Airlines, hospitality brands finding new ways to work but clear information needed to restore international traveller confidence
In the search for comparisons, travel industry experts have so far come up short. This has been unchartered territory. Most analysts agree, however, that the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have hit international travel harder than 9/11 and the ruinous 2008 recession put together.
The good news is that the worst seems to have passed. Domestic travel is already starting to bounce back, while search data shows that people have not lost their desire to get on a plane. Innovation and technology are helping the recovery process, which will be further boosted by clarity around post-Covid travel requirements. Not out of the woods, but certainly in a position to ask: just how bad has this been?
“It was even worse than people feared,” says Máire P. Walsh, SVP Digital Technologies with Enterprise Ireland, and one of the most knowledgeable voices in travel tech. “What made it so bad is that everything happened all at once. Travel just shut down, almost overnight.
“On the industry side, one of the biggest issues is that sellers were hit by an immediate wave of cancellations,” she says. “Pretty much anything that had been booked for April, May, early summer, was all cancelled and that had an immediate impact on cashflow. It was a lot to try and absorb all at once.
“But we’re seeing signs of recovery,” she says. “If we look at the data, it’s clear that in every country, domestic travel will be the first to recover. We can see that happening already in the US, where close to 90% of revenue is driven by domestic travel. We’re also seeing pick-up in the rental market including the likes of Airbnb and car rental.
“What’s going to take longer to recover is international travel and that’s primarily because of the 14-day quarantine rule,” says Walsh. “Search data is showing clearly that a lot of people want to start travelling again but as things stand, they are not sure what the rules are. I think most industry people would agree that we need clarification and consistency on what is allowed.”
In a bid to kickstart the tourism sector, the EU has now launched an app and website that provide travelers with real-time information about coronavirus rules and the status of infections in each European country. Disappointingly, the UK declined to be involved in the data-sharing project.
“There’s still a lot of confusion about quarantine and that’s going to push out the recovery timeline for international travel,” says Máire P. Walsh. “What will also take longer is the events industry. The smaller events, 50 people and less, is already starting to come back to life in a physical/virtual hybrid way but the bigger stuff, international conferences and exhibitions, will need more time to recover.
“The nature of travel is also going to change, we know that for certain,” she goes on. “To give one example, where previously we might have booked our holiday three to six months out, now we’re seeing nearly all near-term bookings, zero to 14 days out.”
In terms of disruption, this is the tip of the iceberg, with most experts agreeing that what 9/11 did for travel security, Covid-19 will do for health and hygiene regulation.
“Most airlines and hospitality brands are looking to innovate and there are a lot of Irish travel tech specialists creating solutions to satisfy that demand,” says Máire P. Walsh. “You’re going to see a lot of innovation focussing on journey touchpoints aimed at making people safer and bringing back confidence.”
She mentions i-Hotelligence, an Irish firm with a software platform that allows travelers to manage all aspects of their hotel stay, from check-in to room access to ordering food and drink, via their phone.
“There’s also Mobility Mojo, whose core product is a toolkit for hotel accessibility,” she says. “They now offer a hygiene rating feature for hotels, so travelers know what sort of hygiene protocols and criteria their hotel adheres to. This is the sort of information people now demand and it can help the industry to recover.”
Anyone who has set foot in an airport lately will be familiar with that new staple of the travel experience – getting temperature checked before being allowed to board. Here, Ventilux has developed a mass screening intelligent body temperature detection system using AI-powered sensor technology.
In a similar space, Daon is working with Denver International Airport to provide contactless and biometric solutions that enhance traveler safety (and confidence) and streamline airport operations. There will be a focus on biometrics to reduce physical contact throughout the journey, give travelers an opportunity to assert their health status, and provide touchless retail at airport stores and restaurants.
To monitor people movement as they travel, Taoglas CROWD Insights™ is a new analytics platform that gives hotels, airports and other venues real-time information about crowd sizes and social distancing.
“Another piece of Irish innovation is from HaloSOS, which started as a live reporting mechanism for major events but which can now be deployed to inform staff if they have been in contact with a Covid-19 infected colleague,” says Maire P. Walsh.
