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Thursday, 08 March 2018 10:28

Digital officer backs up the human side of Auckland airport biosecurity Featured

Auckland Airport's digital biosecurity officer, VAI Auckland Airport's digital biosecurity officer, VAI

Auckland’s International Airport is claiming world-first mover rights with the deployment of a digital biosecurity officer.

The airport has deployed Vai – a Virtual Assistant Interface – which started work last week and is claimed as the first ever Digital Employee to be deployed at an airport.

New Zealand’s the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) is trialling Vai in the airport’s biosecurity arrivals area to see whether she will become a permanent asset in the team. Vai can see, hear and answer arriving international visitors’ questions.

“The idea is for her to take some of the load off MPI officers during peak times by answering simple biosecurity questions from the public,” says MPI’s detection technology manager, Brett Hickman.

Westpac’s Innovation Fund supported the development of Vai for MPI, while FaceMe, a New Zealand-based company specialising in AI, developed the technology.

Vai was built using FaceMe’s digital employee platform which offers companies customised Digital Employees, and with training, these ‘employees’ can offer personalised service using natural language.

FaceMe’s avatar technology uses biometrics to learn human interactions and will interact accordingly to ease the customer’s experience.
“Digital Employees also learn from every past interaction to sharpen and perfect their skills,” says FaceMe CEO and winner of the Sir Richard Branson Virgin Business challenge, Danny Tomsett.

“Vai is highly conversational and has been trained through every interaction, as well as data available on the website. She embodies the AI experience with human like qualities, including a friendly personality and emotional understanding.

“Nothing can replace real human interaction and relationships but Vai frees up our officers’ time so they can deal with the really important aspects of their role.”

According to FaceMe, which was recognised at the ‘Deloitte Fast 50’ NZ awards as one of the country’s fastest growing businesses, believes that the market for AI will grow beyond $47 billion per annum.

"Over the next ten years, human contact with organisations will be reduced to less than 15% of interactions. On the other hand, meeting consumers’ expectations is far more complex today than ever before; and there’s still huge strategic importance in customer experience and its impact on company culture, revenue growth and churn. It’s at the intersection of these two realities that there is a powerful opportunity to innovate,” Tomsett said.

“Digital Employees offer an empathetic, human-like interface which provides answers, handles requests, supplies information or simply connects clients to a key person across any and all channels, day or night. In short: the perfect employees and FaceMe can enable any organisation with a digital team to make this experience a reality.”

According to FaceMe it has brought this experience to life over mobile, browser, phone and kiosk; and has pilot customers across banking, Government and telecommunications.

The Westpac Innovation Fund was born out of the All of Government banking tender and is a $10 million initiative set up as a joint program between Westpac and the New Zealand Government.

Click here to watch VAI on Youtube


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).



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