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Rediff.com  » Business » Get ready to meet Vistara's RADA at Delhi's T3

Get ready to meet Vistara's RADA at Delhi's T3

June 12, 2018 08:31 IST

The Tata-SIA airline Vistara is gearing up to station an indigenously developed robot, RADA, at its signature lounge at Delhi airport’s Terminal 3.

Powered by AI, the robot is programmed to scan boarding passes, provide information on the terminal, departure gates, real-time flight status and weather conditions of destination city etc.

And RADA can also entertain people by playing games and multimedia content, says Sangeeta Tanwar.

The global artificial intelligence (AI) in aviation market is expected to be valued at $152.4 million in 2018 and is likely to reach $2,222.5 million by 2025, at a CAGR of 46.65 per cent between 2018 and 2025, according to ResearchAndMarkets.com’s “Artificial Intelligence in Aviation Market” report.

 

This growth can be attributed to the huge demand for AI technologies to increase efficiency with the help of virtual assistance and training applications.

Airlines in the country have been quick on the uptake.

Take Tata-SIA airline Vistara. In a first for an airline in the country, the company is gearing up to station an indigenously developed robot, RADA, at its signature lounge at Delhi Airport’s Terminal 3.

Powered by AI, the robot is programmed to scan boarding passes, provide information on the terminal, departure gates, real-time flight status and weather conditions of destination city etc.

And RADA can entertain people by playing games and multimedia content.

The robot, says the company, is aimed to help the airline offer an ‘intuitively thoughtful’ on-ground service to its customers.

“We are experimenting with robotics, AI and machine learning to help eliminate mundane and repetitive activities that our customer service personnel end up doing at the airport on a daily basis.

"The objective is to free up valuable time of our employees by powering routine processes by technology so that they can have a more meaningful and productive interactions with fliers,” says Ravinder Pal Singh, chief information and innovation officer, Vistara.

RADA has been conceived, designed and engineered by the company’s team of technology experts and apprentices from Tata Innovation Lab. The robot will be pressed into service from July 5, 2018.

Based on the actual nature of conversations that fliers would have with RADA, the airline is prepared to arm the robot with more in-depth AI cognitive and algorithmic abilities.

For example, in future, there could be a use case where a passenger traveling with aged parents may want to know about the nearest medical store accessible to them.

In this case, the robot would be programmed to list out medical stores in the airport’s vicinity. Or there could be a request for a seat change by a passenger.

It would be left to RADA to put forward the best options available.

Going forward, as RADA gets populated with varying customer queries, the robot will be trained to respond to questions that are not routine and yet are crucial to deliver a satisfying customer experience.

In addition to RADA, the IT team is deploying AI and ML (machine learning) technologies to sharpen its focus on customer service.

One of the key focus areas for the company is customer mining, that is, identifying and targeting potential customers using data science.

Vistara’s journey in this direction began much earlier. Vistara routinely scans the social media space or what it calls ‘listen to the chatter’ to know what fliers are talking about.

The talk could be about their flying experience, quality of customer service or in-flight service.

This ‘chatter’ could also relate to ‘happiness’ or ‘unhappiness’ quotient of fliers.

The objective is to channel the feedback to improve the parameters that seem to be falling short of expectations.

Vistara is also turning to AI and ML to mine new fliers, thanks to their ability to follow a complete decision loop based on observing what people are buying or even talking about.

Based on social chatter, the airline attempts to understand the flying pattern and preferences of potential fliers.

This includes details like when a traveler is likely to plan her next trip, potential places of visit etc.

All this information is collated on the basis of a flier’s search history for flights, hotel bookings or random comments and conversations on social media or visits to the company’s digital assets.

According to Pal, there are two parts to social media listening -- mapping customer intent and emotion. Intent is relatively easy to guess and it involves establishing fliers’ intended place of travel, timing, purpose of the planned travel and so on.

Vistara enjoys 73.4 per cent success rate in identifying these elements.

The difficult part relates to identification of the relative emotion of fliers and deciphering it in the right manner.

This is crucial to help improve the required parameters affecting customer service.

The company enjoys a success rate of about 33 per cent on this count.

For example, if social media chatter indicates that a flier is angry, it is crucial to pinpoint the exact pain point and fix it.

Eventually, the airline wants to get to the next level of analytics that can help it correctly target each and every advertising rupee that is aimed at acquiring a customer.

Every innovation in the technology domain has to add up to cost savings and revenue augmentation to drive profitability, says the airline.

Experts say this is just the first step. The real test would be to deploy AI to be able to decide in real time what prices it should place on flights, by observing what external market forces are impacting costs and prices.

Photograph: Kind courtesy, Vistara

Sangeeta Tanwar in New Delhi
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