On the customer service front, Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline, has deployed Cation Consulting’s leading ‘conversational AI’ platform Parly to automatically handle thousands of customer enquiries every day, and provide meaningful, instant responses to those enquiries before they reach any contact centre. They handle all messaging channels including web, email and social, in multiple languages as well as IVR/Phone and smart speakers Alexa and Google.
Finally, with a surge in data attacks targeting loyalty programmes, Irish fraud specialist UrbanFox is helping travel brands to identify weaknesses in their information management and safeguard their data.
“Companies are looking to do things better and create a more compelling travel journey,” says Enterprise Ireland’s Máire P. Walsh. “Well, the whiteboard is now clean and there’s an opportunity to do that. Crisis creates innovation and we’re definitely seeing green shoots starting to reappear.”
Discover more in the upcoming webinar The Digital Customer Journey is broken. Let’s fix it.
With Travel Industry Analyst, Henry Harteveldt and Enterprise Ireland’s SVP Digital Technologies, Máire P. Walsh
Thursday, 6th August, 11am ET – Register now
As countries around the world seek ways to live alongside Covid-19, social distancing becomes more important than ever. For organisations and businesses, achieving it while minimising damage to productivity is vital.
A raft of highly effective solutions has emerged from Ireland to help.
For innovation watchers, that’s no surprise. A recent international survey placed Ireland 6th in a global ranking of countries responding best in terms of innovation to the pandemic, just behind innovators such as the US, Canada and Israel.
Enterprise Ireland client companies have been leading the way.
That includes companies such as UtilityAR, which specialises in augmented reality (AR) solutions for Industry 4.0, working with clients in sectors such as manufacturing, pharmaceutical, utilities and data centres.
Right now it is enabling workers separated by Covid-19 – either because of social distancing or because one may be in quarantine – to continue to work together.
As UtilityAR CEO and founder Patrick Liddy explains: “Over the past couple of months the buzzword has been business continuity. We are now moving to return to work and the issue is how that can be done safely.”
“We produce systems for technical workers to help them get the job done in cases where, traditionally, they would have worked side by side, whether for oversight, guidance, trouble shooting or simply to have a second pair of eyes.”
Its high tech AR eye glasses allow the wearer share what he or she is seeing with a colleague on another part of the site, allowing socially distanced collaboration.
With fewer workers expected to work alongside one another as a result of Covid protocols, including staggered start times and shift changes, it allows workers to receive guidance or ensure they are following correct procedures, and allows co-workers or advisors to assess their progress remotely.
Irish construction services technology company GoContractor quickly identified challenges for the construction industry in relation to induction and training.
Much of this traditionally takes place in person, either in a work trailer or classroom environment, and involves the sharing and copying of documents. Clocking on too, whether paper based, touch screen or turnstile, risks spreading germs.
Prior to Covid-19 GoContractor’s contractor management platform automated and moved a construction site’s orientations and registrations online, saving safety and project management personnel thousands of hours of teaching and registration time over the life of a project.
Since Covid it has been enabling the construction industry to get back to work by providing a socially distanced ‘no touch’ method for site orientations, registrations and access control.
Instead of a worker having to physically provide documents to site safety personnel or a site manager, GoContractor allows workers to upload their credentials directly to the GoContractor platform, from anywhere. Instead of having to show up a work trailer to do paperwork, a worker can complete everything online the night before so they can stay socially distanced and safe during the registration process.
It solves the problem of training too by allowing workers and subcontractors to login to GoContractor to undertake all their training and orientations online prior to coming on a worksite, removing the need to break social distancing protocol to be properly on-boarded onto a site.
For clocking on and off, GoContractor allows site security or other check-in personnel to scan a QR code to pull up their information, making sure they are properly trained and registered to be on site, and then checking them into the worksite.
GoContractor also allows for hard hat stickers with QR codes, meaning workers can simply have their hard hat scanned on the way in and out of a site to be checked in and out at a distance.
