From cleaning to screening, robots join fight against COVID-19 at Abu Dhabi Airport

Robots are being rolled out at Abu Dhabi airport to disinfect public areas and screen passengers using infrared thermal technology during the coronavirus outbreak. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 02 May 2020

From cleaning to screening, robots join fight against COVID-19 at Abu Dhabi Airport

  • The robot will be piloted from May throughout Abu Dhabi International Airport
  • It will also be used in aircraft cabins

LONDON: Robots are being rolled out at Abu Dhabi airport to disinfect public areas and screen passengers using infrared thermal technology.

The robots will be piloted this month throughout Abu Dhabi International Airport, including in staff areas and cargo facilities. It will also be used as part of cabin cleaning processes on passenger aircraft, the company said in a statement on Saturday.

“The acute impact of the pandemic would have heightened our overall sense of awareness toward hygiene, and as a vital piece of public infrastructure, we have a clear responsibility to ensure our spaces remain clear of any virus threat,” said Shareef Hashim Al-Hashmi, CEO of Abu Dhabi Airports. “By deploying artificial intelligence, it adds another layer of protection and builds on our comprehensive response to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Airports worldwide are rapidly deploying new technology and robotics in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus that has already killed at least 200,000 people globally while establishing new procedures for arriving passengers.

Hong Kong International Airport is currently trialing the use of sanitizing booths where passengers undergo a 40-second disinfection process and have their temperatures scanned simultaneously. Airport chiefs will decide at the end of the month whether to make it a permanent feature. Like Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong is also using autonomous cleaning robots.

The adoption of such technologies is especially urgent for the big Gulf hubs such as Dubai International Airport, which handled 86.4 million passengers in 2019, making it the world’s busiest hub for international passengers.

But getting the balance between passenger safety and airport efficiency right will be a challenge, say aviation consultants. Social distancing also creates obvious logistical difficulties, with the potential for check in queues to quickly lengthen and clog up open spaces in terminals, slowing passenger throughput and potentially creating delays.

“Some kind of health checking seems to be a likely pre-requisite for any return to ‘normal’ travel, aviation consultant John Strickland told Arab News. “However technology and simplicity will be essential. In any airport with high volumes of traffic any small extension of time in process, even seconds, could multiply up to creating delays and inability to maintain punctual and reliable schedules including the ability to offer viable connecting flights.”

Emirates last month started to conduct blood tests for departing passengers with the first ones carried out on a flight to Tunisia with the results available in 10 minutes.

It is scaling up its testing capacity so that it can transport passengers to countries that require COVID-19 test certificates. Passengers are also required to wear their own masks when at the airport and onboard aircraft.


HSBC reports lighter-than-expected third-quarter profit fall

Updated 27 October 2020

HSBC reports lighter-than-expected third-quarter profit fall

  • HSBC has a further headache – geopolitical tensions via its status as a major business conduit between China and the West

HONG KONG: HSBC said Tuesday its third-quarter post-tax profits fell 46 percent on-year as the Asia-focused banking giant continued to take a hammering from the coronavirus pandemic and spiraling China-US tensions.
However, the profit falls were not as bad as some analysts had predicted and HSBC said it expected credit losses to be at the lower end of a previously announced $8 billion to $13 billion range.
The global economic slowdown caused by the virus has hit financial giants hard and there is limited optimism on the horizon as Europe and the United States head into the winter with infections soaring once more.
HSBC has a further headache — geopolitical tensions via its status as a major business conduit between China and the West.
As a result, the lender is in the midst of a worldwide overhaul, aiming to slash some 35,000 jobs by 2022, primarily in its less profitable European and American divisions.
“We are accelerating the transformation of the Group, moving our focus from interest-rate sensitive business lines toward fee-generating businesses, and further reducing our operating costs,” chief executive Noel Quinn said in a statement accompanying the results.
Reported post-tax profit for the third quarter came in at $2 billion with revenue down 11 percent at $11.9 billion, the statement said.
Adjusted pre-tax profit slid 21 percent to $4.3 billion in the period, beating a $2.8 billion estimate by Bloomberg analysts.
Quinn described the latest figures as “promising results against a backdrop of the continuing impacts of Covid-19 on the global economy” as well as low interest rates.
In the first six months of 2020, HSBC’s post-tax profits were down 69 percent, meaning the third-quarter results were something of an improvement as some major economies relaxed some of their coronavirus restrictions.
The bank said its board would consider whether to pay “a conservative dividend” for 2020 based on final end of year results and how the global economy looks in early 2021.
Earlier this year, UK regulators called on British banks to scrap dividends for the year to preserve capital during the pandemic crisis.
HSBC makes 90 percent of its profit in Asia, with China and Hong Kong being the major drivers of growth.
As a result, it has found itself more vulnerable than most to the crossfire caused by the increasingly bellicose relationship between Beijing and Washington.
The bank has tried to stay in Beijing’s good graces.
It vocally backed a tough national security law that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong in June to end a year of unrest and pro-democracy protests.
The move sparked criticism in Washington and London but analysts saw it as an attempt to protect its access to China, which has a track record of punishing businesses that do not toe Beijing’s line.
“Geopolitical risk, particularly relating to trade and other tensions between the US and China, remains heightened,” HSBC said in Tuesday’s profit statement.
The US has sanctioned nearly a dozen key Hong Kong and Chinese officials over the national security law, telling international banks to stop doing business with them.
China’s national security law, however, forbids businesses in Hong Kong from adhering to foreign sanctions regimes, leaving many in an unclear regulatory tight spot.
“Investor and business sentiment in some sectors in Hong Kong remains dampened and ongoing tensions could result in an increasingly fragmented trade and regulatory environment,” HSBC said in its statement.
The bank also highlighted the uncertainty over Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union as another potential headwind.
Talks for a post-Brexit trade deal have made little headway with a 31 December deadline fast approaching.
“There is a risk of additional ECL (expected credit losses) charges, particularly in the UK in 4Q20, if the UK and the EU fail to reach a trade agreement,” the bank said.