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Expert opinion

Exploring the potential of blockchain for the mobile-centric travel sector

Wednesday 11 January 2017 | 08:38 AM CET

Kristian Gjerding, CellPoint Mobile: blockchain enables new levels of transparency, boost revenue potential, and reduce security risks in the travel sector

Relying on public and private ledgers to verify and authenticate everything from payments to stock trades to supply-chain delivers, blockchain processes can also make travel easier and more secure for passengers.

Every traveller today is intimately familiar with the cumbersome nature of security measures that now govern air travel across the globe. It's quite possible that blockchain authentication and verification capabilities can lead to the creation of a unified passenger ID based on existing but disparate data and records – identities that include government-issued travel documents (passports, visas, IDs, licenses), company data, airline and travel records, loyalty program memberships, payment data, and more.

These new capabilities gain even more credibility if they can become part of the Internet of Things (IoT), which assumes seamless connectivity and verification among the devices and activities involved in people’s lives.

Blockchain's ID and loyalty potential

A blockchain-supported ID has real potential to connect travel-related activities with other daily activities and interactions, or a verified digital identity could follow a passenger from beginning to end of a trip, with fewer interruptions or repeated requests for the same data or information. Such a process would protect passengers’ privacy, while reducing the complexity, interruptions and numerous requests for the same ID-related data during travel.

When passengers leave the airport, for example, blockchain verification could be leveraged to connect a range of other IoT activities to that same verified ID. It could help authenticate the identity and payment as a passenger boards a bus, gets on a train or hails a driverless Uber.

In the loyalty sector, blockchain has the potential to streamline and verify the earn-and-redeem processes involved in airline and travel loyalty programs. Blockchain applications could make it easier for passengers to authenticate and use their hard-earned miles and points, while protecting airlines and loyalty programs from fraudulent manipulation, hacking, cybersecurity threats, theft and other forms of loyalty program fraud.

The innovation hurdle

One of the biggest challenges today for travel companies and airlines is innovation, primarily because it is being driven by external players like Facebook, Google, PayPal, smartphone manufacturers and others. It’s extremely difficult, time-consuming and expensive for today’s airlines and travel operators to keep up with changes that happen so quickly.

On the payments front, airlines can rely on vendors' configurable platforms to integrate and update basic blockchain processes, digital wallet blockchain payment processors, and other payment-related services without massive integration efforts or internal disruption.

Because the mobile environment changes and evolves so rapidly, it behooves airlines to rely on partnerships with industry innovators who can help them bring products to market quickly and profitably.

Within airlines, blockchain technologies can be supported and integrated from an underlying ecommerce orchestration platform. As the blockchain universe evolves within the travel sector, integration of new products and services can be handled easily and simply, without massive integration, costly investment or complicated implementation projects.

Blockchain products should be considered, explored and integrated for their potential to:

• Make travel easier for passengers, airlines and transportation companies
• Enable airlines and travel companies to bring new products and services to market quicker
• Reduce fraud around mobile payments and loyalty program transactions
• Streamline and reduce the number of repeated data requests that occur during the travel journey
• Leverage mobile capabilities for new innovative travel business services and travel solutions

The blockchain challenge … and opportunity

Driven by market demand, mobile proliferation, rapid third-party innovation, growing expectations and market demographics, airlines and travel companies face the challenge of reshaping how they operate and succeed in a new mobile marketplace. The ability to support a range of mobile capabilities and technologies – such as blockchain - for their mobile-first passengers will soon emerge as a critical, defining brand characteristic.

Surrounded by mobile capabilities, passengers will be able to shop for and buy travel products and ancillary services before, during and after their trips, verify their travel identities, communicate with airlines in a variety of new and engaging mobile formats, and interact with frequent flyer and loyalty programs.

About Kristian Gjerding

As Chief Executive Officer of CellPoint Mobile, Kristian Gjerding leads the mobile payments company as it helps airlines and travel companies around the world deploy mobile-first payment and ecommerce solutions in a marketplace that is shifting rapidly to the mobile environment.

For more than a decade, Gjerding has helped shape the payments ecosystem by helping global airline, payments and trade organizations establish best practices and standards around NFC communications, mobile payments and remote payments, including advisory roles with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Mobey Forum, National Retail Federation and others. He also co-leads CellPoint Mobile's Travel Innovation Hub.

About CellPoint Mobile

CellPoint Mobile provides airlines and travel companies with comprehensive, mobile-first commerce and payment solutions that enhance their customers’ experience, increase revenues and improve margins.
With offices in Miami, London, Copenhagen, Dubai, Pune and Singapore, CellPoint Mobile simplifies the integration of complex commerce and payment solutions for global and regional airlines and travel companies – quickly and without friction. The company’s Travel Innovation Hub creates blockchain-supported products and services for travel payments, loyalty program transactions, passenger IDs and security.

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