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Throughout 2018, PhocusWire brought you in-depth
coverage of some of the critical topics impacting travel, organized by a
different theme each month.

As we prepare for 2018 to end and a new
year to begin, we are revisiting these themes.

We’ll look back on key developments of
the past 12 months and look ahead, with additional perspective from the topical
experts we interviewed throughout the year.

In April our theme was artificial

We examined at how global distribution
systems are incorporating AI
into their platforms and processes, with input
from Amadeus, Sabre and Travelport.

We also talked to IBM – the creator of the
most famous AI engine, Watson – to learn how it is being used in travel, and we
talked to the folks at Hopper, the price prediction app that is using AI to
drive conversions.

Finally, we explored how AI can help travel brands fine-tune
their digital marketing

We’ve also been tracking the work of
several companies using AI to help brands provide consumers a more personalized
search, shopping and travel experience, including Baarb, Bd4travel, Hotelchamp,
Travelsify, Fetch.AI and others.

To explore what lies ahead for AI in
relation to travel, we solicited input from IBM’s global managing director for
travel and transportation, Dee Waddell, and from Mark Holt, chief technology
officer at Trainline, a company that has been using AI to improve its services.

Dee Waddell – global managing director
for travel and transportation, IBM

Digital Transformation is at the core of every decision being made by travel
companies, with data-driven business models continuing to permeate the entire
supply chain.

As a business-ready platform that learns from experience, AI will
only become better over time with additional cloud-based computing platforms
like Quantum, opening up even more possibilities and opportunities.

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In 2019,
disruption and innovation – led by AI – will accelerate as airlines, hotel
chains, railways and rental car companies strive for the competitive advantage
and to stay ahead of the curve:

  • We’ll see more travel companies embrace AI as
    the catalyst to a smarter workforce. Digital Transformation and AI as the
    innovative technology is fundamentally about empowering workers to change the
    way they work and improve outcomes, which benefits organizations, communities
    and the world. AI enables an expansion of data sources – video, for example –
    and the real-time and predictive analysis of data for better decisions and the
    optimization of many workflows.
  • This holiday season we’re already seeing large growth in travel, with this
    number expected to continue to increase as we head into 2019. More travelers
    mean more data and mining this data will be key to improving the travel
    journey. AI and automation will play key roles in solving challenges like congestion
    and weather. For example, airlines, railways and even trucking companies are
    working with The Weather Company to deliver real-time weather alerts, powered
    by AI, that help manage travel during adverse conditions and reach their
    destination safely.
  • Travel companies continue to see the benefits of putting data and analytics
    into the hands of their employees by creating mobile apps that empower them to
    do their jobs better and deliver a more personalized customer experience. By
    infusing AI, these apps will become even more powerful and transformative with
    the ability to understand, reason and learn based on data analytics. This gives
    travel professionals access to deeper insights so they can make more informed
    decisions, for an even higher level of customer services.

Mark Holt – chief technology officer, Trainline

Trainline is using artificial intelligence to predict changing
ticket costs, assisting with finding the best alternative route on a disrupted
journey or simply giving customers the ability to ask a voice assistant,
hands-free – “What’s my commute looking like?”

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This year alone we’ve built the
world’s first AI-powered disruption alerts for rail travelers.

The AI “reads”
rail operators’ tweets and automatically understands how the information
applies to customer journeys. It can then share contextual updates with travelers,
without them needing to trawl through Twitter to find it themselves.

In 2019
you can expect to see more technology companies thinking outside the box about
how to tap into existing data sources.

Similarly, in 2019 we should expect to see more transport
operators, online retailers and government organizations working closely
together to ensure key transport data is shared for the good of the traveler.

For example, we opened up our data to Etalab – the French government’s data
portal – this year to give other companies the chance to build AI innovations.
In U.K., the Joint Rail Data Action Plan is also kicking into
effect, encouraging train operators to share more data – for example on train
location – with technology companies to benefit industry innovation.

With new
sources of data opening-up, expect to see many new AI-fueled features coming to
travel apps.

Finally, next year we’ll see a rise in AI-voice interaction, which
will build upon the data used for voice searches and which will aid in
understanding exactly how people are interacting with voice tools.

For example,
what phrases are most efficient or which idioms might confuse the AI? Overall,
by the time we get to 2020, AI is likely to be informing almost every aspect of
journey planning – and customers will enjoy a simpler and smarter experience
thanks to it!

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