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Gatwick Airport launches Facebook Messenger chatbot

Gatwick Airport has launched a ‘Gatwick chatbot’ (referred to as Gail) on Facebook Messenger to provide passengers with easy access to flight information, flight specific notifications, and information on airport shops, restaurants and other facilities.

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As an international airport, Gatwick Airport is also planning to offer the service in different languages next year.

The AI-enabled chatbot provides easy access to information before and during a trip. For instance, passengers can simply type their destination, select their flight from a list and then receive real-time updates on the status of that flight.

Gatwick collaborated within the VINCI Airports network throughout the project and in particular with Lyon-Saint Exupéry airport in France, which launched its chatbot in October 2017. This collaboration helped benchmark what the chatbot could be used for, questions passengers might ask and the value of features such as ‘quick response’. Additional learnings so far include:

Quality of conversations – currently, the Gatwick chatbot understands and answers about 80% of the questions it receives and within a year the chatbots of both Lyon-Saint Exupéry and Gatwick are expected to reach a new level of understanding, reaching around 95% by actively learning from interactions with users.

Customer experience – the Gatwick chatbot takes the experience further by integrating restaurants so that passengers looking for somewhere to eat before their flight can use the chatbot to help them find a suitable restaurant. For example – by asking “Which restaurants have vegetarian options?” users will be presented with a list of options. Other chatbots in VINCI Airports’ network are likely to benefit from learnings based on this this feature.

Multi-channel access – while both the Gatwick and Lyon-Saint Exupéry’s chatbots are available on Facebook Messenger, the Gatwick chatbot will be tested on platforms such as WhatsApp and Apple Business Messenger, while Lyon has focused on web and mobile channels – an approach that will develop further knowledge and best-practice sharing.

Abhi Chacko, Head of Innovation at Gatwick, said:

Our passengers are at the core of everything we do and the aim of this AI-enabled chatbot is to make it easy for them to get airport and flight related information. We have only just rolled this service out on Facebook Messenger but we expect that it will become popular and the chatbot will learn rapidly using artificial intelligence as an increasing number of our passengers use it.

“More globally, experience across VINCI Airports’ network of 46 airports in 12 countries demonstrates that well-designed chatbots successfully engage passengers and can satisfy many of their needs. We believe there is significant potential for chatbots to facilitate, personalise and enrich each passenger’s end-to-end experience across multiple touchpoints.”

Gatwick

Gatwick launches schools programme to engage pupils with engineering

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Picture caption (left to right): Douglas McCartney, one of the winners of the ‘If you were an Engineer, what would you do’ competition with a prototype of his invention, a Flat Pack Wind Turbine, Maisie Crook, with the Bicycle Sucker prototype to suck water up from a well using the mechanics of the bike as power, Savannagh, who designed a self-adjusting sink to automatically rise or lower dependent on the users height, and Krystyna Marshall, with her prototype Spinal Muscular Atrophy jacket enabling greater mobility and physical support.

The programme will involve 15 primary schools and five local secondary schools near to Gatwick and – as part of their continued professional development – the teachers will be offered opportunities to learn new techniques that bring engineering-related projects to life in the classroom and in the school curriculum.

Engineers from Gatwick will also visit the schools and arrange airport tours to build interest and connections between local young people and engineers in the field. 

To deliver the programme, Gatwick is partnering with Primary Engineer and Secondary Engineer – a not for profit educational organisation that aims to improve primary and secondary school pupils’ skills, awareness of engineering and potential career pathways through teacher training, whole class projects and provides a mechanism for close collaboration with pupils, educators, industry and parents.

Gatwick’s Head Engineer, Antony Yates, said:

Inspiring the next generation of engineers is vital for Gatwick Airport and thousands of other businesses up and down the country. 

“Our aim is to make engineering interesting to all, irrespective of gender or socio-economic background. Ultimately we want to make sure that we have a pipeline of young local engineering talent that can come and keep the airport, our partners and our supply chains running in the years ahead”

The UK Government says that over 200,000 new engineers are required per year to meet the demands of modern society.

To launch the programme – and inspire young people – Gatwick has joined with Facebook and Network Rail as national partners in the ‘If you were an Engineer, what would you do’ competition.  Primary Engineer runs the competition which encourages pupils to design engineering solutions to problems they have identified.

Over 49,000 children from across the UK entered the competition in 2018/19 – 50% of them female. A giant advertising hoarding called “The Wall of Fame” will showcase designs from around the UK which have been brought to life by engineers at supporting universities.

The exhibition will be on display in the South Terminal for three weeks from 13th August enabling Gatwick’s 125,000 plus daily visitors to vote for their favourite creation.

On display will be two winners from the South East including Maisie, from Rowan Preparatory School, Claygate, Surrey, who designed The Bicycle Sucker to suck water up from a well in water-deprived areas using the mechanics of the bike as power.  Isabelle from Wonersh and Shamley Green C of E Primary School in Guildford will also show her design for a The Super Hearing Set, a hearing device which allows the user to hear certain sources of sound.

Other prototypes that will be at the airport include a Flat pack wind Turbine’ to be used in refugee camps and disaster situations.  The Turbine was designed by Doulas from Edinburgh when he was 15 years old.  A prototype of a Jacket to support sufferers of Spinal Muscular Atrophy enabling greater mobility and physical support will also be on display. Krystyna from Burnely was 14 when she designed the jacket.

Dr. Susan Scurlock, MBE, founder of Primary Engineer said:

This exhibition at one of the most important travel hubs in the UK is testament to the commitment of our partner organisations who rely on a variety of engineering professionals to keep ahead of the game. Each year I am astounded by the designs by pupils, some as young as three as they realise that they can be part of a career that can literally shape the future of the world.”

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