When the suitcase of a travel major shows items like VR, AI, Cloud, Blockchain and APIs – the itinerary gets way more exciting than what the ticket shows. Mani Ganeshan, Global Head of Engineering, Travel Distribution and Centre Head, Amadeus Labs gives us a whistle-top tour of what’s changing here
What kind of technologies do you use internally – and how do they help you in becoming competitive and cutting-edge for your customers? Do you build it yourself or do you source it or acquire it?
At Amadeus, we use a variety of technologies internally to help us stay competitive and cutting-edge for our customers. Some of the key technologies we use include cloud computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning, big data analytics, and blockchain. We employ a mix of building our own technologies and partnering with external vendors to source or acquire them. For instance, we have our own cloud platform and data analytics tools that we have built in-house to handle the massive amounts of data that we process daily. We have started exploring the possibility of shifting some of our workloads to Microsoft Azure which, potentially, offers the advantage of seamlessly distributing applications over several infrastructures. This could enable customers to access data anytime, anywhere as long as they have an internet connection. Similarly, along with other partners, we offer a range of technologies to our customers such as AI-powered chatbots, voice assistants, and other innovative solutions.
How does all this fuel change into business mileage?
Overall, our use of these cutting-edge technologies allows us to offer our customers more efficient, personalised, and seamless travel experiences, while also driving innovation and growth in the travel industry as a whole. We have also invested in automation and virtualisation technologies to streamline our IT processes and reduce manual effort, enabling us to focus on innovation and delivering value to our customers. Our approach to infrastructure optimisation is driven by our commitment to sustainability and reducing our environmental impact, which aligns with our broader corporate responsibility goals.
How do you induce hyper-personalisation and acceleration of contactless travel – any specific solutions that you use?
We leverage a suite of cutting-edge technologies to create hyper-personalised and contactless travel experiences for our customers. Our data analytics and machine learning algorithms help to transform data into actionable insights which enables travel providers to tailor their offerings based on their customers’ preferences and behavior. Our Altéa Passenger Service System offers a seamless and contactless travel experience, allowing passengers to check in, select their seats, and board their flight using their mobile devices. The Amadeus Travel API provides access to our extensive travel content database, enabling travel providers to offer personalized recommendations based on search history and preferences. Our Airport Common Use Service offers a shared infrastructure that reduces operational costs for airlines and airports, while also allowing passengers to use self-service kiosks and mobile devices for check-in and boarding.
What about biometrics?
Our biometric solutions leverage cutting-edge biometric technology to enable passengers to move through security and boarding procedures without physical documents, reducing contact with staff and minimizing the risk of transmitting infectious diseases. Overall, our solutions are designed to provide a seamless, personalised, and contactless travel experience that meets the evolving needs and expectations of travelers in the post-pandemic world.
Blockchain, AR, VR, Metaverse, Biometrics, AI – How much have their use deepened in the travel industry?
As a technology company specialising in travel solutions, Amadeus has been actively exploring the potential applications of emerging technologies like blockchain, AR, VR, the Metaverse, biometrics, and AI in the travel industry. These technologies have the potential to transform the way travelers plan and experience their trips, from personalised recommendations and virtual tours to seamless and secure travel transactions.
Any issues that players like you face?
The adoption of these technologies also comes with its own set of challenges and issues. One major challenge is the need for collaboration and standardisation across the industry to ensure interoperability and data security. For example, in the case of blockchain, there is a need for common standards and protocols to enable secure and transparent transactions across different travel providers and systems. Another challenge is ensuring that the use of these technologies aligns with data privacy regulations and ethical considerations. As biometric and AI technologies become more prevalent in travel, it’s important to ensure that traveler data is collected, stored, and used in a responsible and transparent way.
Digital passports, digital identities (like Self Sovereign Identities – Sovrin) – what’s the distance that remains to be covered on this front?
We are closely following the developments in the area of digital passports and identities, as we believe that they have the potential to significantly enhance the travel experience for our customers. While there have been some advances in this area, such as the development of the IATA Travel Pass, we believe that there is still a distance to cover before technology becomes mainstream and widely adopted. We’re already seeing the implementation of digital passports and digital identities by various organizations and governments.
