- Delta recently announced a number of innovative initiatives it is pursuing, including a digital simulation environment, a Parallel Reality platform, a robotic exoskeleton system, and a quantum computing partnership
Recently, Delta Air Lines announced some of the innovations that it is pursuing in the near- and long-term. These technologies include a digital simulation environment, a Parallel Reality platform, a robotic exoskeleton system, and a quantum computing partnership with IBM.
Digital Simulation Environment
Delta said it is applying AI-driven machine learning to decision science on a scale that has never been done before by an airline.
This proprietary environment uses Delta’s historical data to simulate operating challenges and provide likely outcomes to lessen customer impact. Plus the innovative architecture will make the platform better for Delta teams as more data is entered and outcomes are generated.
Delta Air Lines is going to be creating a full-scale digital simulation environment for its global operation to bring its reliability to the next level especially during bad weather and other challenging travel events.
“Our customers expect us to get them to their destinations safely and on time, in good weather and bad,” said Erik Snell, SVP – Operations & Customer Center at Delta Air Lines. “That’s why we’re adding a machine learning platform to our array of behind-the-scenes tools so that the more than 80,000 people of Delta can even more quickly and effectively solve problems even in the most challenging situations.”
Delta’s proprietary AI-driven platform analyzes millions of operational data points ranging from aircraft positions to flight crew restrictions to airport conditions to create hypothetical outcomes that help Delta’s professionals make critical decisions before, during, and after large-scale disruptions such as severe winter weather or a volcanic eruption. This is a post-mortem tool that can be used to identify how better decisions could have been deployed in a given situation.
Initial live implementation will be coming this spring. And the tool is expected to continually become more effective over time as more data is collected and integrated.
“We already work closely with other Delta teams to provide proactive notifications to customers when their plans may be disrupted,” added Snell. “As the Fly Delta app transforms into a day-of-travel digital concierge, we expect our quicker game-time decisions to play an even greater role in providing a more stress-free travel experience for our customers.”
Delta said it is launching PARALLEL REALITY technology to serve up airport messages tailored to individual travelers on a single screen at the same time. And this new opt-in technology allows multiple customers to see personalized content tailored to their journey on a single digital screen at the exact same time and in their preferred language.
In partnership with Misapplied Sciences, Delta Air Lines will launch the first-ever PARALLEL REALITY beta experience for customers departing Detroit Metropolitan Airport this year. The technology was announced from a keynote stage at CES and it is expected to make it easier to traverse the airport, reduce stress, and create engaging moments in unexpected places.
“This breakthrough technology has to be seen to be believed – it has the potential to make even the busiest airports much easier to navigate, even if you don’t speak the language,” explained Delta Chief Operating Officer Gil West. “Not only will Parallel Reality reduce stress and save time for our customers, but when combined with the warmth and thoughtfulness of our Delta people, the possibilities are endless.”
For the beta experience at the Metro Airport in Detroit, nearly 100 customers will be able to simultaneously view personalized content tailored to their individual travel on a single large-scale digital screen located just after security. And customer and employee feedback from this opt-in trial will be critical to shaping the future experience.
How will it work? After moving through security at the Detroit airport, travelers will see a Parallel Reality display near the Delta Sky Club (Concourse A, McNamara Terminal). And Delta customers departing from Detroit who want to participate can scan their boarding pass on the boarding pass scanner and select the language the preferred language.
For the trial, tailored messages may include personalized wayfinding, flight information or updates, the boarding time, the nearest Delta Sky Club, and upgrade/standby status.
“We are looking forward to bringing this to life with Delta. The team there quickly saw the value the Parallel Reality experience would bring to its customers and had the vision, brand, and resources to help bring it to market,” stated Misapplied Sciences CEO Albert Ng. “While we will start with Delta customers in Detroit, eventually Parallel Reality technology can be used to create seamless, engaging and personalized experiences in nearly any out-of-home venue–ranging from stadiums to theme parks to convention centers and more.”
The Parallel Reality technology initially caught the eye of innovation experts at The Hangar — which is Delta’s innovation center. From there, Delta teams across the company have worked hand in hand with Misapplied Sciences to develop and hone the beta experience launching in mid-2020. Last year, Delta also made an equity investment in Misapplied Sciences.
