Image via KLM

APEX Insight: Hate packing for a trip? You’re hardly alone. KLM is looking to change that, however, with some help from Blue Bot.

Blue Bot (BB), KLM’s service bot, is now integrated into Google Home and is powered by artificial intelligence, with the aim of helping travelers choose what to pack for their next trip. BB entered service in September 2017 as part of KLM’s move into Facebook Messenger and is now expanding into the voice-driven world of home automation.

The system makes specific packing recommendations based on the intended destination. It can check the weather forecast to suggest a traveler bring along a rain coat or sunglasses, for example. It can also understand common leisure activities to recommend appropriate gear such as hiking boots or swim trunks. It can even help in determining whether a visa is required for a trip.

“KLM’s new service on Google Home with BB is the next step in its innovative digital strategy.” – Pieter Groeneveld, Air France-KLM

“KLM’s new service on Google Home with BB is the next step in its innovative digital strategy and the first step on voice, offering personalized service through Google Home with the help of artificial intelligence,” said Pieter Groeneveld, senior vice president, Digital, Air France-KLM. “KLM’s interactive pack assistant shows the added value offered by KLM throughout the entire customer journey.”

As an airline heavily invested in the online world, KLM must continue to innovate and automate to increase the number of passengers it can service. Still, the areas in which Blue Bot works remain finite today, largely based on limitations in existing language processing systems. Speaking at the 2017 Aviation Festival in London earlier this year KLM Social Media Hub Manager Carolijn Hauwert suggested that there are limitations on what the bots can handle, “We do not believe that bots are everything. They do not show warmth. They do not understand sarcasm.”

Still, the depth and breadth of these systems’ utility continues to grow. During flight interruptions, the airline sees a request for PNR as the initial reply to roughly half its social media inquiries. That’s the sort of functionality BB can expand in to, even potentially searching for the next available seat to the same destination and offering that as a replacement. Many passengers will require personalized service but tools like BB increase the total request volume handled without significant staffing growth.

KLM understands that the AI systems are relatively limited today but the company is investing early and growing with the technology. By establishing services early it hopes to increase customer engagement while growing its knowledge of the emerging industry. Plus, AI systems require training. Teaching Blue Bot about the airline industry in small increments and using the same AI platform across multiple touch points can improve the overall functionality better than accelerated investment later.