From left to right: Peter Kollar, Aviget; Gary Townsend, Black Swan Data; Blane Rockafellow, SmartSky Networks and Marisa Garcia, Freelance Journalist and Moderator. Image: Maxim Sergienko

APEX Insight: The subject of sharing data with third parties is controversial, but companies like SmartSky Networks and Black Swan Data agree that it can be a great way to drive revenue if it’s done securely.

Artificial intelligence has many possible applications across the airline industry, as proven by a session called “Big Data, AI, Machine Learning and Automation – the new engines for travel innovation,” part of the Passenger Technology Solutions conference at AIX.

While Peter Kollar, CEO and founder of Aviget, referred to AI’s potential to “mimic human behavior and interactions,” chief innovation officer at Black Swan, Gary Townsend, explained the area his company works in: narrow AI. “That’s when we start to expand and scale our capabilities in processing large amounts of data, especially in the social world.,” he said. “We’re starting to understand consumer behavior and are using all the conversations to make better products and experiences.”

Crucially, Townsend believes these better products and experiences shouldn’t just be limited to the aircraft cabin. Despite moderator and APEX contributor Marisa Garcia mentioning the recent scrutiny regarding how Facebook uses personal data and the care that needs to be taken so passengers don’t “feel like they are the product,” panelists agreed that sharing data is a great way to drive revenue – if it’s done securely.

“We don’t look at the individual but rather the persona that will be able to be targeted.” – Gary Townsend, Black Swan Data

“We try as much as possible to work in aggregate. We really shy away from PII [personally identifiable information] data, so we don’t look at the individual but rather the persona that will be able to be targeted,” Townsend explained.

Blane Rockafellow, VP Product Development, SmartSky Networks, spoke of the potential benefits of data sharing, adding, “Doing things by yourself isn’t how innovation happens. Look at apps. Once you had SDKs [software development kits] and frameworks and suddenly – Boom! There are companies like Uber,” Rockafellow concluded.