Delta Air Lines also recently revealed it is partnering with Sarcos Robotics to explore new employee technology designed like a superhero’s outfit. It is a mobile and dexterous exoskeleton designed to boost employees’ physical capabilities and bolster their safety.
Sarcos is the world’s leader in exoskeleton development, which has developed the Sarcos Guardian XO. The Sarcos Guardian XO is a battery-powered full-body exoskeleton designed to boost human performance and endurance while helping to prevent injury. The robotic suit is designed for employees to wear and it does the heavy lifting. It bears the weight of the suit payload and enables an employee to lift up to 200 pounds repeatedly for up to eight hours at a time without strain or fatigue.
“We owe it to the best airline employees on the planet to explore how emerging technology can make their jobs safer and easier,” commented Gareth Joyce, Senior Vice President Airport Customer Services and Cargo at Delta. “That’s why we sought out a partnership with Sarcos.”
Delta is the first company whose frontline employees worked directly with Sarcos to determine potential operational uses for the Guardian XO. And in November, Delta team members representing Airport Customer Service and Cargo visited the Sarcos headquarters to see it in action and explore how wearable robotics could potentially benefit them in their everyday work.
The Guardian XO is designed for use in industries where lifting and manipulation of heavy materials or awkward objects is required and is not easily handled by standard lift equipment. The potential uses at Delta could include handling freight at Delta Cargo warehouses, moving maintenance components at Delta TechOps or lifting heavy machinery and parts for ground support equipment.
Along with enabling superhuman strength for extended periods, the robotic suit may also level the playing field in terms of physical capacity. And the roles that have historically been limited to those who meet specific strength requirements could potentially be performed by a more diverse talent pool with the help of wearable robotics.
“We look for companies who are clear leaders in tech adoption and have a history of innovating to meet the needs of their customers and their employees. Delta is the natural fit in the airline industry and has proven to be a great partner as we work to fine-tune this technology for commercial deployment,” noted Sarcos CEO Ben Wolff.
Delta is planning to test out the technology at a pilot location during the first quarter of 2020.
IBM and Delta Air Lines also announced that the global airline is embarking on a multi-year collaborative effort with IBM, including joining the IBM Q Network to explore the potential capabilities of quantum computing to drive new experiences for customers and employees.
“Partnering with innovative companies like IBM is one way Delta stays on the leading edge of tech to better serve our customers and our people, while drawing the blueprints for application across our industry,” noted Delta Air Lines chief information officer Rahul Samant. “We’ve done this most recently with biometrics in our international terminals and we’re excited to explore how quantum computing can be applied to address challenges across the day of travel.”
IBM’s Q Network is a 100-plus global community of Fortune 500 companies, startups, academic institutions, and research labs working together to advance quantum computing and explore practical applications.
“We are very excited by the addition of Delta to our list of collaborators working with us on building practical quantum computing applications,” said Dario Gil, Director of IBM Research. “IBM’s focus, since we put the very first quantum computer on the cloud in 2016, has been to move quantum computing beyond isolated lab experiments conducted by a handful of organizations, into the hands of tens of thousands of users. We believe a clear advantage will be awarded to early adopters in the era of quantum computing and with partners like Delta, we’re already making significant progress on that mission.”
Through the IBM Q Hub at NC State University, Delta will have access to the IBM Q Network’s world’s largest fleet of universal hardware quantum computers for commercial use cases and fundamental research, including the recently-announced 53-qubit quantum computer — which has the most qubits of a universal quantum computer available for external access in the industry to date.
“Delta joins more than 100 clients already experimenting with commercial quantum computing solutions alongside classical computers from IBM to tackle problems like risk analytics and options pricing, advanced battery materials and structures, manufacturing optimization, chemical research, logistics and more,” said Jamie Thomas, General Manager, Strategy and Development for IBM Systems. “As the first airline to join the IBM Q network, I’m looking forward to exploring how we can work together to solve real business challenges in a new industry alongside our Hub members at NC State.”
“NC State is proud to partner with Delta to accelerate real-world applications as part of our IBM Q Hub,” acknowledged IBM Q Hub at NC State Executive Director Dr. Daniel Stancil. “Our quantum-trained students and researchers are excited to work alongside IBM and Delta to identify opportunities for development and implementation.”
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