Blockchain is about trust. If the Internet is about connecting people, blockchain is about trust and is essentially going to be the Internet of trust. The essence of blockchain lies in its ability to support trustworthy transactions via networked computation in place of human monitoring and control. Below, we take a look at how Modex’s BCDB (Blockchain Database) can improve the travel industry.
Blockchain functions as a distributed and decentralized ledger that stores transactions. It is a medium that manages to achieve a goal which has baffled computer scientists for decades, to guarantee trust among network participants who don’t know and more importantly don’t trust each other. The first use case of the technology was represented by cryptocurrency, namely Bitcoin, where it was used to store transaction records.
During 2017, the Initial Coin Offering phenomenon took the world by surprise, the market reaching a total value of $150 billion. The potential seemed limitless, but as time passed, it became clear that the ICO development stage of blockchain was full of smoke and mirrors, empty promises which never took shape. To no one’s surprise, the phenomenon started to die down in 2018 due to its lack of substance.
As a mechanism which stores transaction records over a widely distributed network, a significant portion of the research performed on blockchain was, and still is focused on harnessing its potential for the financial sector, payments, and FinTech.
Although blockchain and the financial sector seem to be a match made in heaven, important steps were taken towards successfully implementing this technology in healthcare, real estate, supply chain, and cybersecurity. Just to be clear, blockchain is not a panacea that solves every issue, sadly the real world doesn’t work like that, but in some industries, it can bring real value.
Blockchain and the travel industry
On a closer examination, the travel industry seems to be uniquely suited to benefit from blockchain. Why? Because as a whole, the travel industry involves many different players (hotels, airlines and many other service providers) that need to collaborate seamlessly with each other. Hmm, if only there was a technology which could ensure trust among multiple untrusted parties.
According to a Deloitte study, from 2009 to 2017 US hotel gross booking grew from USD 116 billion to USD 185 billion. The same study points out that airline revenues also jumped from USD 155 billion to USD 222 billion. The steady increase in revenue over the years suggest that the traveling industry ranks among the most profitable but at the same time the most difficult to manage.
The current state of the travel industry
It is difficult to treat the travel industry as a single entity because it is composed of multiple companies which need to collaborate effectively with each other to provide adequate services. Furthermore, the increasing number of service providers means that companies are in a constant race to provide a better offer and win over customers. Hoteliers and airlines harness the utility of the internet to increase brand awareness and overall visibility on the market, by designing attractive websites and implementing their own reservation systems.
The problem is that the industry has come to rely heavily on Global Distribution Systems (GDSs) and Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) which act as a type of gatekeepers that increase the level of friction by adding hidden costs which are covered in the end by the end-user.
A GDS is a worldwide computerized reservation network used as a single point of access for reserving airline seats, hotel rooms, car rentals and any other type of services associated with traveling. A GDS mainly uses a real-time inventory system to display the number of hotel rooms available, the number of flight seats available, or the number of cars available for rent and so on. Popular GDSs are Amadeus, TravelPort and Galileo.
An OTA is self-explanatory and many of us have most likely used one when planning a trip. It’s a website dedicated to travel, which focuses on travel reviews, trip fares or a combination of both. An OTA usually contains reviews/travel journals created by individual travelers and hosted by companies which provide this information to consumers for free. Popular OTAs are Booking.com, AirBnB, Expedia. The main difference between the two is that GDSs are oriented towards a B2B model, while an OTA works on a B2C model.
Although at a first glance, OTAs and GDSs services seem to benefit both parties involved, they act as intermediaries which can have a negative impact on consumer choice and small businesses who are struggling to compete due to the large commission rates charged by these services.
Is blockchain compatible with the travel industry?
When examined more closely, the travel industry reveals itself as a complex web of operation which has at its foundation the collaboration between multiple companies that strive to provide the best services and governmental agencies which validate identities when necessary. The tendency to over complicate certain procedures and business models with third-party interference has long hindered tourists and hoteliers alike. Relatively recent advancements in technology have the potential to completely mitigate friction costs associated with third parties, by enabling a direct link between the service provider and end-user.
As a technology, blockchain seems to fill a lot of the gaps present in the industry. Network distribution, data integrity, availability and immutability, cryptographically secured records, and transparency provided over a vast network which guarantees trust opens a new window of opportunities as well as consolidating a new way of thinking about identity, privacy, and security.
Research has proved that blockchain removes the need for middlemen, OTAs and GDSs can become a thing of the past, but the problem is that blockchain sounds (and is) expensive to build, administrate and maintain. Big companies would require to invest a lot of funds to make the transition to blockchain, and smaller companies seem ill-fated to be stuck in the existing situation.
Enhancing the travel industry with Modex BCDB
Every company, be it large or small, operates with a database to administer booking reservations, check-in and check-outs, inventories and so on. A prevalent issue which can be exploited is the centralized nature of databases where client personal information is stored.
Modex BCDB is a new take on blockchain technology which removes the need to invest resources in blockchain training and facilitates fast adoption of the technology in businesses. The solution proposed by Modex is a middleware which fuses a blockchain with a database to create a structure which is easy to use and understand by developers with no prior knowledge in blockchain development.
