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Why innovation has the power to shape the future of travel

Hervé Couturier

Head of R&D, Amadeus IT Group

The word innovation is used perhaps a little too liberally these days. It seems there is always a new company, product or individual which is today's (often self-celebrated) latest and greatest innovator - someone, or something, that is seemingly 'breaking the mould'. But in truth, whilst it is easier than ever to be creative, to offer something updated or new to the marketplace, to bring a different perspective to things which are tried and tested; it is something entirely different altogether to genuinely ‘innovate’. But when it’s done properly, the results can be extraordinary.

Innovation to me means freedom of thinking plus serious, targeted investment (and an innate sense of how the outcome will be commercially successful) equaling the power to change the shape of how we do things today for a better tomorrow. And whilst not every single new product or service can claim to be that unilateral, silver #8226et of change, they still have to in some way be able to make a tangible difference to how we do business, or rather how the wider industry responds, whilst making financial sense at the same time.

Of course, the challenge always in a large company is that often unsolvable and perpetual conflict between innovation and quality. We want a stable environment with no surprises, but we also want to deliver game-changing new products and apps. No surprises mean in essence that you don’t want to change anything, whereas if you seek to truly innovate then you’re pushing almost entirely in the opposite direction. We try to balance the two at Amadeus, but it’s a battle that will endure for all businesses of a certain size, especially in our sector.

Personally, I actually believe very strongly that (genuine) innovation is key to survival: there is simply no other way. Especially when you consider that the barriers to entry in our sector are actually relatively low. Anyone with a computer in a garage can create something amazing tomorrow that threatens your business. We also live in a world where the very fundamentals of being a technology company are changing and being challenged, on a yearly, monthly, even a daily basis.

Changes in hardware in turn prompt evolutions in software. As the cost of memory reduces, the speed of access between different components goes up. And then there is the ever-increasing bandwidth of the internet, improved and more efficient networking capabilities, the massive parallelization of storage, the usage of Graphical Processing Units to replace CPUs, and so on. The list is literally endless, as is the opportunity to do bigger, faster, cheaper and better things as a result.

Perhaps the single biggest opportunity for innovation in our industry right now is big data. This has the potential to dramatically reshape the travel industry from top to bottom. In practice, big data can mean better decision-making and stronger customer relationships that are delivered by new approaches to areas such as customer management, revenue management and internal operations. Perhaps most crucially however, big data can mean far greater product and service innovation. Indeed we are already witnessing pockets of innovation using big data in the industry today: from KAYAK’s price flight forecasting model, which presents customers with the likely change in a flight’s price over a seven-day window, to Air France-KLM’s use of Hadoop as the basis of a group-wide revenue management system.

At Amadeus we’ve been using big data to transform our customer-facing applications, internal operations, and services to travel providers. As travel becomes both more democratized and more complex, customers need more help in navigating through the options. So a major focus of Amadeus’ big data efforts involves easing the search process and presenting customers with targeted options – in essence product and service innovation with big data. One such offering is Extreme Search whilst another is Featured Results.

This month, and as part of a wider theme to demonstrably showcase our continued commitment to all-things innovation, we will be talking more than ever about the things which we believe have the power to transform our industry, and our customers' businesses, including big data and beyond. When it comes to innovation, Amadeus does not stand still – we have constantly evolved our business over the past 25 years in order to shape and respond to changing market needs.

We also try very hard to place innovation – and innovative thinking more specifically – at the very heart of everything Amadeus does: it’s in our DNA and is central to our whole raison d’être.

With this in mind, watch this space every single day this week for a different perspective on, and definition of, innovation from Amadeus’ own technology leaders. As ever, we value your feedback, so let us know what you think of our views but more importantly, tell us what innovation means to you, and more specifically which innovations you think have the potential to shape the future of travel in 2014 and beyond…

Tweet us with hash tag #1Ainnovation

and let us know what innovation means to you. 


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Big Data