Google Now – The Revolution In Travel Industry Has Just Begun, In Google’s StyleGoogle Now – The Revolution In Travel Industry Has Just Begun, In Google’s Style


Travel companies now have a lot more things to worry about. Tackling only their direct competitors isn’t enough any more. The threat from indirect competition is extremely high. And this is evident from the work by non-travel companies like Apple (primarily a digital electronics company) and Google (primarily a search engine company) in travel industry. For Apple, it started with their Siri product, they have merely penetrated into travel industry.

Apple doesn’t have any strong validation to prove their travel industry penetration apart from Siri. So, Apple has only one bullet to kill, that’s Siri. But, for Google, there are numerous bullets, they are coming, and they are all coming BIG, they are creating bullets at the speed nobody imagined. The quantum of work Google has done in travel industry is mind-boggling.

For Google, their penetration into travel industry started with their ITA Software acquisition in 2010. Since then Google has done good number of acquisitions and the recent one being Frommers. Little drops make an ocean, and Google is just proving this in style. Google is consolidating all of their products that has travel industry relevance and making sure every aspect of travel is covered. Google is easily the best place where one can learn ‘how to connect the dots’.

In July 2012,  Google launched what we call a “masterpiece” – Google Now! It’s a super intelligent personal assistant for Google’s Android. Google Now performs actions that are similar to what Siri does, but Google Now is significantly superior in terms of use cases handled and the functionalities supported. In our view, Google Now and Apple’s Siri cannot be compared at all.

Apple launched Passbook app in their latest mobile operating system ‘iOS 6’. This app stores customer’s flight / movie tickets and alerts it depending on customer location. Google Now has taken this to a totally different level. Google Now uses a natural language user interface to answer questions, make recommendations, and perform actions by invoking a set of Web services. It is included in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and was first supported on Galaxy Nexus (Google’s flagship mobile phone).

Google Now is all about “real-time”. It takes the past history of customer (search) data and action, the context, customer’s current data and Google’s Knowledge Graph as input and displays more personalized and relevant information in the form of “cards”. User has to swipe the screen up to view the cards. Most of the time, the cards display automatically depending on the context of the customer.

On Oct 29, 2012, Google announced significant update to Google Now in their Google I/O. They have added lot many new “cards” to Google Now.

Example, Google Now can tell you about your restaurant appointment and when you should leave your current location to reach the restaurant, while doing this Google Now takes the current traffic condition into account and displays the ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) and the best mode of transport.

Cards 1: Appointment, Weather, Traffic, Flights, Hotels, Restaurants

Cards 2: Events, Packages, Sports, Movies, Concerts, Stocks

Cards 3: Public Alerts, Breaking News, Public Transit, Places, Nearby Attractions, Nearby Photo Stops

Cards 4: Translation, Currency, Local Time At Home

After yesterday’s product refresh, Google Now displays cards for below 21 scenarios:

  1. Appointment
  2. Weather
  3. Traffic
  4. Flight – Displays your flight schedules, gate changes, traffic information to airport
  5. Hotel – Shows directions to your hotel when you arrive in a new city, Google knows where you stay
  6. Restaurant – Reminders you when to leave to reach the restaurant with live estimated travel time
  7. Events – Reminders about your event tickets that you purchased for, pulls event details too
  8. Packages – Displays your product shipping status, allows you to track it
  9. Sports
  10. Movies
  11. Concerts
  12. Stocks
  13. Public Alerts
  14. Developing Stories & Breaking News
  15. Public Transit – Displays the next bus / train (with ETA) when you are at a bus / tube / train station
  16. Places – Depending on your location, it suggests nearby places of interest, bars and restaurants
  17. Nearby Attractions – Displays near by attractions to visit [pulled from Zagat]
  18. Nearby Photo spots – Displays the photo spots nearby with ETA
  19. Translations
  20. Currency
  21. Time At Home

Among the 21 scenarios above, we have highlighted 9 scenarios that have high level impact to travel industry. We see this as a beginning from Google. We believe this is going to go much deeper in travel industry and might pose serious threat to existence of some travel companies. Google recently acquired Frommers and we are sure Google is working hard to integrate Frommers into Google Now.

Google’s products can be compared to wine. With time, wine tastes better. With time, Google gains power. Google products become more powerful with the magnitude of data they collect daily and they put it to right use intelligently to ease the life of consumers. Lets not forget that the big-daddy ‘Google Glass‘ is still in prototype stage and we strongly believe Google will make good use of it in travel industry context.

Airline reservations systems: can IT deliver?

Currently looking at modernisation options for Aer Lingus mainframe-based Passenger Management System (PMS).

As part of the Enterprise Architecture I’m developing, modernisation will be served through a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) which will also exploit EAI and BPM capabilities while also leveraging Enterprise Information Management led solutions to help address our customer information needs.

While I look at this, I came across an article worth reviewing. Although this article was written in 2008, it’s relevance today is still pressing. Ironically, now that concepts such as SOA, EAI/BPM, EIM, etc are mainstream and better understood, RES modernisation (amongst other things) is now more real than ever before.

Interested to learn more? Read on …

Airline reservations systems: can IT deliver?.

The Airline Business Model

As I continue my role as Enterprise Architect at Aer Lingus, I am looking to leverage a business model that will help to direct (and benchmark) the Business Architecture we urgently need to develop to really help us to become a modernised airline with an innovative, flexible and scalable IT capability that gives true agility to the Business.

While researching this area, I found an interesting article that touches on the subject of an “Airline Business Model” – here’s the abstract:

“Heading towards virtualization or integration” implies a strategic choice between two, metaphorical directions: on the one hand the direction of virtualisation, where the airline separates non-essential activities from the core activity. On the other hand the direction of integration where the airline groups those non-essential activities with the core activity. Rigas Doganis, author of the book “The airline industry in the 21st century”, refers to a virtual airline model and an aviation business model respectively. The aim of this thesis, based on those two models, is to find out if there are any competitive differences as a result of contrasting approaches by airlines towards the defining of this core activity. In attempting to realise this aim I had to ask myself two key questions: What is this core activity? And do different approaches in defining this core activity affect the competitive climate in the airline industry?

Interested in reading more? Click here to read the article.