Hundreds of the travel industry’s most technology-savvy executives will gather for our second Skift Tech Forum in San Francisco on June 27. It will take place at the Fairmont San Francisco Hotel and explore key trends and disruptions that impact revenue and drive the e-commerce and technology strategies that power retailing, distribution, and merchandising decisions in travel. Expect insightful conversations from a broad range of speakers, including CEOs and top executives from Alaska Airlines, Amadeus, Expedia, Google, Uber, Marriott, Carnival, Shiji, and Oracle.
Amadeus, the world’s largest travel technology company, recently created a research and innovation unit by regrouping efforts scattered across the organization.
Head of Research and Innovation Marion Mesnage leads the team, overseeing about 80 researchers, data scientists, business specialists, and experts in innovation management. The mission, she says, is to identify and turn new ideas into value for Amadeus, its customers, and travelers.
For example, the team drives the innovation part of the Accenture Amadeus Alliance, an organization that combines the digital transformation expertise of Accenture and the airline knowledge of Amadeus. Mesnage’s division also collaborates with a separate startup investment arm called Ventures and with the company’s corporate strategy team.
Mesnage will speak on June 27 at Skift Tech Forum in San Francisco about what she and her team believe are the most compelling innovations on the horizon.
Skift: What is one example of a disruptive technology you have your eye on?
We’re looking at computer vision algorithms, which have several potential applications in travel. One interesting startup we’ve come across in this field is Assaia, which films aircraft operations during the turnaround at ramps and gates. It analyzes the films to offer a predictive analysis of what’s working and what isn’t, helping airlines and airports manage operations better.
A year ago Amadeus invested in CrowdVision, a company that uses computer vision software and artificial intelligence to analyze crowds to help airports manage their growth better.
Skift: Is Amadeus testing disruptive technologies itself?
Mesnage: Yes. Some of our projects are so technologically disruptive that we want to avoid breaking our customers’ websites and systems. In those cases, we operate customer-facing interfaces.
We might do small-scale tests of, say, improved travel search with consumers. It’s not because we want to become, say, a metasearch company. We only want to test and prove fresh approaches. If an experiment works out, we will look for a partner who is willing to test it at scale with their customers.
Skift: Why is voice-activated travel search taking a long time to become standard?
Mesnage: There are problems that remain difficult. Say you go to an agency and say, “I’d like to take a family vacation this summer, but nothing too luxurious.” That’s a natural way of speaking. However, today’s technology is far off from being able to respond to a query like that with a corresponding set of relevant recommendations.
The idea of pressing a button and getting a prepared vacation itinerary is a long way away. But what we see already is smart, incremental improvements around trip-planning.
For example, we know that people increasingly do trip planning by watching videos. So we have a project called Video Solution that uses attractive videos of places around the world to help brands better advertise their products in a way that’s contextualized appropriately.