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Could Computer Vision be the Solution to the International Luggage Issue?

Could Computer Vision be the Solution to the International Luggage Issue?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The explosion in world travel after the easing of lockdowns and travel restrictions has seen airports struggle to cope. One of the main affected areas is making sure that passengers’ luggage reaches the same destination as the passenger!

This is far from ideal. Not just for the passenger who is left without their belongings but also for the airports and airlines who face compensation charges and the logistics costs of making sure the luggage is reunited with its owner.

One potential solution is the use of AI-powered computer vision to help streamline the process. Computer Vision is a maturing technology that is already used in a huge number of fields.

But one of the most exciting aspects of computer vision technology is its untapped potential. This article discusses whether one of these largely untapped areas is helping to deal with the international luggage problem.

Just how big is the international luggage problem

The best word to describe it is ‘huge’. Airports across the globe are all struggling to cope with increased demand amid staffing problems and airline claims of managerial incompetence. In turn, airports are also pointing the finger of blame at the airlines.

What is clear is that something has to be done as the figures make bleak reading. In this article  The Guardian newspaper highlights the scale of the problem. Some of the key takeaways are listed below:

  • US Airlines lost six bags out of every 1000 during April 2022, a rise of 67% over the same month in 2021
  • Globally, the figure is worse, with 8.7 bags in every thousand not arriving in time or being lost completely
  • Insurance claims for stranded luggage have jumped 30% when compared to 2019
  • Some airports are reporting a tenfold rise in the number of bags arriving on the wrong flights

It is in no one’s interest that this situation continues, and the involved parties need to take radical action. Computer Vision could be the solution that finally addresses the international luggage issue.

Be Sure To Also Read ->Computer Vision Technology Stack Overview

What is computer vision, and how can it help?

A simple definition is: Computer Vision has the visual and analytical capabilities of humans in understanding the content of images but at computer speeds.

Just like when humans look at an image, computer vision can analyze any image and understand its context and what constitutes the relevant parts contained within. This ability has seen it being widely utilized in an ever-growing and widespread number of fields.

Areas such as content moderation, anti-phishing protection, counterfeit detection, and brand protection are already using the technology with huge success. Airports and airlines could be the next sector to benefit from AI-powered computer vision.

Baggage on airport carousel - Solution to the International Luggage Issue

How can computer vision be used to help the international luggage problem?

Computer vision AI models can be “trained” to perform instant analysis of any given situation where “vision” is involved. This includes the identification and the correct allocation of passenger luggage. Because of computer vision’s ability to analyze millions of images or live video streams in real-time, it doesn’t matter how busy airports are. Computer vision technology can easily cope.

This ability to perform “human-type” analysis at computer speeds means computer vision can enhance the accuracy of baggage distribution at many key bottlenecks and problem areas.

Here are just a few examples of where computer vision can help airports and airlines better manage the luggage of their passengers.

  • Object Recognition – Object recognition could be used to identify bags and their tags. This could lead to accurate “cargo inventories” that can flag in real time whether expected luggage hasn’t been loaded on a plane. Similarly, alerts can be activated if the luggage is attempted to be loaded on the wrong plane.
  • Ease queues and waiting – Airports are struggling to get staffing levels up to pre-covid levels. This has resulted in long queues at check-ins and under pressure staff making mistakes that can lead to luggage being misdirected. 

Computer vision can be used to streamline the check-in process and speed up the time taken to process luggage. This will result in less pressure on staff and fewer mistakes.

  • End-to-end Tracking – The end-to-end tracking of baggage is a mandated requirement under International Air Transport Association (IATA) legislation. 

Computer Vision can simplify this process by monitoring the loading and unloading of baggage during take-offs and landings. Effectively, computer vision can help airlines and airports comply with regulations while enhancing the security and safety of passengers.

  • Easy and effective tracing – Even with every safeguard and system in place, there is no such thing as a foolproof scheme, mistakes will happen. While computer vision can greatly reduce errors, mistakes will occasionally occur. 

Computer vision systems can be implemented to quickly identify such errors and ensure that passengers are reunited with their luggage swiftly.

  • Increased resource efficiency – Like all organizations, airports perform a balancing act of utilizing limited resources with maximum efficiency. 

Computer vision is a perfect tool that can be quickly trained to help increase the efficiency of resource usage. In terms of baggage handling, one area where computer vision can help here is the monitoring and distribution of baggage carts. Not only can this help to minimize the downtime of these crucial vehicles, but it can also enhance safety by continually identifying vehicles and logging their position. This can greatly reduce the chances of collisions or accidents.

  • Simplify passenger processing – Currently, when presenting boarding passes (whether in print or stored on devices, passengers must place the QR Code or other variable data element precisely on the scanner. We’ve been behind the person, or we’ve been the person, who has struggled to get their code read, which delays other passengers and makes queues longer. Computer Vision can simplify the process because the passenger can simply present their boarding pass to the camera, with computer vision quickly identifying and decoding the QR Code with no special requirements on the passenger or check-in staff.

You have reached your destination and so has your luggage

There is no doubt that computer vision can improve our lives in ways we haven’t yet begun to imagine. Airports and airlines and how they cope with dealing with huge amounts of luggage is a prime example of where this technology is available but is still underutilized.

The technology driving computer vision has come in leaps and bounds in recent years. With airports and airlines struggling to cope with increased demands, the opportunity is there to implement a permanent solution that can improve the customer experience and ease the burden on overworked and stressed staff.

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