The EU Digital COVID Certificate and the IATA Travel Pass are examples of digital passports that are currently being used to provide secure and verifiable proof of identity and vaccination status in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, self-sovereign identities (SSI) like Sovrin are being developed to enable individuals to own and control their digital identity information. However, there are still some challenges that must be addressed to ensure the widespread adoption of these systems.
On interoperability, again?
Yes, one of the key challenges that remains is interoperability between different systems and platforms, as there are currently multiple initiatives and standards being developed. It will be important to ensure that these systems can work seamlessly together to avoid creating additional barriers and complexity for travelers. Another important aspect to consider is privacy and data protection, as the use of digital identities raises concerns around the collection and sharing of personal information. At Amadeus, we are committed to ensuring that any solutions we develop or integrate comply with applicable data protection regulations and respect the privacy of our customers.
Can you tell us something about innovations like the ‘airport operational data centre’?
We are always striving to innovate and push the boundaries of what is possible in the travel industry. One of the areas where we are currently focused is the development of our airport operational data center, which is designed to improve efficiency and performance at airports around the world. This platform combines multiple data sources, including flight schedules, passenger information, and real-time operational data, to provide a comprehensive view of airport operations. This helps airport managers make data-driven decisions and optimize their resources to improve the passenger experience and reduce delays.
What kind of work is happening in APIs and open source areas?
Our APIs enable seamless integration with third-party applications, allowing travel providers to offer personalized and relevant services to their customers. Additionally, we are committed to open source development, which allows for greater collaboration and innovation within the travel industry. We believe that by working together with other companies and organizations, we can create better solutions that benefit everyone in the travel ecosystem.
Your Travel Tribes 2033 report points out that 36 per cent would be excited about remembering trips in more vivid ways in 2033, 34 per cent expect technology to reduce problems during trips, and 34 per cent hope for more affordability – how much of this work has begun with technology?
The travel industry is set to be transformed through technology, making travel more affordable, convenient, and enjoyable. One way technology can help reduce problems during trips is through the use of mobile apps that provide real-time updates on flight status and gate changes, as well as personalized recommendations for things to do and see at the destination. AI can also be leveraged to anticipate and proactively solve problems such as flight delays or cancellations.
In terms of affordability, technology enables more transparency and choice in the travel booking process, allowing travelers to compare prices and customize their travel experience to fit their budget. We also see the potential for blockchain technology to reduce the cost and complexity of travel transactions, such as currency exchange and baggage handling. When it comes to creating ways to remember trips in more vivid ways, technology is already making a significant impact. Technology also creates new ways for travelers to relive their trips, from immersive virtual reality experiences to smart cameras that organize photos and videos automatically.
Will Metaverse change travel a lot – how? And will it help to curb climate change worries?
By leveraging the Metaverse, travelers could potentially explore and visit virtual versions of popular tourist destinations, museums, and other cultural sites, all from the comfort of their homes. However, it’s important to recognize that virtual travel and remote work cannot entirely replace physical travel, particularly for leisure and tourism purposes, as physical travel enables individuals to experience new cultures, meet new people, and create memories that cannot be replicated in the virtual world. Furthermore, the Metaverse itself consumes energy and resources, which could have a significant carbon footprint. Therefore, as the Metaverse continues to evolve, it’s crucial to ensure that it’s designed and operated sustainably, reducing its environmental impact.
Incidentally, our focus on sustainability has led us to join and partner with initiatives like the Green Software Foundation (GSF), and CHOOOSE, a climate tech company. Plus, we have been recognized in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) for eleven years in a row, which evaluates companies based on sustainability criteria. We are also included in the FTSE4Good Index and were named one of Europe’s Climate Leaders by the Financial Times in 2022.
How much of a runway does the Indian development team provide?
A part of what we do in India is owed to the capabilities of our Bengaluru centre which is the second largest engineering and R&D centre in Amadeus universe. The workforce here has grown rapidly, from 400 to over 3,000 employees in a short amount of time. Initially, the center was created to support Amadeus’ growth in the APAC region. But over the years we have grown to build critical programs here. A few years ago, we developed a private cloud-based airport operational data store that connects airports and airline systems.
-By Pratima H