The recently released Emerging Tech in Travel Report by Sabre Labs presents a comprehensive overview technological innovation shaping travel and tourism industries, with insightful trends that are expanding beyond borders. Centred on three megatrends poised to impact travel in 2017: connected intelligence, conversational interfaces and digital realities. These megatrends are, in turn, powered by technology that are creating excitement both within service provider and consumer ecosystems. Let’s look at these exciting new techs at the heart of travel innovation:
In concept, augmented reality is not new; it’s the same service tour guides have been providing for years. A tour guide adds a layer of real-time information to the physical world that is being experienced.
The guide doesn’t block out or replace the physical world, it simply adds to it. Pokemon Go and Foursquare are early glimpses of how location-based virtual content will drive future behaviour in the physical world. As people’s priorities have become increasingly digital–particularly for members of the Millennial and Z generations–the convenience of digital objects is starting to shift the value equation against the desire to own certain kinds of physical objects.
Books are icons on an e-reader or smartphone; music and videos are streaming playlists; photos and artwork are files in the cloud. Travel souvenirs may go much the same way–why bring back a clock or a rug from overseas you may tire of or break when instead you can bring back a rare Pokemon that will live in the cloud forever, and won’t take up space in your carry-on.
As individuals and as businesses, we always look for ways to get more from less–more time, more energy; less attention, less resources. Automation uses control systems to carry out actions with little to no need of human intervention, creating the efficiencies necessary to do more with less and–in many cases–to do jobs beyond humans’ physical or intellectual capacity. Robots, cobots (collaborative robots) and bots are rapidly increasing their footprint, and their reach and utility will continue to grow as sensors continue to be added to the world, the data from those sensors is connected to central databases, and intelligent systems can analyse the data and trigger action in the physical world.
Ultimately, automation is about robots and bots acting in physical and digital worlds to streamline tasks and improve efficiency. Within this streamlining, specialization is key; automation is most effective within clear boundaries and limited tasks.
Buildings are often thought of as “hard spaces,” or as “set in stone.” After construction, buildings are seldom updated more often than once every few decades. In contrast, digital spaces are “soft spaces,” and have evolved to be very nimble–both because they are easier to change than physical spaces and because we have analytics to quantify why and how they should change. Analytic capabilities for physical spaces are emerging, driven by the ability to track the indoor location of objects and people.
Indoor location technologies help not only create new maps but also provide the data to give maps of indoor spaces a new significance. They help enrich our understanding of the way people and objects move. This will transform how designers create robust shared spaces, how businesses distribute staff and resources, and how consumers navigate indoor spaces.
From a practical perspective, we can look forward to a near future where, once we walk inside a building, we no longer have to rely on signage, memory and guesswork to navigate. Where the environments themselves will be richly layered with digital content. And we’ll share those spaces seamlessly with robots, each carrying out our respective tasks and travels.
MESSAGE BASED INTERFACES
Everywhere you look, people are tapping away at their screens, sending emojis, pictures and quick notes to friends, family and colleagues. Increasingly, brands are competing for a slice of users’ messaging activity, angling to move inside these trusted, personal messaging circles–not just with advertising, but through two-way interaction to build and strengthen relationships with customers.
IT’S A TIME TO BE EXCITED
Message-based interfaces are here, they are transforming user behaviour, and they offer businesses a chance to improve interaction with both consumers and employees. The collaboration between humans and chatbots to handle consumer interaction promises to allow humans to focus on the more exciting and challenging parts of the travel experience. By opening up communication with the traveller via message based interface early in the planning process, businesses can enable post booking engagement directly with the traveller.
Virtual reality established a foothold in the market in 2016, demonstrating that the capabilities and technology are in place for VR to have staying power in this iteration.
However, widespread adoption and simplified distribution channels are needed to move the technology to the next level. 2017 will see much broader adoption of both mobile and tethered VR experiences.
The greatest strength of VR–its full immersion–is also likely to be its greatest challenge in terms of adoption. VR demands a user separate from their existing environment and fully engage a new environment, which requires a tremendous amount of time and attention.
Fortunately, travel is often one of the best opportunities people have for large, uninterrupted blocks of time. Travel is also an industry often in control of both media access and physical environments, so it doesn’t have to wait for consumer adoption to take advantage of VR technology. People in transit–especially in planes–are often looking for opportunities to be distracted or entertained, which are core elements of the VR experience. Travel companies–including airlines, hotels, cruise lines and brick and mortar agencies–need to be using VR to sell travel, to make money from advertising, and/or to sell access to both hardware and content (in flight or in room).
VOICE BASED INTERFACES
Conversing seamlessly with a computer is the holy grail of voice technology, but there are still significant challenges to overcome.
Much closer at hand is the ability to use voice as our primary input mechanism, because transcription doesn’t need to understand context. Both use cases will have tremendous impact on businesses and consumers as voice interfaces become ubiquitous in everyday life.
We’re in the first phases of implementing voice for travel. Even though adoption is progressing quickly in the consumer technology market, we see a tremendous number of business and travel applications for voice that have yet to be built. The infrastructure overlap with message based interfaces is significant, so we’re seeing the feasibility and tooling for these systems rapidly progressing which will enable better implementation in a business context.
First use cases primarily include voice acting as a replacement for other input methods. Current and next step use cases are with voice as the basis for conversational interfaces, structured around basic sharing of information. Much longer-term use cases are with computer algorithms emulating human context and understanding.
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
Published monthly by Al Hilal Publishing and Marketing Group, the region’s foremost trade publisher, TTN is aimed at professionals in the industry, from travel agents to airline and hotel personnel.
TTN provides in-depth and extensive coverage of relevant issues in the Middle East and North Africa as well as in other parts of the world. Travel related news, analysis, and new appointments together with information on up-coming exhibitions, marketing and promotional campaigns are presented in an innovative and striking colour tabloid.
Every issue also contains a collation of international and regional news and topical features of interest to readers.