Skift Take

Consumer technology is undergoing a transformation, powered by artificial intelligence and voice commands. Corporations should pay attention to how their travelers' behavior shifts in order to stay in front of upcoming trends.

A constant refrain in corporate travel these days is a focus on learning from the consumer travel sector. This is really about better understanding the needs of business travelers, and creating the right tools and interfaces to make their travel experiences better.

It doesn’t hurt that creating better booking tools encourages travelers to book their travel in the right places. From the employer or travel management company perspective, that is.

At the CES 2018 show in Las Vegas this week, I couldn’t help but think that corporate travel, which lags behind consumer travel in many ways, should pay attention to what the cutting edge in consumer technology could mean for the sector in a few years.

When Consumer Technology Association senior director of research described the coming changes to how consumers will use technology, he called the next few years the beginning of “a data age.”  Travel management companies should not sit out this period of disruption.

Here are three areas that players in the corporate travel ecosystem should pay attention to for the future based on the newest technology on display at CES 2018.

A Convergence Is Coming

Nearly every device in the home will soon be equipped with artificial intelligence-powered voice control, a sign that consumers are increasingly using voice search. Toothbrushes, fridges, and all kinds of other smart devices were on display from huge technology companies like Samsung and LG.

Phones, tablets, and wearables are already equipped with this technology, and it’s only a matter of time until consumers will be able to receive guidance and speak commands in any room in their house.

How are travel management companies preparing for a future where travelers commonly ask an artificial intelligence-based assistant for their travel information, and even make bookings using voice commands? Will even voice-enabled booking tools be interoperable with the other consumer assistants, like Siri or Google Assistant, that a traveler may use?

Also, will the next generation of hotel rooms come equipped with artificial intelligence-powered technology? This brings up security concerns for larger organizations who send business travelers across the globe.

Travel management companies will likely have to partner with the world’s biggest technology companies to provide access to data and information to their travelers, if this vision of the future emerges. Or else, rogue bookings could start to roll in from these devices.

The Power of the Quantified Self

Safety and security has taken on a newfound importance for travel management companies as the world has become more dangerous and chaotic. Although a double-edged sword, location tracking via smartphones is common now, which is a needed and powerful advance.

But traditional medical problems and issues often crop up during business travel, usually from stress or just plain catching a cold in a foreign places. In the future, consumer medical technology will do a much better job of quantifying health data over time.

Imagine diabetic business travelers having their blood glucose information stored in the cloud, and being able to compare their current state to their history using a smartphone app. Or a series of health-centric smartwatches that monitor, analyze, and store data on how your body reacts to the stress of a lengthy business trip.

As smartwatches move beyond fitness fanatics, there will be opportunities for business travelers to better monitor and understand their health. They may just need some encouragement from travel managers or their organizations.

Augmented Reality Can Be a Killer App

The global tech giants have mostly given up on virtual reality as a transformative technology, although there will be plenty of opportunities in the sector in the meetings and events industry.

Augmented reality, however, is a different story. Google and Apple have both released powerful new tools for developers that will allow them to use a smartphones cameras and sensors to overlay images on the world around you.

An app from a travel management company will be able to direct users from meeting to meeting with visual onscreen directions, or suggest affordable restaurants within walking distance.

Given their global scope, there’s no reason why travel management companies can’t leverage data on traveler behavior to refine their tools and provide a better experience to users. If they don’t, business travelers will turn to consumer tools and travel management companies will miss out on a major opportunity.

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Tags: augmented reality, business travel, corporate travel, hotels, technology

Photo credit: A session at CES 2018 on consumer behavior. Skift

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