British Airways using drones to automate inventory counts
British Airways’ parent company, IAG is implementing some cutting edge automation solutions in response to the rapid pan-industry digitalisation of the air freight sector. Announced on Thursday, IAG Cargo will start using autonomous drones in a move towards full automation of inventory counts in its air cargo facilities, following a successful trial.
With a vision to fully automate inventory counts at its air cargo facilities, IAG Cargo has been working closely with FlytBase on aerial inventory scans at its Madrid facility.
Inventory counting, while critical to freight and logistics operations, is a massive train on man hours, consuming thousands of hours each year across IAG Cargo’s hubs in the UK, Spain, and Ireland. On top of this, rapid global growth in ecommerce and increasing customer expectations of immediacy when it comes to delivery mean that air freight operators are having to increase the frequency of counts.
Drones, according to IAG, can support this increase in inspection frequency. Flytbase reportedly is providing IAG Cargo with cost-effective hardware, intelligent automation software, and continuing advances in indoor autonomous navigation using machine vision and AI/ML techniques as part of its FlytWare solution, which provides autonomous aerial inventory scanning.
Nitin Gupta, CEO, FlytBase, explained: “Flytware’s trials at IAG Cargo have been successful in uncovering the significant opportunities and key challenges of deploying fully autonomous drones for inventory counts in warehouse rack storage. Not only can aerial inventory scans provide cost-effective and high frequency cycle counts, but they can also measurably impact productivity and support regulatory audits. The availability of live video feeds and location-wise image data, coupled with capabilities such as precision landing and WMS integration make FlytWare a highly compelling alternative to not only manual counts, but also RFID, AGVs and other methods that remain expensive and difficult to scale. Needless to say, we look forward to deploying FlytWare across IAG Cargo, a leading advocate for aerial inventory counts.”
ICO warns of privacy concerns on the use of LFR technology
“I am deeply concerned about the potential for live facial recognition (LFR) technology to be used inappropriately, excessively, or even recklessly. When sensitive personal data is collected on a mass scale without people’s knowledge, choice or control, the impacts could be significant,” said Elizabeth Denham, the UK’s Information Commissioner.
Denham explained that with any new technology, building public trust and confidence in the way people’s information is used is crucial so the benefits derived from the technology can be fully realised.
“It is not my role to endorse or ban a technology but, while this technology is developing and not widely deployed, we have an opportunity to ensure it does not expand without due regard for data protection,” Denham added.
The Information Commissioner’s Office has said it will work with organisations to ensure that the use of LFR is lawful, and that a fair balance is struck between their own purposes and the interests and rights of the public. They will also engage with Government, regulators and industry, as well as international colleagues to make sure data protection and innovation can continue to work hand in hand.
What is live facial recognition?
Facial recognition is the process by which a person can be identified or recognised from a digital facial image. Cameras are used to capture these images and FRT software measures and analyses facial features to produce a biometric template. This typically enables the user to identify, authenticate or verify, or categorise individuals.
Live facial recognition (LFR) is a type of FRT that allows this process to take place automatically and in real-time. LFR is typically deployed in a similar way to traditional CCTV in that it is directed towards everyone in a particular area rather than specific individuals. It can capture the biometric data of all individuals passing within range of the camera indiscriminately, as opposed to more targeted “one-to-one” data processing. This can involve the collection of biometric data on a mass scale and there is often a lack of awareness, choice or control for the individual in this process.
Why is biometric data particularly sensitive?
Biometrics are physical or behavioural human characteristics that can be used to digitally identify a person to grant access to systems, devices, or data. Biometric data extracted from a facial image can be used to uniquely identify an individual in a range of different contexts. It can also be used to estimate or infer other characteristics, such as their age, sex, gender, or ethnicity.
The security of the biometric authentication data is vitally important, even more than the security of passwords, since passwords can be easily changed if they are exposed. A fingerprint or retinal scan, however, is immutable.
The UK courts have concluded that “like fingerprints and DNA [a facial biometric template] is information of an “intrinsically private” character.” LFR can collect this data without any direct engagement with the individual. Given that LFR relies on the use of sensitive personal data, the public must have confidence that its use is lawful, fair, transparent, and meets the other standards set out in data protection legislation.