KDS Unveils 'Neo' Expense Tool, Details Self-Booking Enhancements

One year after KDS reimagined online booking with its Neo door-to-door self-booking tool, the technology company will try to do likewise with expense management.

Ditching the typical spreadsheet-like interface of most expense systems, KDS on Wednesday unveiled Neo Expense, available now, a tool that allows users to take smartphone images of receipts, then import them into a daily or monthly calendar. Expenses are displayed on the day and time they were incurred, giving context as to the purpose of the spend and allowing users to catch discrepancies more easily, CEO Dean Forbes told the audience here at an annual KDS conference.

To launch the camera from the Neo Expense mobile app, users first select the type of expense they're photographing—lunch or taxi service, for example. Once a photo is taken, the system asks the user to highlight the correct amount on the receipt. Using optical character recognition, the amount automatically is inputted and a line item is completed in the expense report. Users can amend the amount in the app if it's incorrect. Once all line items are in the system, the user presses a button and a complete expense report is created in about 30 seconds.

While several expense tools offer mobile receipt capture and accept credit card data feeds, users still must manually pair the receipt with the expense. In Neo Expense, taking photos of receipts instantly creates a line item, which then syncs with credit card feeds.

"It's not just taking digital images of receipts," Forbes said. "It's creating expense line items, and the user doesn't have anything more to do."

In creating the tool, KDS wanted to simplify the existing report-creation process, much as it did for self-booking with Neo, Forbes explained. In examining its previous expense offerings, KDS officials noticed users would switch back and forth between their calendars and expense reports to figure out expenses and match receipts.

"That's where the flip-flop happened," Forbes said. "If users were going between the expense system and calendar, why can't the calendar be the expense system?"

In the Neo Expense display, icons representing such typical expense items as meals and taxis fill a calendar box. A separate box on the screen depicts credit card charges, which can be dragged to a specific date. The system is color-coded, with an expense box missing a receipt displayed in yellow, for example. Users can write explanations in the comments box and manually input expenses not paid with a credit card or booked through Neo, senior vice president of product and partners Oliver Quayle explained. Users move items around to different days by dragging icons but have the option to view expenses in a more traditional line-item display.

"In a spreadsheet you can't see the context," Quayle said. "This gives the benefits of noticing under- or overclaiming. It's a story, a narrative of the claim."

KDS Augments Neo Capabilities

Meanwhile, KDS on Wednesday announced several enhancements to the Neo self-booking tool, outlined plans for future development and unveiled new content partners.

The company listed four new features for Neo, all available immediately:

• Voice activation allows users to initiate a travel itinerary through the Neo mobile app. Users state their arrival location, date and time and departure details and in seconds Neo displays a door-to-door travel itinerary. While voice activation currently is available only in English, Forbes said French-language voice activation is in development.

• New integration with Microsoft Outlook allows Neo to develop a travel itinerary based on details from meeting requests in a user's email calendar. Users click a KDS Neo icon within Outlook to launch the booking tool.

• Through integration with Google Maps, Neo now can display public transportation options in more than 50 countries. That includes bus and subway options, walking distances, time required and the number of stops on a ride, all in a fashion similar to that of Google Maps. Directions include color-coded icons making it easier for travelers to spot subway or train lines.

• The Neo "Complete Choice" option allows users to adjust individual legs of trips. For example, users can click a suggested flight option to view more flights and price points. Similarly, users can view more hotel options on a Google map to assess hotel locations and compare prices.

KDS also will provide "full-content access" to Southwest Airlines—something already contemplated as part of KDS's alliance with nuTravel—as well as access to content from Spanish rail operator Renfe, KDS vice president of product strategy Dan Fitzgerald told the audience here. Fitzgerald also said the company is developing a solution for Neo that would address airline ancillary fees.

The Neo Of The Future

Ideally, KDS wants users to "do less and get more," according to Quayle. The company is developing products that focus on "me," the user. "Join Me" would allow users to add colleagues to itineraries so they can share flights, hotels and cab rides, thereby generating greater productivity and savings.

Additionally, as users travel, the "Follow Me" solution would warn travelers if a leg of a trip needs to be rebooked. "It will give you the option to rebook and rebuild your timeline to get you to the meeting on time," Quayle said.

"Meet Me" also would allow users to arrange meetings with groups of individuals.

"Hopefully we will show some of those features at the next conference next year," Quayle said.

KDS unveiled Neo at last year's KDS Now conference, and Forbes claimed more than 100,000 users in the subsequent 12 months.

KDS Names New Americas GM

The conference also marked Mike Concannon's first day as KDS general manager of the Americas. A former global account executive with meetings technology company The Active Network, Concannon is responsible for North American strategy and budgeting and reports to Quayle, according to the company.

Forbes previously has said that KDS would expand in North America, and Quayle on Wednesday told The Beat that the firm first would expand its North American sales team before selecting a home office location. A potential office location is Minnesota, where KDS partner Carlson Wagonlit Travel is headquartered.

CWT on Wednesday released a statement reaffirming its relationship with KDS and noting it would offer Neo Expense to clients in North America, Asia/Pacific and Europe, the Middle East and Africa. CWT also noted that it expects "more than 100 clients around the world will choose KDS products by the end of 2014."