Top of the tech pops – Blockchain, voice, bots and virtual reality finds their way

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Many of the digital forces that have impacted on the travel industry in recent years have come from internal changes.

Consider trends such as consolidation, meta-booking, the evolution of distribution models – each have been as a result of elements within the industry itself.

But perhaps some of the most significant changes (challenges?) that are likely to affect the way the industry operates over the next 12 months could arrive as part of wider enhancements to technology across multiple industries.

Juniper Research, in its annual forecast of tech advances expected to hit the business world, has highlighted a number of trends that will put many a chief technology officer on high alert during 2017.

For example, 2016 may have been the year that “bots” surfaced in a meaningful way, with many travel brands working out what to do.

But next year will be when the technology both improves and the process becomes more accepted by those actually using them.

Juniper says bots (virtual customer service agents that operate mostly on social networks, especially Facebook) will improve as “product capabilities catch up with expectations”, with retailers realising they can push offers to consumers as well as engage with customers.

As a result, with Facebook Messenger is likely to be the major platform, consumers should expect to see more advertising and branding associated with their use shifting to the mainstream.

Related, as a business process but using a different type of technology, is the growing use of voice recognition systems.

Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant and Apple’s Siri are not entirely new but, again, are expected to move into wider circulation as tools to which consumers can interact with brands and services.

In particular during 2017 will be a rapid increase in the type of functionality made available to voice-recognition platforms, including profile/account control.

Juniper estimates that there will be a massive 2.15 billion voice assistants in use in 2017.

Alongside bots in terms of adoption, and certainly the most creative when it comes to its application to the travel industry, will what Juniper predicts to be “mass expansion of virtual reality content creation”.

In other words, with VR headsets and devices becoming more commonplace, brands will no longer just test the idea of these types of tech-led experiences but dive in head-first.

Mobile applications are the most likely area where VR experiences will be found, with many examples being formed in collaboration with media brands that can bolster the marketing message of the provider.

Finally, Blockchain technology (distributed ledgers and data files on individuals and services) may not hit the mainstream but will find itself under consideration by product providers and intermediaries along the consumer foodchain.

Organisations and companies will probably use 2017 to evaluate the use of Blockchain technology in terms of overall benefits around efficiency, transparency and costs.

NB: Technology image via FreeImages.

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