Imagine hustling through the airport terminal with your bags in your hands, needing to know the status of your flight and your departure gate without stopping.
Dodging suitcases and weaving through crowds of other travelers, you simply speak to your smartphone and ask: “What’s the status of the flight that is leaving from New York and going to Atlanta tonight at 9 pm?” The voice of your virtual assistant responds to you immediately with exactly the information you need–the departure time and gate number.
This is just one example of how FlightStats data can power artificial intelligence (A.I.). A.I. is the next big thing in travel technology and it seems that every day a new solution is being introduced into the market using this technology to give travelers a more convenient, personalized travel experience.
“It’s the next evolution beyond screen applications,” said David White, Chief Product Officer at FlightStats. “Rather than using one or multiple apps, you could just use A.I. to get the answers to several different questions like ‘Is my flight on time?’ or ‘When should I leave for the airport?’”
For those companies that are thinking about offering A.I. solutions, the most important thing to remember is that it will require having access to large amounts of different types of data. Integrating multiple data sets into a solution is the only way users will be able to ask more complicated, multi-layer questions and get the most accurate and sophisticated answers possible.
According to tech journalist, Mike Elgan, artificial intelligence is as much about the availability of massive data sets as it is about intelligent software. The bigger the data sets, the smarter the A.I.
“You need access to more comprehensive data sets to make A.I. meaningful and FlightStats is ready to help,” said White. “Think about how you might combine our data with other traffic and security wait time data to estimate your total travel time.”
Several major technology companies have already integrated FlightStats data into their A.I. solutions. Many of these solutions are booking apps and virtual assistants that can deliver flight information or conduct a flight search at the user’s request.
Here are a few of the latest A.I. products, either in production or currently available, that are using our data:
Created by SoundHound Inc., Houndify describes itself as the world’s most advanced natural language voice technology platform. It enables anyone to seamlessly create a smart, voice-enabled, conversational interface.
In December 2015, we started to allow our data and information to be accessed by developers using Houndify. These developers can subscribe to our data to get current flight status and terminal/gate information with natural language queries in any product, service, or device that they choose.
Google Now and Google Assistant
Google Now is a digital personal assistant that came out in 2012 and positioned itself to be a direct competitor to Siri. And unlike Siri, Google Now doesn’t require you to constantly interact with it to receive information. For example, if a user searched for an upcoming flight, Google Now will automatically keep them updated on the status of the flight.
In May 2016, Google released an “upgrade” to Google Now called Google Assistant, which bears strong similarities to Amazon’s Alexa. The solution allows users to use chat or voice to conduct searches and check flight status.
Cortana is Microsoft’s virtual assistant that stores information and travels with a user across multiple platforms such as their computer and mobile device. Among the many ways Cortana saves users time and effort is its ability to track flights and conduct personalized searches for flight information.
Making a splash in the media recently is Lola, a new travel booking app launched by the founder of Kayak. The app uses both machine learning and a small team of human travel agents to revolutionize the process of booking travel on a mobile phone.
Lola can help users through every stage of the travel process, including researching flights with convenient departure times or being notified when there is a delay in a flight they already booked.
While not in production yet, Viv from Viv Labs has demonstrated impressive capabilities and it appears to be able to look up and answer more complicated questions, such as “When should I leave for the airport?”
Although Viv is still an emerging platform, companies that are producing A.I. solutions should keep their eye on it because it looks like a strong competitor. A little over a year ago, a founder of Viv named Adam Cheyer performed a demonstration of Viv’s capabilities from his computer, which used FlightStats to look up the status of a flight.
Partnering with FlightStats
Gathering large amounts of data and making sure it’s accurate before integrating it into a solution is a difficult, overwhelming process. Forming partnerships with data companies like FlightStats, Inrix and WhatsBusy is a key way to gain access to massive data sets that are accurate and verified among multiple sources.
We’re one piece of the puzzle when it comes to developing useful, intuitive A.I. solutions; however, we are an important piece. More often than not, if you’re talking to Lola or Hound about a flight, then you’re actually talking to us via the FlightStats APIs. And without us, companies wouldn’t be able to deliver the more comprehensive, reliable travel information to their users.
“A.I. is a platform that puts our data in a larger context for people. Our services are already pretty well configured to support A.I.,” said White. “Global coverage combined with a really solid, dependable platform and very responsive APIs makes FlightStats an ideal partner for companies who want to produce A.I. or voice-powered solutions. It’s something we’re already doing and look forward to doing more of in the future.”