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Finavia

How Finnish airports are experimenting with AI

Face detection, a targeted information display wall, customer service chatbot, even cleaning the toilets are based on data.

In the future, technology may allow travel without displaying a passport or boarding pass. There are several ongoing pilots using artificial intelligence at Finnish transport hubs, airport operator Finavia says.

There is a “display wall” that chooses which language it shows flight information in according to passengers’ nationalities, while face detection technology is replacing boarding passes at check-in. On the airport’s website, meanwhile, a chatbot helps people find the right information.

“Finavia wants to be at the forefront of utilising AI and digitalisation. For example, the face detection pilot project carried out together with Finnair was one of the first of its kind, implemented in airport operations worldwide,” says Harri Karjalainen, chief information officer at Finavia.

“We start from small pilots that help us learn about how these technologies function. From the passengers’ point of view, new technologies such as artificial intelligence can improve the comfort, reliability and functionality of airport processes.”

A pilot project carried out in the spring and summer this year has tested how display walls in the terminal can target relevant information to passengers based on nationality data.

Knowing passengers’ flight and nationality, “it’s possible to ‘mass target’ the content”, says Henri Lehtonen, development manager for digital solutions and new technologies.

“For instance, we can highlight the most relevant transfer flights and gates, and change the language to the passengers’ native languages. In addition, ad targeting can be improved.”

Toilet data
In another new pilot project at Helsinki-Vantaa, toilet cleaning has been optimised based on data.

“After using a restroom, passengers can provide feedback, which is used to direct cleaning staff to the right locations,” Karjalainen says.

In the future, toilet conditions could also be monitored by attaching sensors to detect the movement of door hinges or the sounds of running toilets, he adds.

Artificial intelligence is used in the airport’s parking pricing too, focused on the fact that the price determination is “dynamic”, meaning it depends on the time the parking space is reserved.

“Dynamic pricing favours those who book parking in advance and helps the airport optimise the use of parking spaces,” Karjalainen explains.

Hands in pockets” travel
Meanwhile, Finavia and Finnair have tested machine-based face recognition technology with one thousand test passengers at check-in at Helsinki Airport.

“We would most definitely like to advance ‘hands in pockets’ travel, where a passenger would not need to display any travel documents at all,” says Tommi Vihervaara, head of data analysis.

“The relevant technology is available already, but it will require joint development work between the airports, airlines and public authorities before these solutions become an everyday reality.”

Machine vision has also been tested in Finland in optimising aircraft turnaround times and related processes.

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