Smartphones and Airports

Smartphones and Airports

With 98% of all airline passengers carrying a mobile phone when they travel, the demand for a more streamlined airport experience as a result of smartphone technology is always on the rise. Airports are just as eager to push you through the security process as quickly and efficiently as possible, and the amount of time your smartphone can save you is incredible.

It is no secret that you can check in to your flight through airline smartphone applications or from your personal computer a few days before your flight. Some airlines, such as Ryanair, require you to do this to avoid a large additional fee. It is easy to understand why, as by automating the service, less staff are required on the check-in counter, and so the airline saves money on labour fees. Other airlines, such as Lufthansa, provide you with either option, but seasoned travellers will know that they can save considerable amounts of time by skipping the check-in line. By downloading the airline app to your smartphone, you will also most likely be able to download your boarding pass as an electronic document to your smartphone, reducing paper waste and reducing the amount of vital things you can potentially lose as you navigate the airport.

What this means, is that if you just have a small piece of hand luggage, after arriving at the airport, you can skip check-in and luggage drop and head directly to security. If you do have luggage to check in, this is also often automated. Self-serve stations allow you to print out your own luggage tags and drop off points automatically weigh your luggage as while you make an electronic declaration that your luggage is safe. The need for human staff in airports is quickly diminishing as technology becomes smarter.

Airline applications are always developing and, alongside checking into your flights, you can often upgrade your flight class, choose your seats, track your flights for delays, hire cars, check out hotel deals at your destination, and even reserve parking spots at the airport, depending on which app and airline you are using. More universal applications are also available such as Tripit, which combs your emails for booking confirmations and puts all of your flight information, tickets and passes into one place, and GateGuru which provides you with airport maps, arrival and departure times, restaurants at the airport and waiting times in security lines. Google has a similar application built into many smartphones which also provides travel times to and from the airports, traffic updates, and weather reports, all in the palm of your hand.

Another way in which smartphones are speeding up the journey to the other side of security is often active, but a little more hidden than through intelligent applications. Airports are often tracking the locations of smartphones to find out how many people are in queues at security to provide estimations on how long you will be waiting to pass the checkpoint. This provides vital data online and in the terminal to passengers so they know how much time they need to comfortably make their flight on time. This technology is also used in immigration halls so that passengers know how long it will take to cross the border, and airports know where to dispatch more staff to when the demand for more help is high.

Other airports use this technology to track how long people spend in parking lots, walking routes, entrances and exits and provides airports with early warnings about congestion points and can really improve the flow of passengers through the terminal. Smartphone tracking works as each mobile device emits a MAC address which is not linked to any individual user data, meaning no personal information is revealed and aligns the process of smartphone tracking with EU data privacy laws.

Aside from intelligent applications, airport navigation, passenger streamlining, check-in and electronic passes, smartphones can also provide an endless world of entertainment as you wait for your plane in the departure hall. Smartphones are brilliant tools to increase your comfort and to reduce the time you spend at the airport, meaning you have a few more minutes of precious vacation and less time waiting for your flight.

Spotify Algorithms

Spotify Algorithms

Spotify is a music platform with over 150 million subscribing users. Once a week, users receive two playlists in the discover section of the music browsing function, one of which informs people about newly released music from artists that they listen to, including a few new recommendations based on an algorithm, and the other suggesting new music that the user may like based upon what they frequently grace their ears with.

The results are surprisingly accurate, with many users shocked at how well their music platform understands their listening needs. While this may seem like voodoo, the results are achieved using digital algorithms which are constantly being refined to be as accurate as possible. With so many music streaming platforms available, all of which have access to most of the music out there, Spotify has had to do something to stay ahead of the competition and to set them apart from the rest. This is why this algorithm is so important for retaining their paying customers.

The program was initiated in June 2015 and grew quickly in popularity, so much so that when there was a glitch in the server which delayed the release of the weekly playlist in September 2015, many users expressed their dissatisfaction on social media. The brains behind the algorithm boast that it is also beneficial to the musicians putting their media onto the database, claiming that they have the technology to find the twenty users who would enjoy the most diverse of compositions out of the millions of users who rely on the music service.

