air Travel Employees Can Fly Through Operational Tasks with Mobile Computer Vision

By Nico Tarasoff, Account Executive, Transportation and Logistics, Scandit Inc.

Today’s air travel passengers are experienced, sophisticated and demanding customers. Gone are the days when a bad travel experience was something passengers simply put up with. Today, if something unsatisfactory happens, passengers quickly turn to social media to air their grievances and demand some sort of resolution.

This ever more demanding customer culture has caused many airlines and airports to re-evaluate customer-affecting processes, such as check-in, boarding or passenger information, to see what can be done to prevent a passenger complaint becoming headline news and to improve the traveling experience. Passengers have plenty of choices, so a bad or inefficient experience can be enough to put them off using that airport or airline again. For example, in a recent poll conducted by Scandit among US passengers, 80% said airline efficiency influences their decision about which airline to choose.

Read how Alaska Airlines uses mobile computer vision to perform critical workflows 20% faster compared with their prior solution, in this case study.

Why digital transformation is critical for airlines

We hear the term ‘digital transformation’ a lot these days, and those two words can make a huge difference for an airport or airline trying hard to match and exceed passenger expectations. In some parts of the aviation industry, legacy technology, hardware and processes are still being relied upon to move passengers and baggage where they need to go.

The problem comes when operators start to feel it’s just too difficult and costly to change systems that have become so familiar. But there are very good reasons to abandon this inertia – digital transformation not only benefits passengers, but can also reduce costs.

Almost every passenger and employee has a smartphone with them at all times, so the question is, what are they doing with that powerful technology? The majority of airlines and airports have an app, which is a great start. But more can be done to make apps and mobile devices a valuable part of the customer experience and operational workflows.

For passengers and employees, scanning barcodes and gathering up-to-date information are essential regular tasks as part of their travels or workflows. Using mobile computer vision with augmented reality (AR) feedback as part of a digital transformation strategy can take those tasks and turn them into something special.

Mobile computer vision and AR drive air travel innovation on everyday smart devices

In the context of mobile devices, computer vision involves using the camera on a smartphone or tablet to identify, capture and process information. When you combine that functionality with AR, you can change the way information is displayed: computer vision recognizes items and then AR overlays important details on the screen. It’s an easier and more natural user experience than having to use a bulky and expensive dedicated scanning device and opens up almost endless opportunities in terms of new workflows that can be quickly added to mobile apps.

This powerful technology is extremely fast and accurate, even if having to scan at wide angles or long distance, in bad lighting or reading damaged barcodes, for example on luggage tags. And it’s surprisingly affordable, which is one reason why software-based scanning on smart devices is an attractive replacement for dedicated scanners that are expensive and limited in their features.

Understanding what mobile computer vision and AR can do is an important first step, but how can this benefit the aviation industry? The truth is that every part of a passenger’s journey, from the moment of online check-in, to arriving at the airport, to collecting baggage at the destination, can be improved with this form of digital transformation.

Watch this short video to see what we mean:

 

Passengers helping themselves

As part of the API input before or during online check-in, passengers can be offered the option to scan their own passport rather than manually typing it. This is much faster and can helpfully alert a customer to an out-of-date document. Once at the airport, mobile scanning also comes in handy when passengers are looking for more information about their flight. Instead of looking for a departures screen or member of staff, passengers can scan their boarding pass to see if there’s an updated gate assignment, how much time there is until boarding, and any other relevant details, displayed right over the boarding pass on the screen.

Employees working faster and smarter

Airline and airport employees can use mobile computer vision and AR to help passengers wherever they are in the airport, just by scanning a boarding pass or passport to pull up real-time information about gate assignments, flight schedules, upgrades and qualifying travel vouchers.

Boarding

Gate agents no longer need to be confined to the built-in scanner and computer at the gate podium and can instead use a smartphone or tablet to work with passengers throughout the boarding area to do the check-in and boarding processes while mobile, giving a more personalized feel to the customer service. Alaska Airlines, for example, has introduced gate boarding on iPad Mini.

Baggage

Baggage teams can also use mobile devices to scan the barcode on every piece of luggage to record its status and location for tracking purposes. With an AR-enabled scan, they’ll also see additional information, such as destination and flight details, on the device screen.

Baggage handlers need to work fast, so being able to scan multiple items in one sequence, in seconds, is a big help. When searching for a particular piece of baggage – for example, to offload it – the handler simply needs to hover their smartphone across a stack of bags to see the right item highlighted on the screen when it’s scanned.

Maintenance and inventory

When it comes to maintenance and inventory management, mechanics can rely on mobile computer vision to scan, identify and track parts, tracking serial numbers easily from the warehouse to the aircraft or airport system. This increased efficiency for airlines and airport operators can represent significant cost savings.

This is just a sample of what’s possible when mobile computer vision and AR are integrated into aviation systems. Passengers appreciate the added flexibility and efficiency, and those same benefits are just as enjoyable for employees. The time and cost savings plus efficiency improvements will be quickly visible on the bottom line – as will the effects of increased customer satisfaction when you make headlines for the right reasons.

Since data is at the heart of commercial aviation, it’s vital to use the latest mobile technology that will help to capture, track and display it in new ways. By doing this, air travel can perhaps change from being a necessary evil for some passengers into a more relaxing experience for all.

Fly High, One Mobile Scan at a Time

In this whitepaper, you’ll see many of the regular air travel workflows that mobile computer vision is improving. Download the whitepaper and find out:

  • How inexpensive smart devices equipped with visual, intuitive solutions reduce operations costs with little user training.
  • Why the ability to capture multiple barcodes in a single scan and use AR overlays to access real-time passenger and flight operations data is critical for process improvement.
  • How to improve customer experience by providing real-time flight information throughout the journey.

If you’d like to explore how Scandit could help your air travel organization, contact us, we’d love to talk.