Greater data sharing could help travel firms recover better from the COVID-19 crisis and simulate future scenarios, according to a leading expert on Artificial Intelligence.
Dr Karen Panetta, and IEEE fellow and dean of graduate engineering at Tufts University in Boston, spoke to Travolution on our latest COVID lockdown webcast.
She said AI technology still faces a number of challenges as it evolves, which means it still requires human intervention to improve the accuracy of the results it delivers.
This remains the case in areas like health care where doctors are using technology to diagnose illnesses but still there will be very different interpretations case by case.
And she said one of the other main challenge remains access to data and the reluctance of competitive commercial organisations not share their data with rivals.
As travel firms recover from the COVID-19 crisis and with historic data that will be now out of date, more sharing could help all firms to re-emerge more successfully, said Panetta.
“If I’m a travel tourist business I have this unbelievable data I’ve collected over the past 20 years on what customers like, what they don’t like, their favourite types of things.
“I’m going to keep that as my proprietary knowledge because that’s going to help me pitch back to them and market to them. Am I going to share that with the industry?
“So, part of the problem is we’re collecting all this data but you’re going to see a lot of corporations and industries, using it for their own advantage and not sharing it.
“In the medical industry we are sharing data about health cases and things like that to advance the AI, but in tourism, or in the travel industry, are they going to do the same thing?
Dr Panetta said with firms effectively having to start over in the post-pandemic era the in-house historic data they have is not necessarily going to a reliable indicator of future trends.
She said travel firms will have to rely more on simulations of what might happen in future situations that are impossible to predict using traditional data analytics.
“I think people are going to be more tuned into playing out different scenarios that they wouldn’t have even thought about before,” she said.
Dr Panetta foresees AI playing an ever greater role in managing the travel tourism experience, particularly with respect to health and safety protocols and dispersing crowds.
She said airport, airlines, hotels, resorts, attractions and destinations can all use this to deploy robots or digital interfaces to communicate and direct people as well as assessing risk and safety.
But travel should not place too must trust AI and should use it to provide services alongside human beings whose roles will change as technology does some jobs that humans do not need to.
Dr Panetta said there will be more regulations and standardisation of metrics to assess how AI operates and is working to provide the right answers.
”The human element is always going to be more important. I always say that points of robots is to do the jobs that we don’t need humans to do.
“They might be fun to interact with when you are with your kids to entertain them while you’re waiting in line for something. Robots will not be replacing human hospitality.
“I don’t see robots replacing humans in that capacity. I see them doing jobs to help keep the experience contactless.
“I might be talking to you over the counter, but when I go to hand you your room that’s done by robot, so it’s not me physically having to exchange or expose you.
“Robots are going to help us put in that layer of contactless. I would strongly recommend not using robots to replace hospitality, unless you just want them to entertain.”
Dr Panetta contributed to a recent report by Finn Partners on the future of travel, looking at what may come through the lens of technology.