Addressing Labor Shortages through Computer Visioning of Ground Handling Events:
Marubeni Strengthens its Airport Business Following Investment in Assaia Inc.

Oct. 03, 2023
Marubeni Corporation

On September 14th, Marubeni Corporation (hereinafter, “Marubeni”) and Assaia Inc. (hereinafter, “Assaia”), the 100% owner of Assaia International AG, developers of a real-time monitoring system for ground handling at airport aprons (hereinafter, “ApronAI”), concluded an investment agreement (hereinafter, the “Agreement”), which will facilitate Marubeni in expanding the scope of its exclusive distribution rights for ApronAI to Southeast Asia, for the first time since obtaining these rights for the Japanese market in 2019.

Monitoring ground handling events using ApronAI Monitoring ground handling events using ApronAI
A bird's eye view: Monitoring the entire airport A bird's eye view: Monitoring the entire airport

ApronAI, using its dedicated artificial intelligence developed in-house, monitors real-time progress of ground handling events such as connection of the passenger boarding bridge, loading of cargo, aircraft fueling, and wing walkers. This is achieved utilizing footage captured by surveillance cameras installed on-site. Currently, much of the critical information involved in the processes of airport operations is controlled and maintained by the discrete parties involved—namely airlines, ground handlers, operational staff, administrators, and control towers—which can lead to inefficiencies and bottlenecks. Keeping track of ground handling events requires a transition from extant analog management, which is currently conducted largely by means of visual observation and communication via walkie talkies. ApronAI can be seamlessly integrated to satisfy diverse individual needs, connecting information in real-time using digital interventions, with the potential to dramatically increase efficiency in the domain of ground handling operations. 

The number of air passengers plummeted globally due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Inevitably, this impact was also felt on the number of inbound passengers visiting Japan. However, the Japanese government expects a speedy recovery and aims to exceed the 2019 level of inbound visitors* in 2025, the year in which the Kansai region is set to host the World Expo in Osaka. This number is expected to further increase to 60 million by 2030. Meanwhile, labor shortfall in airport staff, including ground handlers, is a serious problem urgently requiring solutions. Digital transformation (DX) is considered to be one of the domains which is expected to offer such solutions going forward. 

Through this investment, Marubeni will expand the scope of its exclusive distribution rights for ApronAI from Japan to Southeast Asia. We also aim to grow our expertise by combining ApronAI with knowledge and solutions developed by Swissport Japan, a ground handling company in which Marubeni has invested (51% Swissport International, 49% Marubeni owned), and by AiRO Inc., a company that aims to automate specialized ground support equipment in airports (66% Marubeni, 34% ZMP Inc. owned). Achieving this will furthermore expedite the implementation of DX in the domain of Marubeni’s airport businesses.

*The actual number of visitors to Japan in 2019 was 31.88 million.

Overview of Assaia
Company Name: Assaia Inc.
Location: 5188 Bassett Road, Burdett, NY 14818, USA
Established: August 2022
Representative: Max Diez
Main Business: 100% SPC of Assaia International AG
URL: https://assaia.com/
Overview of Assaia International AG
Company Name: Assaia International AG
Location: Operation Center, 8058 Zurich, Switzerland
Established: February 2018
Representative: Max Diez
Main Business: Development of ApronAI