No Carry-on Fee for Hefty Analytics

Blog Post created by anya.vane on Dec 13, 2016

Planning a vacation can be enough work to itself warrant a vacation. In our last blog, we discussed how analysis of Big Data helps make the entire process more efficient for businesses and travelers. To recap, you have to decide where to travel, how to get there, which hotel to stay in, and what to do once you’re there. All the while, analytics are whirling in the background.


Once the planning is out of the way, you have to actually do the travelling. Unless you’re one of the lucky TSA precheck flyers, you could spend an hour just standing in the airport security line. If you’re traveling internationally, you’ll stand in line all over again at passport control and customs.


That gives you plenty of time to contemplate just how much is happening every single time a security officer swipes your ID.


As you might expect, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would not appreciate FICO divulging the inner workings of the screening and security models we provide them. But one doesn’t need the details to appreciate the magnitude of what they must accomplish for every single person who flies. You know TSA as the officers who examine your ID, ticket and carry-on at the maddeningly slow part of the airport. There’s more to their work than that.


TSA maintains an automated system called the Secure Flight Program that is invoked by every airline for every boarding pass issued. This system checks each passenger against truly enormous data sources to ensure they are who they claim to be and match them against watch lists, no-fly lists, and white lists for approved travel. This is one of the largest screening programs in the world, matching over five million passengers a day, with burst rates over 500 per second. The goal of the Secure Flight Program is obviously to prevent potential threats, but also to minimize misidentification and "false positives" that annoy and inconvenience passengers, and cost time and money to resolve.


When you think about it, airport security is the furthest thing from lethargic. It is processing data so quickly, you can hardly tell it is happening.


Meanwhile, there are a whole flurry of simultaneous calculations operating within the entire worldwide network of airports. Airlines like Southwest are scheduling and rescheduling flights to accommodate last-minute delays or staff absences, in accordance with regulation regarding pilots’ fitness to fly and optimized within the flight paths and schedules already in play. For instance, the United States Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) sets rules for commercial pilots specifying stringent requirements for pilots to combat the potential threat of fatigue. While necessary, these can be difficult for airlines to plan and schedule around. FICO Xpress Optimization Modeler enables airlines to build and visualize models putting regulations alongside other relevant scheduling metrics to optimize flight plans that work.

Do you need a break? A lot just happened – and you’re not even on the plane yet. Take a minute, buy a coffee (but pay in cash – this isn’t the blog about credit fraud detection!).


Save for a bit of foot tapping in lines, your trip is running smoothly so far, thanks to thousands of algorithms and operations. En route from the US to Europe, let’s prepare for the data-crunching still to come. You can expect to go through passport check and customs upon arrival. The needs of countries abroad are similar to the TSA's goals. Agents need the ability to concentrate on cases of interest – threats, banned goods, etc. – while minimizing time spent on non-threats.


Our particular national client in this example must remain unnamed, as they aren't particularly interested in letting anyone know what flags visitors for extra scrutiny. Presumably, they tie in information such as travel itinerary, baggage profile, past travel history, and maybe information shared between international security agencies. The reality is, in our line of work, it’s less the substance of the data than the act of using it to make smart decisions that matter. One of the most important things here is consistency.


FICO technology provides a single centralized system that uses models to analyze the customer's data to recommend proper interaction. This is a good thing. Millions of people travel through the world’s largest airports every single day. Data-driven decisions enable all of them to make it in and out more safely, securely, and comfortably.


The next time you travel, take note as you stand in line of the awesome calculation of which you are a part. Now, if only there was a program to make the act of unpacking similarly less laborious.


By Fernando Donati Jorge and Anya Vanecek