Powering Up: Can Cognitive Computing Reinvent Travel’s Business Model?

“By 2018, half of all consumers will interact with services based on cognitive computing.”-IDC.

Everybody has heard of ‘big data’, ‘cloud computing’, and IoT ‘internet of things’. Some have managed to utilize them exponentially in their businesses, while others are trying. My focus in today’s blog post is around the next big buzzword in the market – ‘Cognitive Computing’.

In the hustles of conferences across the globe, discussions centered on cognitive computing – the new system that will take all verticals by a storm – and, in particular its undeniable need and impact for Travel.  But let’s take a step back and start with the basics – ‘what actually is cognitive computing?’ Broadly speaking, it is a ‘self-learning’ system that uses data mining, pattern recognition and natural language processing (NLP) to mimic the way our brain works.

Internet of Things (IoT)

Just imagine an extremely smart and intuitive SIRI. Sounds interesting, right? While the stage has been still being set for cognitive computing, companies like IBM, PwC, have been working on the research of cognitive systems from almost a decade now. Here, a few disruptive first have already started initiating cognitive in their workings.

In February 2011, the world was introduced to Watson, IBM’s cognitive computing system that defeated 2 people at Jeopardy! It was an interesting game between 2 humans and a machine and a first of its kind where the machine was able to answer ‘tricky questions’ posed by the game show host. IBM ‘Watson’ has been helping clients in healthcare, banking and retail to devise solutions around their need.

From game show contestants to travel agents, intelligent phone assistant to cancer fighter; cognitive computing transcends the boundaries that have limited big data and its impact.  And can certainly do wonders in the world of ‘Travel’.   From researching, booking, managing disruptions to personalizing travels – every touch point or service can be covered by cognitive computing.

Mobility in travel

1) Improving “findability” of Travel: Today, a person looking for an international holiday, spends days researching an average of 10-15 travel websites trying to find the best place to visit, reading reviews, and then to find the best deal after finalizing on a place. According to an Omnibus survey, 89 percent of Americans are stressed-out by the amount of time and effort required for planning a successful vacation for their family. Travelweekly, UK stated that:

  • 9 out of 10 people research their holiday online before booking, while 8 out of 10 book their holiday online.
  • For nearly 6 out of 10, their holiday is the most expensive purchase they have made online.

Cognitive apps help reduce the laborious process online booking airline solution- of searching 20+ websites, travel aggregators and customer review sites when trying to research and plan your next trip, by simply bookmarking profile information and responding to expectations. And can make this entire process a whole lot simpler..! Imagine just talking to an app (like SIRI) or interacting with a platform in simple human language (instead of typing dates and locations) which can give you recommendations based on simple questions like “I want to go on a luxury beach vacation without a party atmosphere” or “looking for hotels near cafes with facility to go on a boat ride” or “looking for an amazing place of fun for kids” rather than specifying what you actually need.

2)  Manage Irregular Flight Operations: A cognitive computing system would evaluate irops (irregular flight operations) management options, “intelligently” predict the impact of each – with regard to passenger, crew and to the airline, compare these with previous instances, and recommend the best possible plan of action.  It can also combine functions like identify a flight delay with possible hotel partners to book a nearby hotel and cancel other secondary bookings while notifying the family, on-ground crew and business partners of the delay.


 3) Cost efficiencies and real-time weather updates: Currently aviation uses computer-generated flight paths based on weather forecasts with one-hour time prior forecasts. If a storm hits midway en-route, it causes a scramble for re-routing the flight. With cognitive it would use DWR (Dynamic Weather routing) – further match it with the available fuel, schedule delay cost, crew data to devise the best possible re-routing option with the least negative impact on the airlines and passengers.

But such complex or compound queries and actions are challenging. Currently, we have only process simple functions using speech recognition. Technology is able manage simple queries like, “What is the weather today?” or “What gate is my flight?”,  but we’re still have a long way from creating intuitive coordinated and combined functions like identify a flight delay+ book a nearby hotel+ cancel other bookings and notify the family and business partners of the delay.

my travel my way

However, in the ‘Cognitive Computing’ era and for verticals like Travel, solutions like these is just a start in the right direction. Whether it’s reaching the right consumer at the right time or building an experience to remember, the opportunities are limitless, and the need to make this process intuitive, interesting and simpler for a traveler is definitely on the cards.

About the Author:
sachin gambhir
Sachin Gambhir is an Account Director for India & Subcontinent at IGT. He has over 14 years of experience in IT Services industry representing a unique combination of disciplines in Account Management, Project Management, Software development, and Consulting. He’s passionate about technology and implementing ideas where technology finds a unique way of solving business/human needs. Love cars, travelling to new places, meeting people from different cultures and working on innovative concepts with like-minded people. He can be reached at can be reached out at sachin.gambhir@www.igtsolutions.com