Skyscanner’s technology paints a portrait of where people all over the world are traveling.
The airline industry tends to be more focused on the future of mankind than concerned with the present. With their propulsion system, the Wright Brothers hurtled aeronautics into the future. Today, aircraft manufacturers are still looking ahead: Airbus, for instance, has a concept for its 2050 plane that includes 3D printed components and in-cabin games of virtual tennis and golf.
The ecosystem surrounding air travel has evolved in tandem with these innovations. Consider how we book flights: in the not-so-distant past, we’d call an agent on the phone. In 2003 Gareth Williams rightly realized that the future of booking travel would be powered by data, not by an agent manually sifting through flight options. Williams, who lives in Edinburgh, had a brother living in France at the time. “I’d spent hours trawling the internet comparing flights, trying to find the best option for my journey. It was incredibly frustrating, so my two founders and I had a brainstorming session,” he says. “We wanted to create a place where all that information is collated in one spot, where the website does all the hard work for you.” With that, Skyscanner was born.
Skyscanner—like similar flight booking sites—trawls the web to find the best fares for given flights. It’s most distinct from those competing engines, Williams says, because it uses relationships and connections to the travel industry, not global distribution systems, to churn out results on airfare, hotel rates, or car rental prices. On forums like Business Insider and travel site Maphappy, reviewers rave about two particular Skyscanner features: the site’s ability to corral more budget flight options into its results and its “Everywhere” feature, which, as the name implies, lets flexible users hoping to simply get out of town to price flight options to go from their destination to just about anywhere.
That kind of range makes Skyscanner a trove of data. “We’re available in over 30 languages and 70 currencies across the world,” Williams says. This coverage paints a portrait of where people all over the world are traveling. “For example, we might see more domestic air travel in certain areas of the Asia Pacific region, but a swiftly growing interest in international travel in another.” (It’s worth noting: Skyscanner watches trends, not individuals.)
That data is also a window into how people are interacting with technology. “Last year we saw a 77% increase in visitors on mobile devices,” Williams says. Mobile use is especially popular in some countries where desktop usage is low across the board. With that in mind, Skyscanner is now “mobile first,” Williams says. The company recently revamped its flights app to include new user experience details like top deals, color-coded calendars, and push notifications for alerts.
These product enhancements, and Skyscanner’s rapid growth, have only been possible with a strong foundation. The company partnered with Dell to build out its infrastructure and deploy scalable data storage in different countries. Skyscanner’s Converged Blade Data Center is flexibly designed to accommodate a growing number of users and product offerings down the line.
The most recent of the offerings comes from a partnership with Amazon, which integrates Skyscanner’s API into Alexa, the tech giant’s cloud-based voice server. This feature will let users answer a few questions—by just speaking, not typing—and then receive flight options. It’s early days for conversational user interfaces, but the recent proliferation of digital assistants like Apple’s Siri, Facebook’s M, and Microsoft’s Cortana is early evidence that voice command may be the human-computer interaction of the future. “The increasingly conversational nature of your back-and-forth with your devices will make your relationship to technology even more intimate, more loyal, more personal,” predicts one article on the topic.
That idea jibes neatly with the Skyscanner Future of Travel 2024 report that describes a “digital buddy”—essentially an AI companion—“which has learned to intimately understand our individual preferences and can personalize all of our travel experiences, planning itineraries based on our particular likes and dislikes.” It’s yet another feature that allows travelers to have the richest flight search experience. Like generations of airline industry innovators before him, Williams explains, “We’re always working to stay ahead of the curve.”
Some may recall the old adage: “early is on time, on time is late.” This sentiment holds particular relevance in today’s rapidly evolving tech landscape: Being up to date is not good enough. Companies need to proactively anticipate what the future holds and adjust accordingly—that’s the idea behind Dell’s “Future Ready” initiative, aimed at helping customers stay ahead with cutting edge tech solutions and services. This piece is one of a four part series in which Dell and Intel highlight companies that embody the “Future Ready” mentality, striving to foster and embrace innovations in mobility, security, scale, competitive strategy, and sustainability.
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This article was produced on behalf of Dell and Intel by the Quartz marketing team and not by the Quartz editorial staff.