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Tourism turns to automation

By Chantel Troskie, Customer Experience Senior Sales Manager at Oracle

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Tourism forms a vital part of the South African economy, outperforming many other key sectors in contribution to GDP and job creation, and SA Tourism is looking to capitalise on the opportunity by attracting an additional one million domestic and four million international visitors by 2021, as part of its five-million-in-five-years strategy.

A tourism survey by Statistics South Africa shows however that domestic tourists have been cautious about their travel patterns, and are more careful about how they spend their money, due to the sluggish economy. The report highlights that instead of taking trips throughout the year, day travellers and domestic tourists have opted to travel during months in which there are school holidays such as September, December, April or June.

What has worked in travellers’ favour is the wide choice of online travel agents and comparison sites aimed at providing them with the best pricing options. However, these providers need to offer a seamless travel experience, one that not only makes the process smoother but also anticipates what customers want ahead of time. This is the secret to delivering value that goes beyond price and building lasting customer relationships.

That’s why airlines, hotels and other hospitality companies are turning to automated services to remove the bottlenecks that have traditionally stood in their customers’ way and give people their time back.

Automate to solve pain points

The term ‘automation’ may conjure up the image of faceless robots and processes that don’t understand our needs, but this is not the way to apply it when serving people directly. Businesses need automation that is supported by a deep understanding of customers. Only then can they deliver experiences that are not just efficient but also personalised.

The key is to not automate services for the sake of it. Airlines and hospitality companies need to step in their customers’ shoes and apply their automation strategies to genuine pain points.

Read more to see how Club Med used data to service customers better.

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CES: Most useless gadgets

The worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Language tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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