The company has clients in the USA, Canada, UK and across Europe, including some international construction companies such as Lendlease, AECOM and Skanska.
Irish software firm Solgari has an integrated communications solutions for the fintech sector offer voice, video, chat, SMS and co-browsing options that are both fully integrated with Microsoft Dynamics 365 and support regulatory compliance, from GDPR to MiFID II, to customers around the world.
Since Covid-19 the company has been helping distance-working by ensuring that all company communications are recorded, and the data extracted efficiently, regardless of geography or medium. This means companies whose staff are working remotely can keep up to date records of all client interactions.
Internet of things specialist Taoglas has launched CROWD Insights, an IoT solution that supports social distancing. Its cloud-based analytics platform uses existing WiFi infrastructure to measure, monitor, predict, alert and notify social distancing breaches in public gatherings in both indoor and outdoor venues.
The solution can also provide a CROWD Insights Wearable Tag, similar in size to an identity badge worn with a lanyard, that delivers automatic contact tracing capability. This is proving vital to business and factory owners as they deploy solutions to ensure business continuity in the event of further outbreaks.
“We believe this will be vital in the days and months to come, to allow people to move around safely without fear and to get the economy moving again and help business to stay open,” says Ronan Quinlan, co-chief executive and founder of Taoglas.
The solution is quick and easy to install, using existing Wifi systems and collecting anonymised data via smartphones. It offers same day deployment – remotely – via a cloud management platform, whether to healthcare facilities, venues, retail stores, restaurants, airports, cities or towns.
Where social distancing breaches occur, software company NearForm’s mobile tracing app rapidly notifies those who have been in contact with someone who subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.
The new real-time symptom tracking and digital contact tracing app helps curtail the spread of the virus and eliminate the growth of clusters.
Lastly, because social distancing doesn’t reduce the risks posed by the shared use of touch screen devices, Irish coatings specialist Kastus pioneered a solution.
Such devices see high public usage at airport terminals and fast food restaurants. Kastus’s patented technology uses ambient moisture and light as a fuel source to generate oxygen radicals, a type of unstable molecule that contains oxygen, which attach to bacteria and viruses and works to kill them.
Its antimicrobial surface coating is already used by makers of floor tiles for residential, commercial and healthcare settings.
For Kastus founder and CEO John Browne, news that independent testing had proven its efficacy against the novel coronavirus was no surprise. “Our coating is designed to kill superbugs such as e.coli and MRSA but we had a strong degree of confidence that it would work against coronavirus too, and it does,” he says.
Kastus ensures our germs too remain socially distanced.
With Australia and New Zealand implementing some of the strongest business restrictions in the world, Irish companies with operations in Australia and New Zealand are using empathy, creative thinking, and an Irish Advantage to transform their businesses and facilitate stronger customer ties, particularly amongst some of the hardest hit sectors such as hospitality, logistics and leisure.
Focusing on convenience, efficiency and safety, these Enterprise Ireland backed companies got creative with their digital capabilities which look set to flourish in the post-Covid-19 ‘new normal’.
Delivering on demand for the Restaurant Industry
Restaurant dispatch delivery software company VROMO, whose R&D centre is located in Perth, has stepped up its local expansion in response to huge demand.
The company equips restaurants of all sizes with the software to sell food and manage orders online, take payment and hire delivery drivers on demand. Crucially these benefits provide a vital lifeline to restaurants, allowing them to adhere to government social distancing measures in Australia and New Zealand.
Alan Hickey, VROMO CEO, explains “We have restaurants that had never considered delivery contacting us now asking ‘how can I turn this around asap?’ It is the only way they can sustain their business right now. The last three weeks have been crazy for us.”
Hickey’s confidence is well placed, as VROMO has already raised €3.85 million from existing investors, including Enterprise Ireland. Investor confidence has been fuelled by the company’s impressive client list including Burger King in New Zealand. “They came to us and asked to use our app to do their own deliveries,” Hickey said. “We thought: if they believe our product can work for them, we don’t have a huge amount of work to do to make it really polished and bring it to the market on a scalable basis.”
