Terry Jones, IBM's Watson Team Up For Cognitive Travel Recommendations

By adapting the cognitive powers of IBM's Watson supercomputing technology, travel technology guru Terry Jones once again is looking to shake up the industry.

The founding CEO of Travelocity and former chairman of Kayak is working with former IBM Watson general manager Manoj Saxena to create a travel business that will use the technology to provide advice and enable travel suppliers to upsell services to travelers.

"What you have on the web today are opinions and clues," Jones this month told The Beat. "What's missing on the web is advice."

Jones said that Watson__which twice bested human competitors on the game show Jeopardy__offers "the ability to structure unstructured data, such as social data, blogs, books and magazines, and to interface to it with natural language." Called Wayblazer, the new business pays IBM a fee to use the Watson technology.

During the past three months, Wayblazer built a site that can recommend travel products and experiences to visitors who use the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau. Jones is focused on providing airlines and hotels with the opportunity to use Watson's capabilities for cognitive search, which produces recommendations, and cognitive commerce. He envisions providing hotels and airlines with mobile concierge services that can suggest such ancillary travel products as restaurant reservations.

Jones said that business travel is not yet on his radar, but it is one of many applications for which this technology could be used. "It could be a GDS for unstructured data, as it brings together lots of different travel data that can be sliced and diced in different ways," he said. "Over time, the value may grow like it did with the GDSs, expanding from airlines into other areas."

Jones said cloud-based Wayblazer has an investment fund of $100 million and has built an ecosystem within which developers can build products. The company in its Austin, Texas headquarters has established what Jones called "a cognitive garage" where "we can help developers develop new tools" employing the Wayblazer system.