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Could you banish airline delays for $100K?

Posting in Technology

General Electric hopes you'll be willing to earn a little extra cash to ease airline delays, as the firm pleads to the public through crowdsourcing.

Flight delays, lost luggage and long security procedures are all part-and-parcel of traveling by air. However, when you're a passenger having to suffer with a delayed flight, this can have a host of consequences; from missing a business meeting or family occasion to splashing out on a hotel or spending an uncomfortable night on a hard, dusty airport floor.

It's not always the result of a natural disaster, or issues like the predictable yearly standstill of U.K. airports once winter comes calling. Sometimes, delayed or cancelled flights, which cost airlines a fortune every year, can be down to the smallest scheduling or security error.

Several years ago, when booking a last-minute flight from Vienna to the U.K., the computer system failed to record my baggage details. This resulted in my flight being delayed for three hours in order to source the "mystery" bag, according to a flight attendant I spoke to. In the end, a flight that cost me £80 cost the airline thousands.

When a tiny error like this can cause such havoc, airlines have to find new ways to fix any flaw in their systems. To this end, General Electric has thrown the state of airline efficiency to the public, using predictive technology and new applications which could make flight schedules smoother.

As part of the optimization process, GE wants the public to help solve the mathematical processes applied to flight scheduling. Offering $500,000 in total prize money -- $100,000 for the winner -- the firm have launched a competition for you to develop a "usable and scalable algorithm that delivers a real-time flight profile to the pilot, helping them make flights more efficient and reliably on time."

Contest submissions will be judged based on algorithm predictions for plane arrivals at the runway and the gate. Using practice data sets, entrants have to submit a final model in February next year.

The winner's model will be released as a test-bed on airline systems in March 2013.

Image credit: Flickr

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— By on December 13, 2012, 9:13 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure