Google hosted its annual I/O conference May 17-19, 2017 at its Mountain View, California offices. The conference highlighted some of the software technologies the company is focusing on now and into the near future. Some of the showcased technologies have great use cases to improve the travel experience. Here are glimpses of these technologies and their use cases in the travel industry.
Google I/O 2017
We will classified these technologies into three categories – Experience, Efficiency and Effectiveness:
• Experience involves bringing a new or improved layer of experience for the traveller
• Efficiency revolves around completing a current routine or task in less time or in less steps
• Effectiveness focuses on performing a task right on the first try
Led by Google’s Chief Executive Officer, Sundar Pichai, day 1 of the conference centered on the company’s future roadmap for its mobile operating system – Android, Google Assistant, Google Home and virtual reality.
Google I/O 2017 Day 1 Keynote Source: Google
When it comes to the next version of the Android operating system codenamed “O”, travellers can expect improvements on notification management, battery life management, security, start up time and stability.
- Notification badges called “Dots” are introduced to show a small dot beside any applications found in the home screen that have new incoming notifications. This is important for travellers who are waiting for communication on flight status, or an upgrade. (Experience)
- Background application management can drain battery life. Android O sets “wise limits” on background usage which will reduce or eliminate applications from operating or seeking information while not in used. Users can set which battery draining applications can be whitelisted or added to the list. While many airports and airlines added more power outlets over the years, battery life continues to be a key feature travellers would like to see more improvements on. (Efficiency)
- The ability to sideload applications can increase the opportunity of malicious code being introduced. On Android O, a new function called Google Play Protect (part of the new Google Play Security) designed to scan all the apps on the device and warn the user if any of them are deemed unsafe. Travellers can go to Settings > Security & Location > Verify App to find all the scanned applications. (Effectiveness)
- Streamlining of the operating system’s core code will improve start up time and stability of any Android O installed devices. (Efficiency)
Google Assistant is already available to help the travellers search for information from various sites and enable them to make decisions on the fly. This is similar to the voice command digital assistant that Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cordana have to offer but with a bigger set native instructions.
Use cases through integration with Google applications (Maps, Allo, Google+, Mail, and Flight, etc) and third party vendors (e.g. car sharing, travel booking, travel logging, etc) can create an end-to-end ecosystem allowing the travellers to not have to fumble with opening and closing many applications or tasks.
For example, a traveller can potentially ask Google Assistant to set up a meeting in Manchester and search for a flight from San Francisco on Kayak. The Assistant will be able to search and provide potential options to local area airports based on price and the meeting location. When its time to head to the airport, the Assistant will proactively inform the traveller that he/she might be better off taking the BART than drive as there is a traffic along the way. Using Google Map and the airline’s application, the Assistant would be able to guide the traveller when it is time to navigate through a connecting airport before wayfinding to the gate for the Manchester flight. When asked, the Assistant will be able to inform if there is enough time to grab a Starbucks before heading to the meeting. (Experience, Efficiency, Effectiveness)
Highlights of Day 2 included Google Home, Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Project Tango:
Using the Google Assistant, travellers can use Google Home – Currently, travellers can interact with the device to:
- Find and track flight prices through Google Flights, look for things to do in a destination and check flight status (as part of Google Now).
- Find traffic information through Google Map
- Add events through Google Calendar, ask about events, and get schedule for the day
- Receive weather information for various destinations
The next round of updates will add limited notification abilities to Google Home. Dubbed Proactive Assistance, the device will light up initially to alert the traveller’s attention. This could be related to notification on traffic jams or flight delays. In the future, more alerts (e.g. sound or voice command) may be added to alert the traveller which would improve decision making. (Experience, Efficiency, Effectiveness)
Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Project Tango
Google I/O 2017 Day 2 Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) Source: Google
Google introduced a new platform Visual Position Service (VPS). It has the promise to be the Global Positioning System (GPS) for large indoor spaces. Built under Project Tango, VPS allows application designers to guide anyone through indoor spaces using an augmented reality overlay. Combined with its own beacon technology called Eddystone (News), VPS could greatly enhance wayfinding functions for travellers at airports and hotels (e.g. locating a car in the parking lot, finding the VIP lounge, connecting flights and finding favorite coffee shop, etc). With Google Assistant in toll, travellers can book lounge access or spa treatments ahead of time and would be able to allocate enough time to relax before a trip. (Experience, Efficiency, Effectiveness)
As for augmented reality and virtual reality, the technologies is in its early adoption phase but have shown significant promise as an entertainment source. There are other use cases for them in the travel industry including guiding people with fear of flying to experience a flight without ever stepping foot into an airplane, airlines providing potential travellers a glimpse of what flying different cabins would be like, assisting people with disabilities do a walkthrough of an airport ahead of time to gain familiarities.