Door-to-door killer app for corporate travellers unveiled
The “new” Neo is different from what was initially planned (see 2012 promotional video) and CEO Dean Forbes admits door-to-door was is complex than expected.
Having brought back CTO Stephane Le Cam from the startup world to lead the project, the result is quite promising given the short time-scale.
Neo was demonstrated live this week with a pretty good quality of results and impressive speed, very close to the target of five seconds response time, thanks to both smart caching and artificial intelligence to identify relevant itineraries.
The user experience provides many common consumer-driven features, with heavy leverage on Google’s infrastructure like real-time predictive text input, live street view and map overlays.
Door-to-door itineraries are displayed as a timeline with steps including walking, driving, biking, rail, hotel, flights, dining et al.
Users can then select and change key component like hotel or flight, and evaluate the impact on the overall cost.
Built on a proprietary framework based on HTML5/JS/CSS, the user interface adapts itself to the display size and has shown excellent rendering on desktop, iPad and iPhone browsers.
The development team has rebuilt the whole application architecture in order to ensure speed, scalability and device independency – and this could raise concerns from corporate customers, used to wait years for new travel code stacks to stabilize.
Estimating door-to-door expenses takes the process very close to total trip cost control. Neo assigns costs to every step and provides a breakdown of booking costs (air/car/hotel) and additional costs (bus/dining).
The itemized breakdown is nothing else than a skeleton expense report, which once approved can provide a benchmark for detecting variances with the post-trip expense claim.
Although usability can be further improved, the engine looks stable and in all live demonstrations, definetely fast.
Major gaps like hotel map search are already in development. However, deployment will be decided on a case by case basis with corporate clients.
And this is where the rubber will hit the road: sources with early access to the new tool think it’s not fully ready for prime time, and expect another three to six months before the quality of the results (read: fares) will be accurate enough to allow real bookings.
Daniele Beccari is a contributing Node to Tnooz and co-founder/CEO of TargetHub, a startup using mobile and data to change the way people travel.
A travel technology strategist focusing on product innovation with global industry players, he also served as VP Europe at Isango, a global travel experiences aggregator. Previously he was head of global product marketing at the e-commerce division of Amadeus.
He started his career with the internet appliances R&D division of HP, working on e-mail client devices, web tablets and internet refrigerators... in 1995!
An MBA graduate from INSEAD (France), Daniele can be found somewhere between Paris, London, Turin, San francisco or Tokyo. Daniele's views are his alone and not necessarily the views of his clients.