Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

Bob Sutor, Vice President of Business Analytics, IBM Research

By Bob Sutor

Millions of people took to the roads and skies to visit friends and families for the holidays in 2012. In fact, according to AAA, this was the busiest holiday travel year since 2006, with 93.3 million Americans traveling.

The news is encouraging to leaders across the travel industry, many of whom are looking for innovative ways to improve and enhance the customer experience. One area getting particular attention is mobile computing. Advances in technologies and services should take more guesswork out of travel and pave the way for increased, more stress-free and smarter travel.

Mobility is transforming the way we live and work, and how we engage with our community. And its effect on the travel industry is no different. In an industry that can instantaneously be impacted by the economy, weather, and world events, mobility creates immense opportunities to address these issues and put important information at travelers’ fingertips when they need it most.

The disruptive capabilities of mobile can be seen within the airline industry today with online ticket sales, mobile check-ins and boarding passes. However, mobile travel is becoming more than just buying tickets online and checking reservations. It’s about airline alerts, weather and traffic updates, local news alerts, entertainment, maps and much more.

The true value of mobility does not live within each capability alone – rather, it’s all these apps coming together that can transform the travel experience. It’s the convergence of social, big data, analytics, and cloud, with mobile as the centerpiece, which creates a universe of new possibilities for companies and travelers.  

Imagine that you’re driving to the airport and you get a text message from the airline alerting you that your flight will be delayed indefinitely and that the system has automatically rebooked you on the next available flight. You then get an alert that the car and hotel you reserved at your destination have been notified of your new arrival time so you don’t have to sit on hold waiting to speak to agents.

This is just one example of the many ways mobility can revolutionize the travel industry. This improved communication between various travel companies – from airlines to car rental agencies to hotels – and customers will bring separate organizations together to provide better, more integrated services to their customers.  As a result, many of today’s frustrations will be not only anticipated, but avoided.

As the world continues to become increasingly connected, providing reliable, integrated, and tailored customer service is essential for organizations to remain competitive in the travel industry.

IBM is working with organizations across industries to improve a wide variety of travel experiences – from air travel to avoiding traffic jams – by driving innovation and enabling them to deliver highly differentiated customer experiences while improving their operational efficiency. 

For example, IBM is working with Air Canada to expand its mobile experience beyond online ticket sales with mobile alerts. By combining its kiosk, web, and agent services into a single mobile app, passengers can get updates and alternate flight options and manage their flight changes in real time.  

Mobile is the platform of the future that is transforming the way we travel today. As a result, next year’s holiday travel experience has the potential to be faster and more seamless than the journeys we took in 2012.

You can read more of my opinions on mobile, analytics and other topics in my personal blog.

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