The ingredients in this digital concoction begin to make sense, the more you dive into the subject matter. Spotify begins by pooling data from other user's playlists. Those users who have some sort of a crossover with your own music taste are likely to enjoy similar pieces of music, and by pooling large amounts of data together, this can be refined down with unfathomable accuracy. Playlists from all levels are entered into the algorithm, from celebrity users to the playlists of your hairdresser down the road. Naturally, more popular playlists have more importance in the algorithm. To put it simply, if you share two songs with another playlist, but a third song is on the other playlist which you haven't heard, Spotify will recommend the third song. The reality is more complex than this, but it should give you an idea of how your music platform understands you so well.

To make it even more accurate, Spotify creates a digital profile of your individual music taste, refined into not just sub-genres but micro-genres, the names of which you may well have not heard of. Using this and adding the element of shared interests with other users, Spotify uses the open-source software Kafka to bring both elements together, combining this with collaborative filtering, and produce a list of songs that you may like and that you haven't listened to yet.

This opens up the potential for artists and labels to bribe Spotify so that their songs appear on the frequently played discover playlists. A spokesperson for Spotify claims that, despite having many requests, this is not the case, although sometimes it seems that songs can pop up in multiple playlists all at the same time.

Of course the picks aren't perfect, and often while a user might really enjoy one or two songs and like a few more, there will be a few on each discover weekly playlist that the user will not enjoy. The fine tune your weekly playlists, you can make extra effort to add songs that you do like to playlists in your own library. You should also skip the songs you don't like, as if songs are skipped in the first thirty seconds, the algorithm counts this as a rejection and will include this data for the next playlist. Exploring outside of the mainstream music and going down the rabbit hole is also noticed by the algorithm, and the more you explore micro-genres, the more this will influence what comes up on your playlist. The result is that the music platform will be providing more accurate music for you to listen to every week, and you will be supporting the smaller independent artists who rely on music streaming to provide an income. Spotify transformed music listening forever when it launched in 2008. Discover, manage and share over 70 million tracks, including more than 2.6 million podcast titles, for free, or upgrade to Spotify Premium to access exclusive features for music including improved sound quality and an on-demand, offline, and ad-free listening experience. Today, Spotify is the world's most popular audio streaming subscription service with 356m users, including 158m subscribers, across 178 markets.

Smart Homes

Smart Homes

You’ve heard of smart phones which, with their growing power and technology, allow us to to open a universe beyond calling and messaging. You’ve probably also heard of smart televisions, which can connect to the internet and even messaging services, alongside catering to your daily television needs. The first big shock was maybe the smart watch which, while telling the time, can also tell you the weather forecast and to send simple messages. Now there’s something new; the smart home.

Smart homes harness the power of handsfree technology to assist the user with day to day tasks. Rooms can be fitted with microphones which receive verbal instructions which are then digitally perceived and carried out. Instructions can be something simple such as lights on or dim lights, or they can be more complex such as requesting a particular song to be played on a speaker setup which is wired to the system. Instructions can be room specific, or apply to the whole house, for example, when playing a song, you can ask for it to be played in just one room, or throughout every room that the smart home technology is set up in.

The main functions include controlling media, moderating the temperature, adjusting the lights, and also security. These components create the basis on which the smart home is built, however there are new advances within these systems being developed. One example is the smart plug, which can be programmed to turn on and off, for example, after your phone is finished charging, and also to make it look like you’re still home while you’re travelling. There are also smart smoke and carbon dioxide detectors that can be programmed to detect a hazard, to alert the inhabitants of the home of the hazard and in which room it is in, and to turn on the lights in case of an emergency. The level of detail can potentially give you life saving information if a fire were to strike your home.

This technology not only makes day to day life considerably easier, but also can be a substantial help to those with disabilities who find simple movements difficult or tiring. While this is all very impressive, there are obviously a few concerns over the new technology. Firstly, when technology does half the work for you, owners of smart homes could potentially become lazy and reliant on the system. There is also the issue of security as, in this day and age, it is always a case of when the systems will be compromised and not if. While listening to your conversations through the microphone is terrifying enough, if you rely on digital technology to let you in and out of the house, naturally you want to be certain that nobody else can compromise the security of the system and to access your personal property. While we may be excited by all the new gadgetry and unique systems, we should focus more on how to keep it secure from digital threats as we develop it into the future.

