Mobile, smarts, an airport, and AI

How the constant presence of a smartphone along with some analytics could have improved one travel experience, albeit with caveats on privacy and centralized personal data storage.

Several months ago I was connecting through a large US midwest airport on my way home to New York from California. I had a three hour layover and dutifully went to my scheduled departure date and settled in. It was at the far end of the terminal.

After about an hour I realized that my gate had probably changed since I was surrounded by travelers speaking French. Indeed, when I looked up at the board over the desk it stated that the next flight was going to Montreal.

Via my iPhone, I looked up the new gate and discovered that it had changed, and that the new location was at the far end of another terminal. I could not have had to walk further to get to my plane.

I had several thoughts at this point. First, I should have registered for automatic updates from the airline so I could have been notified of the gate change. This should be a standing feature that I don’t have to enable on a trip-by-trip basis.

Second, I wondered why the airline/airport would have changed my flight to a gate so far away. Presumably they knew where I was, probably near the original gate. Now I know that they probably didn’t care about me, an individual passenger, but if they had known with accuracy via geolocation where a majority of the flight’s passengers were, they could have improved customer satisfaction by having the new gate closer to the old one, or one that at least minimized the distance connecting passengers needed to walk.

Let me say now, that in what I have said above and will say below, I’m assuming that appropriate permission has been given to all necessary parties to use my information for my benefit. Let’s imagine how analytics and transformational mobile apps could have made the experience better.

So I did need to take a walk. It was evening and I had landed after a 3+ hour ride in coach. The airline knew that, and they knew that they certainly had not fed me dinner. It’s possible they also could have known whether I had bought one of those expensive snacks on board. So I was hungry.

Therefore it was possible that I would like to grab some dinner on my 20+ minute trip to the next gate. Via personal preference stored on my phone or one time “in the cloud,” mobile software could have suggested where I would like to eat. This could have been combined further with analytics using airport data and passenger recommendations to suggest where the good places were and how long it would likely take to get me in and out of each restaurant.

Based on this, I could have a good meal and still make my flight. I would have accepted an automatic suggestion that I text a message to my wife saying that I had already eaten.

Some of this sounds like Apple‘s ads for Siri, and various of these things can be done by multiple apps. It needs to be seamless. My smartphone is there to be my helper. As I said in a recent blog entry, “a transformational mobile app is one that significantly improves the quality of your personal or business life, allowing you to do things you have never done before, and permitting you to be more effective and productive in an especially seamless way.”

So what I really need a personal assistant that lives on my smartphone or tablet, is kept current with what I am doing and where I am, is linked to the services I need, and makes suggestions when necessary. Today we cobble many features together among multiple apps. Via analytics, the cloud, and services accessed via APIs, tomorrow’s apps will be more all inclusive and offer greater value.

While some of this computation could be done on the phone, centralized services are continuing to advance in holding my information and deciding what to do with it. Hello Facebook and Google.

Personally, I would prefer a more federated approach where I have more fine tuned control over what data is stored and who has access to it. I wrote about this two years ago, but the idea does not seem to be catching on. Rather, the big social networks appear to be getting bigger, gobbling up any smaller players that add a bit of value.

Does this sound a bit like AI, artificial intelligence, per science fiction? It does, but I’m ok with that. But only if I have tight control over privacy and use.

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One Response to Mobile, smarts, an airport, and AI

  1. Charlie Cerf says:

    You’re much too optimistic. Some Facebook or Google apps will appear that do this stuff, people (sheep) will flock to them, and no one will implement a similar app for our phones that keeps our data private. Once more I’ll be faced with Hobson’s Choice – lose my privacy or be inefficient. I’m afraid the only solution will be a federal law on privacy, requiring, among other things, that my information will be shared only upon court order. Otherwise, once I tell the new app I don’t mind eating at Panera, I’ll start getting text messages, “offers”, and even ads for Panera.

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