The Wall Street Journal on Jan. 30 published a great opinion piece called "The Coming Tech-led Boom," which outlined three fundamental shifts the writers believe will transform this century like electricity, telephony and mass production did the last one.
The article highlights "big data," smart manufacturing and wireless communications as the great transformers. It's exciting to consider how each development is affecting the travel industry and business travel specifically.
I and others (check out Tnooz) have explored how "big data" will affect travel. We live in an era where "processing power and data storage are virtually free," notes the WSJ piece You can buy a terabyte memory stick on Amazon for a few hundred bucks (embarrassing for those of us who still think in kilobytes). IPhones process data faster than the mainframes that guided man to the moon.
The cloud is even cooler because users don't and won't even need to think about storage and clock speeds. Remember when you bought software and it came in a box? You probably even still have some of those boxes in your basement next to your LPs and 45s. Soon our kids will lament to their kids about how they used to worry about filling up their iPod drives with gigabytes of video.
The second transformation touted by the Journal is smart manufacturing, defined almost as the opposite (and the end) of mass production. They focus on the impact that automation and information systems will have on the fabrication of physical things. But using technology to improve quality, customization and speed delivery has to interest travelers, managers and suppliers.
The third revolution is wireless communications. Nobody questions that the authors' assertion that "radical collapse in the cost of wireless connectivity ... coupled with the cloud ... provides cheap connectivity, information (storage) and processing power to nearly everyone, everywhere."
Who can doubt this will change the way and the reasons folks travel on business? To be fair, I have wondered in the past whether "mobile" might not be so important in its own right as much as it enables travelers to do standard things in non-standard places.
I now see that the wireless infrastructure will enable companies and travelers to stay in touch constantly and at multiple levels. Duty of care is essential, as is helping travelers when their plans are disrupted. Continuous connectivity, however, will make it possible to guide (and quality-control?) every purchase that a traveler makes.
In travel, infinite storage and unlimited processing power will make it easier for travel suppliers to tweak and personalize offers to travelers--and to companies. Continuous and rapid improvements driven by the same technology and climate of innovation will revolutionize the expectations of buyers and suppliers.
Super-well-informed travelers meet super-well-equipped suppliers. It's going to be great.
Tom Wilkinson is a travel management consultant and senior partner with KesselRun Corporate Travel Solutions.