We keep hearing about the impact that AI and automation are going to have on jobs in general, but most people assume that their job will be somewhat safe. Until they actually see the jobs being replaced, they will insist that the job requires human input, intuition, creativity, subjectivity etc. Even when the jobs begin moving to machines, they still insist that some humans will be needed.
I visited Australia this week for the AIYD conference.
Arriving – Immigration
For Australian citizens, if you have a newish passport with a chip, the immigration process is completely automated. You scan your passport and step in front of a camera. If they match, you are good to go. This system has been around for a few years now – passengers love the system as it is much faster than queuing up.
Leaving – Check-In
When I flew out on Qantas, the check-in and bag drop was completely automated. You walked up to a computer and scanned your passport (and visa if required). That bit has been around before for domestic flights but I hadn’t seen it for international, especially as many countries need the visa to be checked. What was new was the bag drop – you walked up to a mini, personal conveyor belt, put the bags on it yourself, added your tags while it checked the weight, and then dispatched the bags.
While the check-in and bag drop process was much faster than queuing up, it was definitely confusing for some passengers, so they had roaming customer service staff to help out. For passengers who were comfortable with the system, it was the fastest international check in that I’d seen at peak hour in a big airport (like 5 mins).
Leaving – Immigration
Going out through immigration appeared to be fully automated for everyone. You scanned your passport, stepped in front of a camera, and if the data all matched then you were done. There were some agents at counters (in case of problems) but it was the fastest immigration experience I’ve ever had at a busy airport.
For many passengers, the entire process of flying out of Australia was 100% automated. Other than a bit of stress around the bag drop and labeling (no one wants to lose their bag) I doubt many passengers would have complained. The experience was so much faster than what we are used to.
What is next?
With some automation, once it happens, it seems so obvious. When you come into a country, your passport is scanned, your recent photo is taken (and assessed whether you match the image in the passport). A computerised system should store visa details and dates. When leaving, a camera can easily match your photo to both the passport photo and the photo taken when you came into the country, and match everything to records of your passport and visa. All faster and with more accuracy than a human.