2017 has started off with some interesting technology developments in business travel. Chatbots are launching and more companies are looking at ways to use virtual reality and artificial intelligence in corporate travel programmes.
Often when new technology is launched we ask if it's a fad. There is some nervousness in building or putting money into new tools that might soon look dated or end up a waste of time and money if unsucessful. It can be difficult for start-ups to get in managed travel programmes because travel managers want to see who is already using it, which is why we ask the question in our Meet the Disruptors Q&As. But getting that first client is tricky and there are usually trial processes like PAREXEL's of the Sam chatbot.
Technology and start-ups come and go. Innovators usually get swallowed up by conglomerates and hardware like Google Glass wasn't popular. At the recent Wearable Technology Show in London Peter Fullager, head of innovation at research and design firm Kinneir Dufor explained that "sometimes companies don't get enough critical mass or data to continue running". Any investment, then, needs to be carefully considered.
"Critical mass" are the important words here, for that is what creates the successes. Later at the conference Markiyan Katsekh, co-founder of the Senstone device hinted at what could be the latest success, saying "[Amazon's] Echo/Dot is popular with 'regular' people and not just early adopters, so it shows promise".
In a way it's easy to spot critical mass even on a smaller scale. Many smartwatch users I know are early adopters or general 'techies' and I don't know many people that would be interested in Snapchat Spectacles. But I know families and technophobes that have Echo because it's cheaper and it benefits the household not just an individual.
We're increasingly seeing innovation in software, not physical items. And if you haven't guessed already, the hottest of them all is anything involving voice recognition.
"Voice is becoming the disruptor. You don't need to download apps for devices like Echo and each time we speak we don't look at our phone," said Nick Hunn, CTO at WiFore Consulting.
In business travel voice recognition could mean a simple request of 'please rearrange my flight' into a device or, if recorded and transcribed, it may be an easy way to get thoughts and feedback.
No-one can truly predict what will happen but looking at what your travellers, and possibly even your kids, are using on a daily basis is normally a good indicator.