With online food delivery revenue in Australia set to grow at an estimated annual growth rate of 7.1%, coupled with the millions of consumers turning to delivery during the Covid-19 crisis, there is every chance VROMO can deliver on its potential.
Relocating the Gym to the Living Room
Glofox, a gym management software company, has pivoted successfully to launch a new platform that enables gyms and fitness studios in A/NZ to deliver live streaming and premium on-demand content to customers outside the traditional gym setting. To accelerate the urgent roll out in 48 countries, and to support companies to thrive in a fitness industry which is sure to have a stronger digital element in the future, Glofox have announced additional funding of $10M.
The driving force behind the new platform and funding was the decision of governments to close gyms in March. Glofox now enables fitness businesses to keep operating remotely and fulfilling their customers fitness needs online during Covid-19.
Glofox CEO, Conor O’Loughlin, said: “COVID-19 has transformed the fitness industry. Many gyms have made the leap to delivering virtual experiences overnight. Consumers have learned how to consume fitness content digitally and are beginning to feel comfortable with that. Businesses are adapting fast, and those that adopt new tools will survive now and be able to add new revenue streams coming out of this pandemic.”
The company celebrated the opening the of their Australian office in 2019, using Sydney as a base and launchpad to deliver industry leading customer experience to their customers in Asia-Pacific. Director of CX Operations, Stephen Mannion feels that the Australian market will be key to Glofox’s swift roll out as “Australian fitness operators such as F45 Training, Z Fit Studios and Cadence Pilates have been the earliest adopters of the new platform, bringing their workouts online, retaining members, building communities, and managing all aspects of their businesses with Glofox”.
Digitising the Waste and Recycling Sector
AMCS Group is the world’s largest provider of integrated, end-to-end software and hardware solutions for the waste, recycling, logistics and resource management industry. The company helps more than 2450 customers reduce their operating costs, increase asset utilisation, optimise margins and improve customer service by digitalising the end-to-end waste management process.
Because of the challenges posed to the waste and recycling industry by Covid-19, AMCS has announced the roll out a new cloud-based customer support portal, greatly improving end-customer service levels that also enables office staff to use the system whilst working from home. Household and commercial customers can schedule pick-ups online or through an app, track the vehicles arrival and departure, and ensure social distancing is maintained for essential waste collection workers.
The impressive new features have helped AMCS win new customers in Australia during the crisis, including Melbourne based Urban Waste. Co-Founder and General Manager Leonardo Scalia has already realised benefits in his business: “We love the product, we have seen immediate efficiency increases from customer service through to operations, accounts and sales database perspectives,” he explains. “This software suits our business to a tee, before AMCS, no software had the ability to collate data that was waste purpose built. Its next level. The tech, info, data is far superior to anything else in the market”.
There are now over 100 waste companies and councils using AMCS across Australia and New Zealand and AMCS A/NZ Director Michael Bates sees Covid-19 as the perfect storm for digital acceleration, “Companies in the waste and recycling industry that have already invested in digital operating systems have fared much better than those still functioning through more traditional methods, Urban Waste are an excellent example of this”.
Stephen Mullan, Market Executive – Digital Technologies, Enterprise Ireland A/NZ
Innovative Irish companies are partnering with international organisations to hasten innovation and increase the deployment of 5G across the world.
With the potential to reach speeds 100 times faster than 4G and bring a new wave of digitisation across industries, it’s no surprise that all eyes are on this promising technology. The global 5G infrastructure market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 54.1% during 2019-25. As well as the improvement in network speed, the low latency that 5G provides enables further use cases across VR, robotic process automation and IoT.
Global demand from the world’s biggest players
Perhaps the most significant event in 2020 for 5G commercialisation is the predicted launch of Apple’s 5G-enabled iPhone later this year. The launch should have significant implications on consumer expectations around 5G availability and coverage.
As more 5G enabled IoT, gaming, VR/AR and cloud computing applications are launched, interest will continue to grow.
