by Alan E. Young
There has been a great deal of “news” in our industry regarding the implementation and adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) within the travel industry.
How will this happen and what will the adoption rate look like? More importantly, in a service based industry, what percentage of travelers will be open to this new wave of technology and who will dismiss it?
The emergence of cloud and cluster technology enables the wide implementation of AI and Machine Learning. One of the most obvious choices for this new technology to be adopted is within the B2B framework of our industry. Revenue Management platforms that are being delivered to their clients using the cloud can now make recommendations to both airline and hotel companies based upon a huge amount of data. This data can be sliced and diced and then refactored to help the attributed users of RMS to make the proper pricing decisions on the fly. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still think that even though this is indeed capable, it will take a little while for Revenue Managers and their respective companies to just “set it and forget it.”
Virtual assistants are at the core of AI adoption. Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Now and the highest profile solution, IBM’s Watson, will become the next evolutionary step in the delivery of service within the hotel industry. The explosion of knowledge that the hotel and travel industry is now able to sift through enables these platforms to become highly intuitive and thus highly leveraged.
Skift outlined within an article back in July 2016 that there are a number of startups looking to leverage AI and Machine Learning to change the way service is delivered, or data is consumed and then refactored. These companies include GuestU, Exa, SnapTravel, 30 Seconds To Fly and HelloGbye. Some of the companies are leveraging platforms already in existence, and some are creating chatbots to book the right room or to help out with corporate travel. I am positive there are more out there – however like most startups – they will need the capital to succeed, followed by the speedy and widespread adoption of the solutions. We’ll see.
In a recent New York Times article, there was a delicious discussion regarding Google and how it is investing resources and money to develop what the author of the article called “Turning the Google Assistant into a ‘Star Trek’ computer. This is pretty mind-blowing if you think about it. The ‘Star Trek’ computer can do anything. Anything at all! Imagine having a personal assistant to help with deciding where to go, booking travel, purchasing just the right outfit for the trip and also notifying friends, etc. about your upcoming excursion. Then, if there are any disruptions along the way, the assistant will take care of things for you and help you along the way. The opportunities to implement AI and machine learning are boundless.
AI and machine learning technology will take some time to become widely adopted by both the companies that are good targets for these platforms, as well as the end user. However, you can rest assured that this level of advanced data gathering, analysis and the instant return of applicable answers and solutions will only continue to develop and grow, until one day, we may all have our very own personal ‘humanoid’ assistants like Sophia, Hanson Robotic's latest robotic creation, introduced at SXSW.
So what do you think? Will Sophia and her robotic cousins someday bring about a Terminator-style Judgment Day?