It’s been a long time coming for road warriors — artificial intelligence is finally infiltrating the travel industry, and it’s bringing a host of new conveniences and capabilities with it. From personalized recommendations and booking to digital concierge service, here’s how AI will help make traveling a little less hectic.
Plan your next vacation through bots
AI stands to make a big impact in travel planning. Airlines and travel agencies alike use chatbots to automate the booking process and answer questions without involving an actual agent. And if an agent is needed, AI-powered apps can make smart suggestions based on context to help travelers complete the booking process faster.
And let’s not forget the power of machine learning for offering consumers personalized recommendations. Apps like Google Trips make the whole process a snap. All you have to do is tell the app where you want to go, and AI takes it from there. You can easily book accommodations, plan an itinerary that you can update anytime, and keep all your documents and confirmations in one place.
Meet your robotic concierge
The robotic concierge is one of the coolest examples of automation in the travel industry. Connie, the result of a partnership between Hilton and IBM, provides hotel guests with information about the hotel, amenities, and local shops and restaurants. Most importantly, though, Connie is constantly improving through machine learning. As it answers more questions, it becomes better at interacting with guests — just like a real concierge.
You’ll even find AI in your local airport, and airport security may get the biggest makeover of all. Airports around the world are testing a variety of AI-powered scanners and surveillance devices, with the dual intent to improve security and reduce lines. Dubai International Airport has taken things to the next level with a tunnel that features cameras embedded in a virtual aquarium. As people move through the tunnel and look at the “fish tank,” the cameras scan and identify their faces. The plan is to have these tunnels rolled out to all terminals in the airport by 2020.
Benefit from convenience
AI’s introduction to travel stems from travelers’ desires for more convenience and greater efficiency. For example, chatbots can handle multiple basic inquiries at the same time so agents can focus on more important questions. Humans can also provide services more quickly than before because of lower call volume.
Other convenient innovations include powerful body scanners at airports that can scan a person in a fraction of a second. These systems use AI to identify guns, bombs, and other potential threats and are so fast they eliminate the need for passengers to stop in a security line. Since this pitstop is the source of most airport frustration and delay, this scanner’s convenience is huge. And, since the scanners use machine learning to constantly improve, the technology will enhance security at the same time.
Implications for privacy and personal security
These new technologies will require a lot of data collection and analysis. Digital concierge recommendations and travel suggestions may require personally identifying information to be uploaded and stored in the cloud, which can make personal safety a concern. And, if history is any indication, it’s only a matter of time before that data is breached. The companies pioneering this tech will need to set a strong precedent for taking privacy and security seriously.
And then there are the automated airport security scans and all their attending issues. With current systems, passengers are generally aware of when they’re scanned, who’s doing the scanning, and what the scan is looking for. Automated scans that happen instantaneously can take away a person’s consent, which could be problematic. If you remember the privacy uproar raised when airport body scanners first rolled out, you’ll get an idea of what you might see when robots start scanning at will.
While there are still a few unknowns with how AI will affect travel, the industry is heading for some very interesting destinations. As you book your next trip, look for ways AI can make every part of the experience simpler and more enjoyable.
Scott Bay is a digital journalist who reports on the latest technology trends, focusing specifically on travel, security, and AI.