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Aug 5, 2019,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Google spread the word on machine learning’s ability to revolutionise travel

Speaking at the Skift Tech Forum in late June, Oliver Heckmann, a Google vice president for engineering, said the travel industry can benefit more than most from artificial intelligence and machine learning. The technology can help passengers access information on their flights and do away with language barriers.

The travel and tourism industries are among those with the most to gain from the spread of artificial intelligence, particularly machine learning, which enables systems to learn and improve by acquiring and analysing large quantities of data. At least that is the way Google’s executives see things.

Travel industry with most to gain

Speaking at the Skift Tech Forum in San Francisco on 27 June, Oliver Heckmann, a Google vice president for engineering, said machine learning would profoundly change the way people travel: It’s probably changing our entire industry more than any other in the world.” He added that progress was especially visible in translation and predictive tools.

Heckmann also said that Google was working on analysing flight delays and getting information out to customers more quickly than the airlines, information they would receive when doing a Google search for their flight number.

A dedicated group

As the Google VP went on to say, the company is dedicating considerable resources to the technology and bringing benefits to passengers: “We have a team that is feeding all kinds of information — for example, delays, and arrival times and status of arriving planes — into a big machine learning system that then takes that information and other information, like airport specific information, and outputs predictions of flights being delayed.”

Language barriers a thing of the paste

As for translation tools, Heckmann believes they will do away with language barriers, which he regards as a major problem for Google customers travelling to other parts of the world, where they are faced with different cultures.

Giving an example of the need for good translation in foreign climes, he told the tale of a recent holiday in France, when a power line fell near the home where he and his family were staying. Prompted to make an emergency call in a language he does not speak, Heckmann explained that thanks to Google Translate he was able to have a “seamless conversation” and solve the problem.

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Cover photo credits: Mike MacKenzie/Flickr

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