Sats to boost operations with smart glasses

A Sats ramp handling worker using smart glasses to scan QR codes on cargo containers. The glasses will provide staff with information such as weight and loading sequence.
A Sats ramp handling worker using smart glasses to scan QR codes on cargo containers. The glasses will provide staff with information such as weight and loading sequence.PHOTO: SATS

Augmented reality will help cut baggage and cargo loading times

Ground-handling firm Sats aims to cut loading time for baggage and cargo from an hour to about 45 minutes with the use of smart glasses.

The improvement will cut waiting times for passengers and shorten the transit period for airfreight shippers, Sats said yesterday.

The glasses employ augmented reality, which allows users to look at real-life objects through a screen and see superimposed computer-generated information such as text and graphics.

Ramp handling staff will be able to look at QR codes on baggage and cargo containers and instantly see details, such as their weight and loading sequence, pop up on small screens. This will replace the paper-based loading reports now being used for ramp handling operations, said Sats president and chief executive Alex Hungate at a briefing yesterday.

Cameras installed in the glasses will also allow staff in a control centre to monitor ramp handling operations in real time. This will allow better supervision of cargo.

Sats is undertaking the smart-glasses initiative with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore. About 600 Sats ramp handling staff are undergoing training to use the glasses.

The company is also using virtual-reality technology for training purposes. It can simulate on-ground scenarios and allow staff more flexibility to train without disrupting their work schedules.

The smart-glasses technology is already being employed for training purposes on selected flights, and is expected to be implemented across all Sats operations in Singapore within the next six to nine months. "Once tried, tested and proven, Sats will be rolling out this (augmented-reality) technology across its subsidiaries, associates and joint ventures in the region," said a spokesman.

Sats provides services, which include airfreight handling, at 47 airports in 14 countries across Asia and the Middle East.

With the number of air travellers expected to double to 7.2 billion by 2035, the use of technology would allow the company to "handle more passengers, aircraft and airfreight", noted Mr Hungate. He added that the firm's investment in new technology had increased from $50 million to $100 million over four years.

Sats announced in December last year that it would replace the use of walkie-talkies with wireless headsets and smart watches to allow ground workers to communicate with the control centre and cockpit crew.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who tried out the smart glasses at Changi Airport yesterday, said the use of technology such as augmented reality will "keep our airport and airlines ahead of their competition".

In his National Day Rally speech last month, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong emphasised the need for technology to make the economy more productive, as part of the country's Smart Nation push.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2017, with the headline 'Sats to boost operations with smart glasses'. Print Edition | Subscribe