APEX in Profile: Mark Roboff

Image: Mark Roboff

Mark Roboff
Vice-President, Aerospace and Automotive
SparkCognition

Mark helps companies leverage AI to transform their businesses – from enabling a deeper and more personalized customer experience to equipping leaders with the tools needed to take charge in an interconnected world. He brings over 15 years of experience in software solutions and is pleased to be working in aviation – a lifelong passion for him.

Location: SNA
Now watching: Silicon Valley
Favorite airport: HND
Brand of suitcase: Briggs & Riley
Seatback or PED? Both

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Focus on the problem you’re solving rather than the technology being used to solve it.” This can be a particularly hard axiom to learn, especially for those, like me, who come from a technology background. Yet, I’ve found it to be true again and again. It’s extraordinarily important when discussing artificial intelligence (AI): There is so much hype around the technology that it can be painfully difficult to understand what’s true. So many firms are selling what AI is, how it works, what they are doing with the technology and what problems they are trying to solve with it. I focus on what AI has done in the industry and what it can do for my customers.

What travel and/or tech trends do you have your eye on right now?
For airlines that are removing seatback screens, I’m looking at how that will affect their crew’s ability to manage the passenger experience, and how an AI-driven digital experience delivered by the airline to personal devices can help regain that control. I’m also focused on the rollout of high-bandwidth Wi-Fi and how it can be used in other ways on aircraft – including for harm-seeking applications like viruses and malware, and how AI can be used to neutralize those threats.

“There is so much hype around AI that it can be painfully difficult to understand what’s true. I focus on what AI has done in the industry and what it can do for my customers.”

How can the airline industry become more efficient?
Airlines have figured out how to use analytics to match capacity to demand and to hone the art of price prediction, but they can optimize the technology even further. I’ve worked with several airlines in East Asia to reduce their maintenance turnaround time by putting AI and analytics to work on their maintenance logs, and now I’m hoping to bring this capability to airlines across the globe.

Why did your company decide to join APEX?
The passenger experience is at the precipice for a dramatic transformation, and AI will be at the center of this. It will create new winners and losers in the industry while ultimately giving the most power to those that can best leverage data. We see APEX as an outstanding forum for this discussion.

How can AI enhance retail touchpoints for airlines?
AI is playing an outsized role in consolidating traveler data and providing a unified traveler experience – throughout the passenger journey, in the cockpit and on autonomous aircraft. In the meantime, we’re focused on how AI can disrupt commercial aviation from the ground up (literally!). We are working on an array of solutions focused on the optimization of aircraft maintenance, ground operations, scheduling, even spare-part and fleet utilization – all achievable with what an airline already has in its IT systems and back office. The demos and simulations of an AI-driven aircraft are eye-catching, but AI applied to the nitty-gritty is where we’ll see the most pronounced transformation in the shortest amount of time.

“APEX in Profile: Mark Roboff” was originally published in the 8.3 June/July issue of APEX Experience magazine.