With vehicles becoming connected, electric and eventually autonomous, the way people and goods move is changing. Data on individual vehicles, fleets and entire transportation services is becoming more easily accessible, allowing for the development of mobility services that take into account the mobility landscape as a whole.
Automotive companies are looking to take advantage of their new capabilities to become mobility providers, involved in every stage of a journey. Meanwhile, cities and public transportation providers are looking towards a future with intelligent transportation services that react more flexibly to demand and operate more efficiently. Logistics organisations are looking to move goods ever more efficiently than through the supply chain, while travel companies are beginning to explore the capabilities of technology in delivering a better experience.
As they begin to take advantage of the possibilities of data-driven mobility solutions, these sectors are therefore beginning to converge into a single, shared mobility landscape.
“If you look into the overall industry, the biggest growth is coming from data-driven innovation and new mobility services,” says Sanjay Ravi, general manager of automotive, mobility and transportation at Microsoft. “This means that the industries that have traditionally been regarded as regarded as separate - transportation, automotive and travel – are all coming together in creating solutions for the movement of people and goods.”
In response, Microsoft is changing the way it approaches the industry. Bringing together automotive with the previously separate travel and transportation sectors will allow its solutions to accurately reflect the way that mobility is changing.
“We are responding to the changes that we can see coming to the industry,” says Ravi. “By bringing travel and transportation together with automotive into a new organisation, we’re making sure that we’re part of that change.”
This significant shift comes at a time when the industry has been facing major challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Travel has been particularly hard hit, with international movement remaining extremely limited. Worldwide, almost 50 million travel jobs are at risk during the crisis, according to estimates by the World Travel and Tourism Council, while research by the US Travel Association has found that there has been an estimated economic loss of $809 billion.
“As the public and private sectors race to contain Covid-19, we are hearing from our travel and transport customers about the unique challenges they are facing and steps they are taking to mitigate the impact of this crisis,” says Julie Shainock, senior director, automotive, mobility and transportation industry at Microsoft. “Industry leaders are taking quick and decisive action to prepare their organisations and workforce for a new normal. This includes adjusting staffing levels, closing properties and shifting to remote work. Perhaps no industry will face more pressure from this crisis, but there is a deep history of resiliency and recovery across previous downturns.”
The near future, therefore, will see travel and transportation companies looking to rebound and rebuild. To do so, they will need to begin leveraging technologies and solutions that they might previously have been neglecting to help give them a competitive edge in challenging times.
“The travel industry has historically been behind in the cloud journey, so its ability to accelerate its infrastructure and applications to the cloud is critical,” says Shainock. “This will help drive an increase in automation in their operations and improve efficiencies with frontline staff, who will have information more readily at their fingertips.”
Shainock also predicts that the way in which businesses engage with their customers will be important in encouraging them to return to travel.
“The need for personalisation will be more important as new types of customer segment will continue to emerge,” she says. “Travel companies will need to digitally engage with their consumers to drive a more emotional connection which will lead to increased revenue from each and every consumer.”
One Microsoft partner that is driving this innovation is travel technology company Amadeus. The partnership between the two organisations will see them work together to foster collaboration across the travel industry to create new personalised services. Microsoft and Amadeus will focus on joint innovation and product development to leverage each company’s respective capabilities, and the partnership will accelerate the move of Amadeus’ technical platform to the public cloud, enabling optimised operations worldwide.
“Amadeus’ strength is built on our people and our history of pushing the boundaries of travel technology, providing our customers with better and ever more innovative ways to achieve their goals,” said Luis Maroto, CEO of Amadeus, when the partnership was announced. “From our long experience with cloud technology, we are convinced it is the right systems architecture to deliver on this continued commitment, and that Microsoft is the right partner to help us achieve our goals together.”
A bright spot in the pandemic, however, has been for the logistics sector, due to the increased amounts of packages for food, medical supplies and paper goods being transported across the supply chain. Microsoft has formed a multiyear collaboration with FedEx to help transform commerce by combining the logistics network of FedEx with the power of Microsoft technologies. The companies aim to give logistics organisations an enhanced level of control and insight into the global movement of goods.
“FedEx has been reimagining the supply chain since our first day of operation,” said Frederick Smith, chairman and CEO of FedEx. “Together with Microsoft, we will combine the immense power of technology with the vast scale of our infrastructure to help revolutionise commerce and create a network for what’s next for our customers.”
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.
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