Last week, the online travel and technology blog Tnooz organized what they called a THack in Boston, an opportunity for developers of any kind to come and participate in a 24 hour hack-a-thon, using a wide range of APIs in the travel industry. It was a great event, and we offered up our Rail API, which provides access to our core rail ticketing product, SilverCore, for people to play around with.
Wide range of travel products developed
The product that was deemed the winner by the panel of judges was one developed by a team of engineers from Amadeus. On a side note, they had a distinct advantage, given that they were a team of about 4 or 5 engineers, whereas the two other main entries were individual coders, but anyway...
They built a product in the allotted time that used the SilverRail API to find train tickets, The Goby API to find things to do, their own API to find hotels and airfare, all tied to the away schedule for the New England Patriots, so a fan could plan a weekend away to see the Patriots. They then integrated into the Facebook API to share the resulting booking.
It was a very clever idea, and (particularly given it was done in 24 hours) was pretty well put together and implemented.
Danny Duval from Delta Airlines built a pretty cool Android App that would push notifications to the homescreen of your phone with information (from the Goby API) of entertainments and other resources in close proximity to you at any time.
And finally, Roman Peskin, CEO and co-founder of DealAngel.com came up with a very clever idea which integrated the hotel prices for (in this case) Las Vegas for everyday over the next 6 months, using an Amadeus API. And then had another chart showing the number of hits from the Goby API representing sporting events in Vegas over that 6 month period as well. So you could then look at the charts and plan when to travel to Vegas, if your goal was to get most sporting events per dollars spent on hotels. Pretty cool idea.
Debate in the room on the future of travel
There were really two interesting debates over the course of the event.
First, on the Thursday, there was a panel debate where Fred Lalonde, CEO of Hopper argued that APIs were dead, and the future of travel was going to be in open data. It was an interesting point of view, and you could definitely argue that the reasoning behind it is exactly why Google bought ITA Software, to have access to all the data that ITA provides. However, it is also a little bit optimistic in my view, as there is still a lot of value in owning the data. So of course someone like Lalonde wants access to all the data. But the owners of the data (in this case, the ITAs or GDSs of the world) are not really that heavily incentivized to open up their access.
The second was in response to the Hack that Roman displayed, as mentioned above. I suggested to the room that perhaps this would be commoditizing travel, by focusing the consumer on price alone, which is a principle that suppliers (particularly airlines) are trying to avoid. Someone (sorry - I can't remember who) suggested, and actually I think rightly on reflection, that what Roman build was actually allowing a hotel to revenue manage (i.e. fill the rooms on low demand nights at cheaper prices), an ongoing challenge for suppliers, rather than commoditizing the product.
Anyway, both interesting debates, and overall an excellent event organized by Tnooz. Thanks guys and looking forward to the next one.