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Digital Future in Travel and Transportation Seen Driven by Customer-centric Needs

Kochi: Customer-centric needs will power future advancements in digitization and technology in the travel and transportation sector, and businesses will have to design their technologies around individualized user experience and safety, both physical and data-related, to grow and retain loyalty, experts said here today.

At the Kerala government’s flagship two-day #FUTURE Global Digital Summit that got underway here, participants in a panel discussion on trends in travel and transport touched upon futuristic driverless cars, personalized electric vehicles, space transport and automated flights, but their biggest insights were on the ‘here and now’ for businesses and governments, and how they needed to transform in a changing world.

Christoph Mueller, Chief Digital and Innovation Officer – Emirates Group, who set the tone of the panel discussion with a keynote address, said hyper-personalization would be the new industry requirement as well as delivering on promises, latest standards for user experience (UX) design, automated operations and enhanced safety.

“Mobile devices will become redundant in around 10 years and will be completely replaced by voice. We will also have completely new customer segments with 30% of passengers being active seniors who have retired with good incomes and are travelling the world; commuter profiles will change and global migrants and a middle-class with massive purchasing power will drive the technology,” he noted.

Digitization, he said, was not just about rewriting software for current business model, but rewriting the model itself. “Technology is only the enabler, the consumer is the one driving the change,” Mueller added.

Roland Schuetz, Group CIO – Lufthansa Group, echoed the sentiments by stating that from the point of view of the consumers, travel has to be as easy as possible and seamless, and technology may function behind the scenes.

“As we say in the industry, ease of use is the new loyalty. It has to be such that travellers do not need to do the planning on their own; they must feel that everything has been taken care of,” he said.

Swati Khandelwal, National Editor & Anchor, BTVI, who moderated the discussion, steered it through trends, technologies, business development and challenges for the industry.

V K Mathews, Member, High Power IT Committee (HPIC), Govt of Kerala, said he sees four mega trends influencing the industry in the future: the first being ‘disintermediation’ in which companies take their products directly to consumers, taking out the non-value intermediary.

Also important are greater personalization that makes it easier for people to buy, and virtualization that gives them everything they want on a single platform; and the fourth, he said, is a trust quotient where the focus would be on integrity and safe usage for the customer.

Antony Satyadas, CEO & Managing Partner – Innovation Incubator, said customers are looking for simplicity and immersive experience, and for startups the efforts should be to provide a cognitive fabric to their technology, add mobility capability, provide insights on massive amounts of data and create conversation interfaces using Artificial Intelligence.

Natesh Manikoth, Chief Data Officer of US Federal Aviation Administration, said he foresaw new entrants into the market and substantial investments in products such as drones, vertical take-off and landing systems, unmanned vehicles and commercial space launches.

But he also warned that “while autonomous vehicles are great, we have to make the transformation carefully; safety and life is paramount.”

“AI, Machine Learning and Big Data all have a role to play in safety analysis in the future,” he added. “And there has to be a completely new way of thinking on certification.”

On the challenges ahead for the industry, Satyadas said the industry is constantly looking for a good sandbox, a testing environment, and for a state like Kerala it presents a big opportunity if the government can leverage this by positioning itself as a technology knowledge hub with both nature and health offerings which, he said, could lead to global citizens jostling for a Kerala “Green Card”.

Schuetz noted that while India has the advantage of having highly educated IT engineers, what drives businesses here is the IPR and easy access to products and services.

Cybersecurity is a field that is likely to see exponential growth and employment opportunities, he added. “With all the technology and data comes the need for security threats that need to be dealt with in a symmetric manner.”

For businesses in the travel sector, the challenges are two-fold, said Mueller. “One is staying ahead of the curve; if you miss one tech cycle, you are lost. Consolidation is another frightening thing because the big beasts allow little room for small players to make inroads into the market.”

At the #FUTURE summit organized by the HPIC, nearly 30 global experts are sharing their knowledge and experiences during discussions scheduled over two days, covering sectors from travel and transportation; big data and health and sustainability to education & skills; technology and banking, finance and retail.

 

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