As a result, any developer who knows to work with a database system can operate with our solution, without needing to change their programming style or learn blockchain. Through our blockchain component, Modex BCDB is able to transform with minimal changes any type of database into a decentralized database which holds the same valuable characteristics inherent to blockchain technology: transparency, increased security, data immutability, and integrity.
Here’s how can create new opportunities in the travel industry.
Making loyalty schemes more user friendly
Loyalty schemes have become a key marketing tool for hotels, airlines, credit card companies, and retailers to stimulate clients. The challenge for the traveler is often the complexity of redeeming loyalty points. Today, if a scheme wishes to partner with another there is a complex and costly setup procedure as well as an ongoing file transfer and settlement process happening in the background. For a traveler wishing to transfer points between airlines in the same alliance, it can often require a phone call and may take up to six weeks or even more to complete.
A Modex BCDB blockchain-powered environment can drastically simplify the distribution and management of loyalty points, making it easier for customers to access and redeem them. Loyalty schemes can be easily implemented in a blockchain environment through an ERC-20 token creation smart contract. This method enables companies to create unique tokens and reward their clients based on the number of miles traveled. Furthermore, due to the inherent transparency of the system as well as the security measures employed, loyalty scheme fraud incidence will be cut short.
Improved baggage tracking
Arriving at your destination only to find out that your baggage is on the other side of the earth is a nightmare which frequently happens. Besides being a major hindrance for travelers around the globe, mishandled baggage costs the aviation industry billions each year. Lost baggage is a prevalent issue because multiple different actors are involved in different stages of transportation including airline, and airport personnel, as well as ground handling firms. Although the system has improved over the years by reconciling baggage handling data directly from departure control applications, baggage still disappears occasionally.
Similar to its application in supply chain systems, blockchain can be used to track and store baggage data records as well as the personnel who handled it. Access to a shared distributed ledger used by every actor involved can reduce the time necessary to track lost baggage from a couple of weeks to mere minutes.
Simplifying settlements in the travel value chain
As previously mentioned, the travel industry is a complex web of interconnected companies which operate in a value chain based collaboration. As such, many areas of the industry rely on settlements between parties. A relevant example is when a GDS or OTA need to settle a cash or commission-based pre-defined agreement with a hotel, overall a complex and time-consuming process which involves a significant amount of paperwork.
Modex BCDB can add a much-needed layer of automation to this process by implementing smart contracts, self-executing pieces of code that reside on top of the blockchain which can trigger an automatic response when certain conditions are met. Automatically enforcing the pre-defined agreements between travel provider and travel intermediary reduces costs, promotes efficiency and reduces reconciliation time.
Streamlining identity management in travel
Identification services are an integral part of the travel industry, and blockchain technology holds the potential to set a new standard when it comes to identity verification. Storing biometric information on a blockchain network can drastically reduce check-in times, or airports queues, eventually replacing old fashioned pen and paper documentation which is still subjected to manipulation and counterfeit attempts.
The highly trustworthy and immutable nature of blockchain makes it an ideal storage medium for a digital identity composed of biometric information such as retina scans or fingerprints. Modex BCDB can deliver a much more frictionless experience for proving a traveler’s identity. Using Modex BCDB în partnership with a banking system, people can store and share their own verified identity credentials in a secure, user-friendly app.
About Modex BCDB
Currently, the majority of blockchain solutions present on the market are oriented towards blockchain as a service, limiting themselves to a rigid view and application of the technology. A company or the CTO of a company can come to the realization, after a bit of study that their business can solve several issues and streamline back-end processes by implementing blockchain.
The problem is that in order for a company to implement blockchain technology only through its own tech team, they need to invest a significant amount of time and resources to study what type of blockchain is most suited for their needs, and commence a lengthy process of learning the development specificity of the respective blockchain, as well as scouting for developers proficient in the technology.
Every enterprise is reserved and unwilling to make changes to its database, and for good reason, as data loss or data corruption constitute major risks. Modex BCDB doesn’t work by deleting the existing database, or data entries. The database is maintained intact throughout the process, data integrity is ensured by calculating the metadata of the records and storing it on the blockchain.
Moreover, the system does not restrict access to the blockchain or to the database, so when a developer needs to make a reporting or ETL transformations, they can always perform warehouse analytics by accessing the database directly.
This is because Modex BCDB has been purposely designed to be agnostic. With our solution, clients are able to set up a network, regardless of the type of database employed. In a consortium, each company can maintain what type of database they prefer (Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, Mongo DB), and connect them through a blockchain-powered network to ensure cohesion, availability while protecting corporate interests.
Blockchain company Modex is promoting the adoption of blockchain technology and strongly believes in a future built around blockchain. Modex offers fully integrated services designed to solve the last mile adoption problem of the blockchain and aims to make blockchain user-friendly for every single device or person.
At Modex, we can innovate thanks to our incredible team of experts and we offer services for the entire blockchain technology ecosystem: Marketplace for Smart Contracts, community tools for developers and blockchain as database services for enterprises. In over two years, using cutting-edge technologies and with a clear strategy, Modex has evolved from the world’s first app store for blockchain into a complex ecosystem designed for developers’ needs and enterprises looking for blockchain solutions. Our mission is to spread and facilitate the adoption of blockchain into society and to solve real-world problems using this revolutionary technology.