Artificial intelligence is popping up everywhere in business travel. It’s the brains behind the friendly airport ‘bot that helps you find your way and the voice-command assistant that allows you to order snacks at your hotel at any hour. Here’s what travelers are seeing out there—or soon will be.
At the airport
Since 2014, Dusseldorf Airport has been using a robot to help passengers park cars—but many people were skeptical. “Ray” got a technology update in 2017 in the hopes of making the ‘bot more popular.
The next evolution of airport AI is on display at Incheon International Airport near Seoul. “Companion” robots help travelers find gates and restaurants. And when they’re not otherwise occupied, the ‘bots sweep floors at South Korea’s largest airport.
By 2020, airport robots will have even more chores. Tokyo Haneda Airport plans to roll out ‘bots that will greet passengers, transport their bags and offer directions—all in time for the next Summer Olympic Games.
At the hotel
If you travel to Japan today, you already might find a robot helping you check in at the hotel front desk. That’s true in Germany, too, where Motel One in Munich introduced a concierge robot in 2017. “Sepp” answers questions like “Where is the bar?” or “When is breakfast?” The “self-learning” robot improves the accuracy of its answers through experience.
More common artificial intelligence helpers in hotels respond to voice commands to turn on lights, change the temperature, play music, flip TV channels and order room-service meals.
In the car
Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft began a tech-fueled revolution in ground transportation. Industry watchers say autonomous taxis are next—and many are already being tested. Singapore is a standout with a pilot that launched a couple of years ago. The company behind the self-driving taxi (which has a human in the front seat for safety) plans to roll out a commercial service in Singapore by 2018 and expand to 10 cities around the world by 2020.
What was once the stuff of science fiction is now becoming a reality, fueled by businesses’ push to automate and personalize service. More innovation is on the way. A survey by Forrester showed the percentage of companies using AI hit 51% in 2017—up from 40% in 2016. And the U.S. data research firm predicts more companies will tap into artificial intelligence by the end of this year.
Find out why BCD Travel’s Miriam Moscovici foresees a tech-rich business travel future in which “whatever can be ‘digitized’ will be ‘cognitized.’”