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How Amadeus is investing to power the next generation of innovation in travel

Stefan Ropers

President, Strategic Growth Businesses, Amadeus

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Investing in the future of travel is a core part of our business. We’re constantly evaluating the marketplace, the traveler’s pain points, and our customers’ needs to anticipate the next game-changer in the industry.

That’s why Amadeus is proud to be leading the travel industry in Europe’s R&D investment scorecard for the 8th year running. We’re also the second largest investor in the European software industry after SAP. 

You might be wondering – how does one invest that much in travel? Most recently, our innovation team has been strategically focused on four key areas: Artificial Intelligence (AI), self-service &  identity management, the Internet of Things (IoT) and payments. The one thing they all have in common is that they hold the key to helping providers better coordinate and integrate travel services across platforms to create better traveler experiences.  

Here are some highlights of how our investments are bearing fruit in these fields, and why we’ll continue to innovate in these areas well into 2020 and beyond to reduce friction in travel and improve efficiency.  

 

Artificial Intelligence 

Did you know that AI systems are set to provide a $14 trillion boost to the global economy by 2035? In the travel, transport and logistics industry, this technology has the potential to produce $800 billion of value1… 

This value will be unlocked when the travel ecosystem is able to use AI to better understand and inspire travelers, create tailored experiences, and compete for savvier, more demanding travelers. 

Thanks to our move off the mainframe and onto open systems and the cloud, Amadeus is ahead of the curve when it comes to AI. We have the ability to source, sort, and streamline a vast amount of internal and external data necessary to run AI, machine learning and deep learning applications. 

That’s why Amadeus already has a number of AI-driven products and services, ranging from airline revenue management to network planning and scheduling.  

Because we want to see the entire industry move forward, we’re not keeping all of this knowledge to ourselves. With the Amadeus for Developers program, we’re seeding the next wave of travel innovation. 

In 2019, Amadeus for Developers launched new AI APIs to empower start-ups, independent developers and emerging businesses interested in building solutions that can predict travel intent, traveler behavior and flight delays using artificial intelligence. With ready-to-implement predictive models based on insights from our travel data, anyone is able to  experiment with our open APIs – without any prior background in AI or data. It’s the first time that AI capabilities were made available to start ups and developers in the travel industry via open APIs, and we will keep on innovating in the future to expand our AI’s APIs offer. 

Meanwhile, we also have our own AI projects cooking.  

For example, we’re looking at how AI can improve the ways that consumers search for travel experiences by testing an ‘extreme search’ function, which would allow travelers to enter a statement such as, ‘where can I go for a three-week adventure in Africa at a cost below $1,500?’ and receive a list of intelligent answers.   

We have also tested a prototype to help travel agents respond to customer enquiries more easily and in real time. The ‘Amadeus Linguistics Intelligence Travel Assistant’ was using natural language processing to predict, recommend and personalize trips for travelers while they were having a discussion with a travel agent. 

 

Self-service & identity management   

According to IATA, the number of global travelers is set to double by 2036, and airport infrastructure simply can’t match that rate of growth. If we are to keep up with travel demand – in parallel with strict security requirements – the industry needs to find ways to streamline the airport experience to board more passengers faster.  

That’s why we’ve been looking closely at self-service technologies, including biometrics.  

In that context, we acquired ICM Airport Technics to transform the airport passenger experience. ICM is a global leader in self-service check-in and Auto Bag Drop solutions for airports and airlines, equipped with advanced facial recognition features. By combining Amadeus’ and ICM’s software and hardware capabilities, we’re introducing more self-service options at airports, and exploring the potential of biometrics to deliver better journeys for passengers in the future. 

A great testing ground for us was a pilot at Ljubljana Airport  which allowed passengers to use an Amadeus smartphone app to upload a “selfie” along with their passport photo and boarding pass on a secure server. A passenger photo was then captured at the boarding gate and matched against those stored on the server to validate the passenger’s identity and flight status, eliminating last minute fumbling for passports at the boarding gate. The result?  Average boarding times shrunk by an astounding 75%. In addition, all biometric data was deleted within 48 hours ensuring GDPR compliance. 

And this is just the beginning. We want to make frictionless travel a reality. We have launched a major innovation program, Traveler ID, that aims to enable an end-to-end experience by offering a seamless ID verification process throughout the traveler journey. Thanks to this paperless certified identity – entirely controlled and consented by the traveler – hold-ups at passport control, boarding gates and hotel check-ins will become a thing of the past. Traveler ID will provide a secured platform which digitizes traveler’s identification and trip details and allows him or her to pass to the next phase of the journey without showing any ID documentation.  

 

Internet of Things (IoT) 

The IoT is a huge market which has far-reaching implications for several industries, including travel. There is massive potential in the field of baggage tracking, asset tracking at airports, or connected cars just to name a few.  

In November 2019, we partnered with a French company called Sigfox, to help make waves in this field. Our collaboration with Sigfox allowed us to design a new asset-tracking platform. This end-to-end tracking solution uses reusable tags and proximity sensors to airports and airlines to track passenger luggage and assets such as aircraft spare-parts, landing gear and Unit Load Devices. 

Our marketing studies have indeed demonstrated that locating the luggage during its entire journey both in and out of the airport will provide peace of mind to the travelers and will enable airlines to create a digitized experience for their customers when managing lost and delayed luggage. 

 

Payments 

Payments is another area that is ripe for innovation. The travel industry spends $74.5 billion annually on fees associated with payment processing and there are more than 300 different ways to pay for goods and services across the world, ranging from established card schemes through to new and significant local payment methods. 

Last year, we announced a significant partnership with CyberSource, Visa’s payment management platform, to allow our customers to deliver Strong Customer Authentication (SCA), which provides two-factor authentication for all electronic payments.  

We also see a potential for global growth in alternative methods of payments. In the APAC region, 59% of travel is now paid for using alternative methods of payments, e-Wallets, such as WeChat Pay or Alipay, were the most popular of these methods (49%) and were twice as popular as cards. It is against this backdrop that we partnered with PPRO to enable travel companies to accept high-growth alternative payments methods in their key international markets. 

Finally, travel providers are also looking for ways to improve B2B payments, and virtual cards are becoming increasingly popular. They bring a number of benefits to travel agencies including simplifying the reconciliation process and dramatically reducing the risk of payment fraud thanks to one virtual card being associated to each transaction. Virtual cards can also improve cash flow for all travel players from airlines and hotels to travel agencies. 

 

From Artificial Intelligence to payments, self-service & digital identity management and the Internet of Things, these are just a few examples of how Amadeus is constantly looking for new opportunities to take the friction out of travel, both for our array of customers and the travelers they serve. That’s why we have been investing heavily in these ground-breaking technologies in 2019.

Stay tuned in 2020 to discover how we will keep on simplifying the traveler journey.

 

1 - Mc Kinsey Berlin Conference, Travel Transport and Logistics November 2019


Tags

Artificial Intelligence, Startups