Turkish Airlines takes flight with IoT, AI chatbots and tech start-ups

Turkish Airlines takes flight with IoT, AI chatbots and tech start-ups

Turkish Airlines takes flight with IoT, AI chatbots and tech start-ups
Turkish Airlines takes flight with IoT, AI chatbots and tech start-ups

Turkish Airlines detailed its innovation projects with Internet of Things, AI chatbots and technology start-ups in Heathrow, London on Tuesday.

LONDON, UKSpeaking at IoB’s Internet of Aviation conference near Heathrow’s Terminal 5 on Tuesday, Turkish Airlines digital innovation manager Serdar Gurbuz explained how the 83-year-old airline has been testing a range of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, collaborating with industry peers, and establishing a culture of change within the business in recent times.

Indeed, Turkish Airlines has been particularly impressive in driving change from outside-in, now claiming to partner with some 1,000 start-ups, according to Gurbuz. Back in April, the airline announced it was working with the Plug & Play accelerator’s Travel Hospitality acceleration program, with this focusing in particular on emerging tech start-ups.

“In 2016, we will work closely with the Turkish Airlines Innovation Team to collaborate with leading start-ups in the IoT, Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, Robotics, and Augmented/Virtual Reality technologies as they relate Turkish Airlines’ technology roadmap,” said Amir Amidi, managing partner at Plug and Play’s Travel Program, at the time.

Five areas of innovation

Publicly, Turkish Airlines has engaged in some notable IoT projects of late, including using Apple’s iBeacon technology – which uses BLE technology and consists of transmitters that can communicate with nearby Apple iOS devices – at the Istanbul Ataturk Airport’s Lounge. It is designed to work with the airline’s Sky Library application, and enables lounge guests to access the airline’s publications, as well as popular books.

Now though, the firm is looking further, and testing new concepts, largely to see how IoT can improve the customer journey through the airport. It has identified five new areas for innovation, including IoT, Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), wearables and robotics.

It is looking at IoT technologies for indoor navigation, customer tracking and equipment monitoring, and has a numerous of live projects here, both in airports and back at its headquarters.

For example, through the use of Apple’s Core Location SDK (which lets developers determine the current location or heading associated with an iOS device), the firm is able to track customers via their iPhones or iPads at the airports of Istanbul, London Heathrow and Miami.

In those airports, we are providing real-time indoor positioning, wayfinding, and passengers can search by gates, sales, retail stores…anything at the airport.”

“Using this technology at the airport gives us the ability to do more, like push notifications, baggage tracking, and – besides the commercial use – it gives us the ability to service disabled passengers, such as blind people. This is very important because they often don’t want to ask for help.”

“We are also using these kinds of technologies in our Technology Campus App,” he said, adding to IoB that this mobile application is currently being trailed by Turkish Airlines employees, before being brought to the general public.

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Turkish Airlines digital innovation manager Serdar Gurbuz speaking at the Internet of Aviation

This app, he further explained, provides in-door navigation, quick pass through turnstiles, and neatly uses Wi-Fi access points to detect if meeting rooms are being used, or if they can be reserved. Furthermore, the airline is exploring whether this location information can be used to resolve customer complaints more efficiently at the customer service desk.

Related: How IoT is helping Airbus to make better planes – and bigger revenues

Turkish Airlines develops AI chatbot

The airline has also developed an AI chatbot where you can check-in for flights and get your boarding pass. It is working with Facebook Messenger but has also developed its own chatbot platform, which provides seating information.

In an interview with IoB, Gurbuz said: “We have a chatbot working on a local messaging app: ‘bip’. The first version is our minimum viable product (MVP) and that can do the whole check-in process.

“Passengers can retrieve their PNR (passenger name record) number, see available seats, select their seats and get their boarding passes by talking with the bot. We are working on a chatbot service which will have most of our online services and some innovative services.”

With the firm also exploring the use of Big Data technologies and more personalized push notifications to mobile devices, he said that Turkish Airlines is aiming to offer more real-time data on flights, a more relaxed journey through the airport, and more comfortable lounge experiences.

“This is the digital customer experience, and this is what we’re trying to do with new and emerging technologies,” he added.

Related: 10 stellar real-life examples of IoT taking flight in aviation