Artificial Intelligence

5 ways AI powers business travel

Artificial intelligence is shaping the way individuals travel, especially for business. Here are the five major applications.

Traveling for business can be a pain. Between finding an affordable flight, booking a hotel, and figuring out transportation, traveling often turns out to be more of a headache than expected. This is especially true for business trips, which are typically short and often given on short notice.

However, artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to make business travel much easier. As of right now, businesses are already feeling the incredible impact of AI in daily operations. From improving security, to making analytics cheaper, to updating hiring processes, and more, AI has slowly embedded itself in many organizations.

SEE: Ebook: Essential travel tips for business pros (Tech Pro Research)

While companies are interacting constantly with AI every day, the technology is now transcending the office space. "AI is transforming virtually every aspect of business, including travel," said Jeff Aaron, vice president of marketing for AI-powered Wi-Fi provider Mist.

AI is involved in every aspect of business travel, from planning to the trip itself, explained Karen Panetta, IEEE fellow and dean of the school of engineering at Tufts University. With the massive amount of data accumulated on the web, AI is the only resource capable of processing and providing insights from that information—at least, in a timely manner. AI looks at user information and draws conclusions about that person, recommending specific items based on the person's personal preferences.

"Now, it knows everything about me. And that might be a little freaky for some people, but the data that they're going to accumulate is really going to be trying to make your life easier," said Panetta. The key word for AI's role in business travel is convenience; AI is being used to let business pros focus more on their work and less on logistics.

Here are 5 of the top ways AI helps professionals travel:

1. Organization

As mentioned previously, planning a business trip can be taxing. "If you think about, time-wise, how long we spend doing that, how many times our administrators or staff do that for us, that's quite significant," said Panetta.

But that's where AI comes in. "AI creates the opportunity to improve the speed and accuracy of truly personalized offers customers want from airlines, hotels, rental companies, etc. by 'learning' (what converts, sells, what routes are best, and more) from travel searches," said Matt Minetola, CIO and executive vice president of Travelport.

By tracking and studying user searches, AI is able to find customized solutions and suggestions. For example, if you search "cheap flights to Chicago," AI will take note of that search and begin offering suggestions of flights, hotels, and events in Chicago. "AI improves demand forecasting for travel and fare prediction, ultimately growing travel businesses by allowing them to better meet travelers' needs and expectations," said Minetola.

The power of AI is seen even more through travel agencies. By using chatbots and tracking searches, travel agency sites are able to create full itineraries based on information about your trip, said Panetta.

2. Transportation

AI can help you find cheap and efficient airfare, but it can also help you navigate your destination. Specifically in vehicles, AI is integrated to help maximize efficiency when going from point A to point B.

For example, "you have GPS, and it says, 'Oh, there's an accident ahead.' And you're like, 'How'd it know that?' It's because there's even AI within vehicles that are communicating with one another," said Panetta. An AI-powered GPS makes maneuvering an unfamiliar city much easier. If there is a traffic jam, AI can be used to find an alternate route or shortcut, which a business traveler visiting a new place wouldn't know.

Additionally, AI in Google Maps makes using public transit a breeze, providing updates that include departure delays and stop notifications. The app will even tell you when it's time to get off the train or bus based on the imputed location.

3. Safety

Safety is an essential factor in business travel, since employees are often traveling alone. It's difficult for traveling business pros to know the reliable vendors in the area, like car services for example.

AI is a huge help in safety with online approval ratings, said Panetta. She explained that with AI, "you'll almost have that type of built in security since somebody will almost be graded, like we do when we're a buyer on online purchasing things. They rank the buyers; you get five stars, or a 99% approval rating. I think that will also be how vendors will be approved. For travelers, when I don't know who to go to, they're going to have an approval rating that will be based on tons of data that have been collected about that person."

4. Translation

Language barriers can be a big hurdle for business professionals traveling abroad. But the good old days of using a word translator book are gone, and apps are here.

In June, Google made international communication much easier by enabling Google Translate to work offline. If you have spotty Wi-Fi or poor signal, Google Translate will still be able to operate. The updated version of the app uses AI to translate full sentences, rather than breaking the sentences up into chunks, like it did previously. This update also takes context into play, making the translation more accurate.

In the future, Panetta predicts AI will make translators even more efficient. "In the future, I can probably just talk to it, and have it in real time spit out a conversation and have it understand when the person responds to me, that I don't have to have them hit a different button. It will know they're speaking Japanese, translate back into English. It will know my needs," she said.

5. Location-based experiences

Lastly, AI can make recommendations on events and activities based on your travel destination. Using your phone's bluetooth, the AI will be able to make personal suggestions from the moment you get off the plane.

"AI and virtual Bluetooth Low Energy (vBLE) work together to make the business travel experience painless," said Aaron. "BLE is the beacon technology on every mobile device. When turned on, every mobile device emits a unique BLE signal that interacts with battery-powered devices on the wall to deliver personalized, location-based experiences." vBLE will help recommend restaurants and fun spots to check out during your stay.

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Image: iStockphoto/bernardbodo

About Macy Bayern

Macy Bayern is an Associate Staff Writer for TechRepublic. A recent graduate from the University of Texas at Austin's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Macy covers tech news and trends.

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