Technology

How can blockchain transform the way we travel?

Michael Ryan & Andrew Jordan

Firstly, what is Blockchain?

Bitcoin, the world’s first digital currency, might feel like a passing technology trend with no function in the world of business travel.

But what if the technology upon which Bitcoin is built could make the fear of forgetting your passport a problem of the past? Well, now there’s a brave new world.

While cryptocurrency still is the most recognized application of Blockchain, the technology itself has the potential to transform every aspect of our lives, including making travel more streamlined and secure.

Essentially a decentralised and transparent data network, Blockchain was created as a way to shift power away from relational databases that are controlled by companies. The technology stores the action and information in encrypted blocks that can never be altered. Chaining the blocks together creates the blockchain.

According to CNN, data is now a $300 billion a year industry and growing rapidly. With data security a key issue across the world, following recent high-profile data breaches, blockchain can provide a much-needed additional layer of security.

From decentralized social networking sites to authenticated voting, companies are developing ideas across all industries on ways to use blockchain. According to the World Economic Forum, it’s predicted that by 2025, around 10 percent of global GDP will be generated using blockchains.

But as with anything, looking at how complicated technology can solve everyday problems is where the real interest lies.

Carlson Wagonlit Travel’s (CWT) technical experts, Marcus Bonner and Jon Har-Ewen are testing possible applications by implementing ‘proof of concepts’ – which involve using blockchains to solve small problems, and then gradually expanding on them.

The advantage of working this way is that we can be flexible in introducing and testing new versions, and is just one example of how CWT is becoming much more agile in the way that we develop and release products.

The possibilities of Blockchain in travel

The possibilities for how Blockchain can impact travel are numerous. Starting with identify verification, a traveller’s identity could be verified from anywhere, eliminating that awkward exchange with passport control when you look nothing like your photo. An application that distinctly assigns passengers to their luggage is also being explored.

When it comes to loyalty and bonus programs, reward points could be collected from vendors and made instantly accessible and used as a currency.

If you sprain your ankle on a business trip, blockchain could streamline the error-prone process of logging a claim. A hospital could post the incident, which would then be picked up from a block shared with the company’s insurance company.

There are myriad opportunities for companies who rely on business travel for revenue generation to capitalise on the blockchain technology.

Blockchain has enormous potential but there is also some hype. Whenever there is a physical process involved, having a reliable database will help to track but will never eliminate human error.

However, it has the potential to resolve issues associated with traditional systems, since it creates an encrypted thread of data ledgers. Travel managers can, therefore, fulfil their duty of care obligations more efficiently. In addition, travel management companies will be better placed to overcome unexpected problems and negotiate multiple levels of security, payment, and accommodation.

Changes to business travel are just around the corner but Blockchain is simply the connectivity piece. Our job is to build the future on that ecosystem.


Michael Ryan, Managing Director – Australia & New Zealand, and Andrew Jordan, Chief Technology Officer, Carlson Wagonlit Travel

 



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