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​Ubiquitous Technology and Beneficial Intelligence: Tech That Helps Shoppers Be Better Superheroes

July 08, 2016 - BY Tim Haynes

In the past decade, we've become superheroes — all-seeing and all-knowing in a way no previous generation could have imagined. We know intimate details of the lives of people we haven't spoken to in decades; we can go to any hotspot and watch a livestream of our pet or child at home; we can answer any question about anything from anywhere.

But our powers come with a price: We're drowning in the Ubitech — the ubiquitous technology — around us.

As I write this, I have 15,049 unread messages in my personal email … just in the "promotions/ads" subfolder (and that's after going through two spam filters). At least a third of the messages are travel-related. This pent-up demand for my attention exerts a continual low-grade angst, coupled with the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) of analysis paralysis: With limitless information and infinite choice, how do I divvy up my finite time?

Of course, infinite choice is an illusion: with finite time, we make the best decisions we can, always wondering what "better" things we're missing. The superpower we need most is super-filters — super limits — to help us engage the world. One hope on the horizon is that future iterations of artificial intelligence will be beneficial intelligence, becoming the filters we need to engage an increasingly complex world in simpler terms.

Most of the world's largest technology companies are working on artificial intelligence engines with a basic underlying goal: make life easier for humans. One important way AI can further that goal is by distilling a virtually infinite amount of information down to the details a human actually needs at a particular place and time.

So, what does beneficial intelligence look like in the hospitality space?

  • Beneficial intelligence is key to making conversational interfaces feel more natural. On the back end, it helps filter the trillions of possible travel variables to allow you to build virtual assistants that can talk to or text with potential customers to answer questions, provide support and offer customized shopping and upsell opportunities tailored to each customer.
  • Beneficial intelligence can help manage traveler preferences and streamline home life with travel life; if the AI in your connected home has learned your preferences for lighting, temperature, and music, those preferences could be shared with a hotel's AI to provide a personalized room environment that's as much like home as possible. It could even go the extra mile and customize in-room snacks, beverages, and meal offers so I'm not bothered by extraneous options. Soon, the connected fridge in my smart home will know I start most weekday mornings with plain yogurt and berries, but splurge on weekends with omelets and bacon — my hotel should know that, too.
  • Beneficial intelligence can help simplify trip planning; if the system knows I'm considering travel with a few friends, it can compare our calendars for availability then comb our social media profiles and photo albums to discover common interests and then make very targeted destination suggestions; once we've picked a tropical beach, it can then proactively upsell and book the kinds of activities we are most likely to enjoy, whether that's kiteboarding lessons, seaweed body wraps or gourmet cooking classes.
  • These are early steps in considering the countless ways beneficial intelligence can provide value, but the space is still in its infancy. I'm hoping beneficial intelligence will even benefit my email — it should know that after I've booked a flight and hotel for St. Croix, it can safely delete the 5,000 other emails offering me "limited-time specials" for various destinations. And it should keep deleting special offers until I've accrued enough vacation days to even think about another trip!

    Today we have the paralysis of infinite choice: tomorrow we may have beneficial intelligence putting dynamic, personalized super-filters in place, so we can make faster, more informed choices. I'm hopeful for a future where Ubitech goes from foreground to background to make our increasingly complex, increasingly connected world easier and easier to navigate.

    To learn more about the applications of beneficial intelligence, check out Sabre's new report, Consumer Mega-Trends Impacting Hospitality in 2016, which explores Ubitech and five other emerging trends to help hoteliers understand how they can leverage trends and exceed customer expectations in the months and years ahead.

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR
    TH_blog_headshot.jpg
    Tim Haynes
    Principal Storyteller, Sabre Labs
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