The 7th Travel Technology Symposium took place under this auspicious motto “Human is the next big thing” on February 07, 2019 on the premises of Accenture in Kronberg, Germany. The always and again inspiring symposium of the Travel Industry Club (TIC) is supported by the cooperation partner Accenture. Accenture is currently the largest digital agency in the world, according to Nicole Göbel, managing director accentureconsulting.
How important human attention and advice still is in the hospitality business is demonstrated by the flop of the robot-controlled Hotel Henn-na in Japan. Dr. Peter Agel, Vice President of Technology & Think Tank at TIC, referred to this example at the beginning of the symposium. Without human support, robots are probably unable to react in a meaningful way. The concept failed. He refers to Matthias Horx, who makes a plea for a critical reflection on artificial intelligence and humanistic digitization. He calls AI “kind of a fetish – a hype that creates dangerous illusions”. It’s time for a digital honesty, according to Horx.
Time is the most important asset of the customer
The prevailing topic of the day were chances and hurdles of Artificial Intelligence. In his evocative keynote “Customers the day after tomorrow”, Steven van Belleghem from Belgium visualized and commented on how different the use of digital tools in Asia and Europe is. Particularly revealing was a short video clip, that showed a little girl in a Chinese supermarket, who swipes her smart watch with QR code playfully across the counter to pay for her candies. Even homeless people in China do not expect cash, but donations to their account via QR code. In Germany we are still a long way from large-scale cashless payment. Even though first stores in Frankfurt accept Alibaba Pay.
Life is getting more complex and thus are customer relationships. “Time is the most important asset of your customer”, says Belleghem, “invest in options that save time for your customer”. Artificial intelligence is on the move in three major areas: building up playful customer interfaces, generating data and augmented intelligence. Convenience and customer experience are the crucial values, if companies want to act successfully on the market.
Amazon sets the benchmark for consumers worldwide
Amazon is in the lead when it comes to quality of service. It is the benchmark in quality of service for nearly 90 percent of all consumers. Strategic moves of this major player can hurt entire industries and oblige them to rethink their business models. By tapping into the food sector and buying Whole Foods, Amazon has already disrupted the pricing structure and reshuffled the food industry. However, it is a misconception that robots take over, as the negative example of the dino hotel in Tokyo shows.
Humans remain the decisive interface even in times of AI
The truth is: the human interface becomes a premium service. Helping the customer with creativity, empathy and authentic care just in time, is what makes the difference. Humans may find ways to surprise while machines only predict. Many companies still treat their employees like robots and do not allow them to take personal decisions in a flexible and human manner. You are absolutely right when you put yourself in the position of your customers, this is the clear message of the marketing expert.
Bots on the rise
Julia Leonhard, Travel Industry Manager Google and Paulo Azevedo, Digital Assistant Engineer, FlixMobility Tech GmbH gave an impressive presentation on the progress that bots in communications have made since the launch of Amazon Alexa 2017 and Google Assistant in April 2018. Modern bots can deal better with longer and somehow cumbersome queries compared to their precursors.
Computer animation transposes us into completely new hybrid worlds of experience
David Sobéus, Head of Strategic Projects, Mackevision, demonstrated impressively that the distinction between real contexts and imaginary digital hybrid worlds is hardly conceivable. Mackevision started to perform for the automotive and film industries. Since relay 4, the Mackevision team has produced visual effects for the TV production Game of Thrones. 3 D Animation and data-based visualization are the keyword here. That too is AI. Cooperation with Accenture will open up completely new fields of application in the future, says Sobéus. “If experience is the new battleground … then content has become the great inhibitor”.
Alibaba Cloud is rapidly growing in the DACH region
Alibaba Cloud is also a partner of Accenture. Dr. Ye Huang, Head of Solution Architects, DACH & CEE region, discusses the business model of the Frankfurt based cloud computing company, a subsidiary of China’s largest IT group, the Alibaba Group. Alibaba Cloud operates in an ecosystem with over 10,000 partners, including brands such as SAP, Vodafone, Intel, Cisco, Siemens or Hitachi.
When it comes to machine-related data, the EU is truly more advanced than China
Where will the big hype related to generating data, the Internet of Things and robots with always more human characteristics lead us? Prof. Dr. Antonio Krüger from the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) in Saarbrücken leads the overblown ideas back to an objective level. There are still many things that cannot be solved by artificial intelligence in a meaningful way, according to Krüger.
Robots are currently by far too slow and do not sufficiently meet human expectations. When it comes to sensormotoric, emotional and social intelligence, humans are definitely superior to robots. You will not find a robot that is able to change a nano-sim card, says Krüger. There is still a long way to go before robots may replace humans. However the great potential lies in the intelligent human-machine interface. Successful cognitive assistance systems have to adapt to humans, not the other way round. “We have to create data platforms that provide benefit, such as healthcare platforms.”