Disruptive technology: How Uber and TransLoc move the new world of travel

Principal, PDEdit

The travel industry is in the early stages of an evolution based on disruptive technology driven by data and analytics. That technology promises new, more user-friendly and cost-effective services to travelers by air and by ground.

Much of the change has to do with two key trends that are affecting various aspects of the travel industry: location services and intelligent mobility.

Disruptive technology: Location, location, location

Sabre places location services among the top three trends in business travel that are fueling the need for technology solutions. In a blog post, Sabre cited rapid growth in the indoor location technology market, with more than 200,000 Wi-Fi hotspots, Bluetooth antennas and other infrastructure installed. The travel industry is poised to use this infrastructure to "drastically enhance the traveler experience," the company claimed.

Location data on individual travelers may help airlines track their movements through airports, enabling them to send relevant, direction-changing information to passengers. For example, wouldn't it be great if a passenger stuck in a security line could get priority treatment if they're in danger of missing a flight? Doing so requires the ability to analyze vast amounts of data in real time, to pinpoint those passengers so they get to the gate without delay.

Sabre also counts mobile technology as one of its top three disruptive trends. So does Jonathan Spear, a technical director in the design, engineering and project management consultancy Atkins' Asia Pacific branch. Spear aptly describes "intelligent mobility" as the confluence of access to online services via personal devices, with big data and the broader Internet of Things. In short, pulling together vast amounts of data and applying analytics allow "travel to be commoditized, ordered and managed on demand in near real-time," he writes. These changes threaten established transportation companies just as Uber disrupted traditional taxi and limousine services.

New players take flight

For years it's been simple to book a flight or hotel online, but travelers often are on their own when getting to and from the airport. The race is now on for mobility aggregators to build platforms and tools to enable seamless, door-to-door travel using multiple modes of transportation, notes travel industry watchers at Skift in their three-part series on digital and mobile transformation of transportation.

Some cities are using disruptive technology to bridge that door-to-door gap. TransLoc, for example, has developed a platform that helps cities identify inefficiencies in their fixed-route bus and rail transit services. TransLoc can also help cities augment their traditional fixed-route services with more flexible, on-demand services — perhaps a shared van to cover the last leg of a trip — thereby promoting the use of public transportation.

Service providers are also emerging to tackle the same issue. One example is Bridj, which is offering such a shared van service in Boston and Washington, D.C. Bridj involves a simple app, similar to Uber. Customers can tell the company where they want to go, and see ahead of time how much the fare will be. They choose when they want to leave — up to days in advance — and walk to the pre-determined pick-up spot. Detailed traveler data, including locations, preferred travel times, historical traveling patterns and weather analytics, can drive insights that result in a service that is both cost-effective for travelers and profitable for Bridj.

Each generation of technology is generating more data and better analytics to deliver a more complete, informed service to the consumer. Data is both the foundation and the cause of the shifting ground in today's travel industry.

Learn how disruptive technology can improve the traveler experience. Visit IBM's Travel and Transportation Industry page to connect with analytics professionals.