Julien Clausse’s job title conveys some sense of where Amadeus wants to go with his department. As head of moonshot innovation, his mantra is “Think bold.”
Clausse is part of Amadeus Ambient Services, a group based on the notion that your environment should take care of you.
Your refrigerator should not only tell you when you are running low on milk, it should add it to the shopping list in your mobile.
Your television can tell you whether your flight is on time.
Your car should notice that traffic is sluggish on the way to the airport and recommend valet parking to save 10 minutes. If you agree, your car will book the service at the touch of a button and even drive you there.
The Ambient Services platform, which was a runner-up in the Phocuswright 2016 Launch People’s Choice Award, aims to enable “ambient interactions” throughout a traveler’s journey, thereby delivering the right service at each step of the trip.
It sounds a bit like magic, but there is no magic wand at work here; rather, there is a lot of hard work.
“Everything has to be created,” Clausse said. “We have to determine what is relevant in the car, in the hotel room.” And everything has to be tested: Should interactions be via voice rather than on a screen, for example?
The success of the platform is “heavily based on the readiness of infrastructure,” Clausse said.
That means dealing with some new players outside the travel industry. For example, the PSA Group, Europe’s second largest car manufacturer (the Opel is its largest brand in Europe), is working with Amadeus to develop cars that talk to you and know when your hotel room is ready.
Some companies get it – they anticipate the future and prepare for it.
“There is a hotel in Las Vegas that is going to buy 5,000 Echos,” the hands-free speaker that connects with Amazon’s Alexa services, for example.
Amadeus is not the only company attempting to harness “the internet of things,” but Clausse said it has an important edge: “The big players out there like Google will tell you, ‘It’s time to go,’ but they won’t offer any transaction option,” he said. “I honestly haven’t seen anything in travel yet that does.”
Currently, people are using Amadeus Ambient system, “but it’s still in a controlled environment,” a sort of living lab, he said. “But the only feedback we value is from the real world.”
That won’t come overnight. Clausse expects that it will be three to five years before all the moving parts, from infrastructure to content, come together. But there is strong interest in it, he said.
The project is “highly challenging. You have to question yourself all the time,” he said.
“It also needs to be highly managed.” All activity must focus on testing the hypothesis.