There is huge potential to develop this further in the future. If your smart home can anticipate your arrival, it can potentially idealise the atmosphere by amending the lights and thermostat before you’ve opened the door. As more people are ordering their groceries on the internet, perhaps your refrigerator can detect what is missing and automatically order what you need. When developers factor in the data that we share with digital devices, even something as small as a location marker on a smartphone, they can develop technology that automates everything around our needs. Artificial intelligence is already being introduced to our daily lives, and, as it becomes more efficient, less manual labour will be needed in every aspect of our lives. Imagine coming home to an opening door which has detected your arrival, to a house that has been set with music, lights, and temperature to your favourite settings, to have a meal automatically cooked for you as you sit down to watch your favourite television show without lifting a finger. While it’s not quite a reality yet, the smart home is the beginning of this movement, and has the potential to change the world as we know it.

Replacing jobs with AI technology

Replacing jobs with AI technology

Times they are a-changin’, and with developments in AI technology happening every day, it’s just a matter of time before our jobs are taken over by robots who are cheaper to run than the cost of manual labour. Right?

Well, it is safe to say that a large number of jobs will be able to be automated by these advancements. If employers can save money on labour costs, why would they not? But there will (probably) always be jobs that require a human input. If anything, while some jobs will be replaced, most will just be altered to work alongside the algorithms and machinery that will take out a lot of the manpower and allow companies to focus on developing their products and work while the robots do all the hard work.

Any work that is repetitive and data heavy will be the first to be replaced. Telemarketing and data input are likely to be heavily AI operational in the coming years, however this doesn’t mean that telemarketers and data inputters will lose their work. Telemarketing is a form of sales in which there will always be work, and so telemarketers will maybe have to make a sideways step to continue working in a similar field. Data inputters might have to readjust as data analysts, as we will still require people to interpret all of the data otherwise it is pointless to possess data in the first place. The repetitive part of the job will be replaced, and the human input will revolve around more strategic roles that require interpreting, analysing, and creativity, which is harder to automate.

The key to retaining your job is looking at how human touch can compliment the work. This is particularly obvious in creative roles, such as music and art. While there were attempts to create a fully automated song using algorithms to create melody and lyrics, the results were deracinating, alienating, and nothing like the music we hear on the radio today. Work that requires negotiation and persuasion (such as working as a lawyer), community building and empathy is difficult to automate as it requires so heavily on human input. Also, work creating AI technology is not yet automated, and if it becomes so, results could be potentially dire, so the human input is vital and the demand for AI development is very high.

Another point worth mentioning is that candidate sourcing and interview scheduling work is likely to be automated quickly. Human decision making is easily reduced to a computer algorithm, which means that when you are applying for work, you will not only have to think about how the employer will look at your resume, but also how a computer would read and interpret it and whether or not you are well represented from both perspectives.

From the bottom of the ladder, the thought of a robot taking your job is quite scary, but there are plenty of benefits to AI technology in the workplace from a larger perspective. Working with robots and algorithms reduces the human error margin substantially, and accuracy levels are likely to be much higher (particularly good for roles such as surgery). Demeaning and repetitive work can be automated so minds can be better stimulated working on challenging decisions and development that would otherwise not happen due to a heavy workload requirement. While initial startup costs are high, companies can potentially save thousands, even millions of dollars over time. Even by replacing simple tasks in your day to day life, such as cooking and cleaning, with automated systems, will save time and energy which can be focussed on living a happier, healthier lifestyle with less to worry about, or even on work and development.

While the world is changing and we are advancing quicker into the future than ever before, we will always require a need for human interaction, for empathy, sympathy and creativity which are qualities that we are yet to be able to teach to robots and computers. By being open to change and accepting it, we can work alongside the new technology to also advance our businesses and work faster than ever before, and to reach possibilities that ten years ago were absurd to even dream of.