GERMANY. Frankfurt Airport operator Fraport has partnered with Deutsche Bahn’s dedicated IT service provider DB Systel to pilot a robot concierge. ‘FRAnny’ (FRA is the airport code for Frankfurt) can tell travellers about how to reach particular shops or restaurants, the way to the correct gate and about how to access the airport WiFi.

Fraport said: “Travellers at major transportation hubs, such as airports and train stations, are very often in need of guidance. In these scenarios, digital assistants and robots can support human personnel by fielding routine inquiries, thus enhancing the customer service offering.”

A six-week trial at Frankfurt Airport will help Fraport evaluate FRAnny in terms of functionality, customer acceptance and practical usefulness.

“My name is FRAnny. How can I help you?” Fraport’s new robot concierge is being tested at Frankfurt Airport, with wayfinding and shopping/dining information among its services.

FRAnny is based on an artificial intelligence and a cloud-based voice-user interface (VUI) that can be deployed in a variety of forms – including in chatbots, voice assistants and robots. This digital customer service system was developed by a team of Deutsche Bahn IT experts. Using data drawn from the airport’s information system, FRAnny can understand and answer questions relating to travel, airport facilities and more. FRAnny can communicate in German, English and seven other languages.

Fraport and Deutsche Bahn have been jointly exploring the potential of artificially intelligent, voice-based customer service systems since 2017. The first pilot took place at Frankfurt Airport over four weeks in spring 2018 using FRAnny’s predecessor.

After about 4,400 interactions, 75% of passengers rated their exchange positively, claimed Fraport. Based on the feedback received, both the artificial intelligence (AI) component and the robot’s user interface were further improved.

In June, the AI-based service is to be tested at Berlin central rail station – which has 300,000 travellers and visitors every day. Human customer service agents at Deutsche Bahn’s information centre will receive support from FRAnny’s ‘sister’, SEMMI.