Companies spanning industries have high expectations for 5G. According to a Gartner survey, two-thirds of enterprises plan to utilise 5G by 2020 with IoT and video applications as the key drivers. Now live in 24 markets, 5G technologies are expected to contribute $2.2 trillion to the global economy over the next 15 years, and to account for 20% of global connections by 2025.
7 Irish companies making the connection
Irish telecoms companies, long bolstered by the industry’s commitment to R&D and innovation, are at the forefront of the worldwide deployment of 5G networks, partnering with international companies to make it happen.
Alpha Wireless is a market-leading specialist in designing and manufacturing high-performing antenna solutions. Last year, Alpha Wireless provided antennas for a 5G-enabled mobile network at the Millbrook Proving Ground that enabled self-driving vehicle testing. Their goal is to enable the rollout of next-generation telecommunications networks.
CEO Fergal Lawlor spoke about the potential for Irish companies to partner with global infrastructure providers and mobile operators, saying: “It’s incredible to think that 5G will be able to support the connectivity demands of three times the world’s population in years to come.”
Benetel provides a unique combination of disruptive and differentiated radio platforms, services and RF expertise. Their modular platform approach provides scalable solutions for communication providers. In 2018 big industry players like AT&T, China Mobile & Orange Mobile formed the ORAN alliance, showing a movement towards open interface solutions that Benetel provides.
“Benetel envisions that organisations will require the ability to quickly and cost-effectively customise and evaluate the benefits of 5G networks. We’re responding to this demand with deployment-grade open interface RUs,” John Doyle, Founder and CTO of Benetel, explains while speaking about the company’s addition to the OpenAir Alliance in 2019, whose mission is to provide software and tools for 5G wireless research and product development.
Cubic Telecom is a global connectivity management software supplier that offers solutions powering connectivity for leading IoT, automotive and mobile device companies across the globe. Cubic works with leading companies such as Audi, Panasonic, Volkswagen and Woolworths, providing them with connectivity in over 180 countries.
After successful rounds of funding and international partnerships to further global 5G innovation, Cubic Telecom’s CEO Barry Napier predicts that 5G will be a global game-changer in and beyond the automotive industry: “We will see an increase in the services being streamed directly to the car, and more manufacturers offering Wi-Fi hotspots in their vehicles.”
Druid Software provide cellular core applications for 5G, CBRS, IoT, Public Safety, Neutral Host, and Patrol & Enterprise Communications. Druid supply core network technology and components to Global System Integrators and Network Equipment Providers. Their technology is enabling LTE private networks withing mining, shipping, transport and manufacturing.
Openet provides Business Support Systems (BSS) to some of the world’s leading service providers (AT&T, BT, Orange) enabling them to create new revenues from digital services, improve customer engagement and enjoy faster time to market. Last year, they entered into a partnership with Samsung Electronics to deliver 5G core network solutions.
Speaking about the partnership, Openet’s CEO Niall Norton said: “This was a significant investment to ensure that Openet’s Digital BSS software fully supports 5G. The BSS market has changed, old business models are gone, and world-leading companies like Samsung want to work with independent, innovative and agile vendors who will make a difference.”
Software Radio Systems delivers open, auditable software for mobile wireless systems, providing custom product solutions, applications and modular, portable libraries for a range of wireless technologies including LTE and 5G NR. Previous projects of note include work with the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, and SmartSky, an air-to-ground connectivity provider for commercial aircraft.
While speaking about a recent partnership with US-based VT Systems to transform multimedia streaming on mobile devices, Paul Sutton, SRS co-founder says: “This is a transformational project which will provide seamless video streaming content directly to millions of users over huge geographic areas.”
Taoglas, a world-leading provider of RF antennas next-generation IoT solutions, has deployed innovative IoT projects across automotive, utilities, smart cities, healthcare, telematics and more. Taoglas have an industry-leading portfolio of 5G antennas for both sub-6GHz and mmWave frequencies and were the first to market with antennas that support the 600MHz spectrum being used by T-Mobile in the US.
