By Air Canada President & CEO Calin Rovinescu
At Air Canada, we are exploring ways to bring Watson-like computer analytics to our flight scheduling and fuel reduction programs.
The daily challenge of running an airline often leaves you little time for your imagination to take flight. As Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” Recently I participated in an incredibly stimulating preview of life’s coming attractions with Air Canada senior managers and IT experts where we had a chance to explore innovative ideas.
Air Canada is no stranger to innovation. Throughout our 74-year-history we have participated in a number of industry firsts. Oxygen systems, De-icing methods. The use of black boxes. No smoking policies. Multi-function airport kiosks. Mobile check-in and electronic tickets with 2-D bar codes. Among North American legacy carriers, we were the first to offer personal video and lie-flat seats across the fleet, and to develop Blackberry and Apple apps, and we have been recognized as having the best airline website.
But while these accomplishments show Air Canada has great minds working on the industry’s cutting edge, sometimes the human brain needs a little help. This is why we are excited that we may soon be able to draw upon the power of Watson, the famed computer champion from the TV quiz show Jeopardy!. Through our collaboration with Watson’s designer, IBM, we are exploring ways to bring Watson-like computer analytics to our flight scheduling and fuel reduction programs.
Analytics helps find patterns and insight in vast amounts of data that have been pulled together from diverse sources. For Jeopardy!, Watson evaluated the equivalent of roughly 200 million pages of content; for us, it could aggregate years of such things as flight schedules, fare information, aircraft load factors, airport traffic and even weather records to optimize our schedule. By factoring these billions of bits of disparate data into our decision-making we could analyze past behaviour to provide customers more convenient options for future travel.
Another possible benefit could be reduced fuel use. Since 1990 our fuel efficiency has improved 30 percent and we are committed to reducing emissions 50 percent by 2050. Analytics should make achieving that ambitious target easier by helping take into account the complex relationship between all the factors affecting our operations to make even smarter decisions that maximize efficiency.
The possibilities for innovation are endless. Over time we hope to increase our use of analytics in all aspects of our business, collaborating with the best of human and digital minds to meld artificial intelligence with the experience and imagination of Air Canada’s 26,000 employees.