“Our high-performance and cost-competitive subsystem will help solidify a broader and faster deployment of the [5G] technology,” notes Dennis Kish, COO of Taoglas, speaking on the back of a recent partnership with MixComm on a design that aims to reduce barriers to worldwide 5G adoption.
Ireland has a reputation as being the heart of ICT in Europe, and Irish companies are helping to pave the way towards global 5G deployment, evidenced by high-profile partnerships like those listed above, and through the energy, commitment and enthusiasm within the sector as a whole. With expectations from consumers and business alike, these companies are providing the support and expertise needed to achieve a faster, more connected digital world.
As the global battle against Covid-19 intensifies, Irish medtech and life sciences firms are ramping up production to meet soaring demand for nebulisers, ventilators and other badly-needed treatment and protection equipment.
Half of the existing ventilators in acute hospitals around the world were made in Ireland, which is ranked as one of the top five global medtech hubs.
Doubling production of critical devices
Medtronic, the world’s largest standalone medical device maker, produces ventilators in a large manufacturing plant in Galway, in the west of Ireland. It is doubling its capacity by more than doubling its workforce of 250 and moving to round-the-clock production.
Another firm increasing production to meet high global demand related to coronavirus treatment is Enterprise Ireland-backed client Aerogen. It’s the world’s leading supplier of aerosol drug delivery products through ventilators to patients in critical and intensive care.
Before the current crisis, Aerogen already provided hospitals in more than 75 countries with its products, benefitting 10 million patients.
Aerogen CEO John Power expects the company could ship 3m or 4m units in 2020, up from 2m in 2019. It is also investigating how to address the global ventilator shortage by adapting non-invasive ventilation systems.
Power and his team are striving to ensure they can meet the sudden and unprecedented growth in demand. “We are a global company and we are balancing demand from across the world,” he says.
Demand up by as much as 300%
Galway-based M&M Qualtech manufactures products for the medtech, aviation, ICT and other sectors. It produces ventilators, nebulisers and medical monitoring equipment for its medtech customers, including Aerogen and Medtronic. It says it’s seeing capacity demand three to five times higher than the usual pre-crisis level.
M&M Qualtech began to see this spike in manufacturing demand in early March and already expects to produce 4m nebulisers this year, up from 2m last year. It also anticipates a similar rate of increase in production of nebuliser controllers (likely to produce 45,000, up from 35,000) and ventilator AC modules (expecting to make 18,000, up from 5,000 in 2019).
It’s increasing capacity by focusing factory production on the most critically needed medical products, hiring up to 25% more Production Operators, engaging with suppliers daily to expedite materials into production, and redesigning its factory to meet social distancing requirements.
Ripple effect of Covid-19 crisis
Also based in the west of Ireland, Vitalograph is the world leader in the analysis of cough drug trials. It specialises in cardiorespiratory and related devices that measure lung and cardiac function, diagnose lung disorders and also produces associated products and software.
Vitalograph is working to meet increased demand for spirometers and consumables such as bacterial-viral filters and test kits and seeing a significant increase in orders of remote monitors. Over the past 15 years, Vitalograph remote monitoring has mainly been used in clinical trials but is now rapidly being adopted by mainstream healthcare.
“Remote monitoring enables the most vulnerable patients with conditions such as COPD, cystic fibrosis and IPF to remain in their homes and not travel to hospitals or clinics and risk picking up infections,” said Frank Keane, the company’s CEO.
“As the patients we serve will be the most vulnerable to a respiratory disease of this nature, we are doubling our efforts to ensure we can fulfil our mission and serve them at this time.”
Vitalograph has also recruited more staff, and increased both capacity and orders from sub-suppliers, and activated their comprehensive business continuity plan.
Deirdre Glenn, Head of Lifesciences with Enterprise Ireland, Ireland’s trade and innovation said; “In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, Irish medtech companies are rising to the challenge of meeting the increased global demand for essential equipment needed for the treatment and prevention of Covid-19. As the second largest exporter of medtech products in Europe, and with the highest number of people per capital employed in medtech in Europe, Ireland is primed to play its role in the global fight against Covid-19”