New research reveals travelers’ dissatisfaction across digital channels and highlights the need for airlines and hotels to embrace the “era of complete retailing” to become the “Amazon of travel”.

New research on the travel sector has found that 50% of airline passengers around the world report that they spend more time than is desirable using digital channels to plan and book flights.

Similarly, 45% of hotel guests report that they spend too much time planning and booking a hotel stay.

Of the travelers surveyed, 70% reported that they would like to receive personalized offers from travel sellers and 75% report they are comfortable sharing personal data if it will help them to save money or have better journeys. However, despite this, just 20% reported receiving offers that reflect their interests, travel behaviors, or stage in their lives. This is despite the travel sector being one of the pioneering e-commerce sectors and one of the largest digital commerce sectors globally.

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The research was undertaken by Atmosphere Research Group, a San Francisco-based travel industry market research firm, and published in a new thought leadership report, which sets out the need for airlines and hotels to enter the era of complete retailing and distinguish their brands from competitors, to make their digital channels more compelling, and strengthen their customer experience if they want to become the ‘Amazons of travel’.

The report ‘Maximizing Revenue across the Traveler’s Journey’ was commissioned by Ireland’s trade and innovation agency, Enterprise Ireland, a significant seed investor in travel tech companies. Having created industries like aircraft leasing and duty-free shopping, Ireland’s uniquely concentrated and collaborative ecosystem comprises more than 100 travel tech companies, spanning global giants to rapidly scaling niche players. The report finds that airlines, hotels and travel sellers are increasingly looking to Irish travel tech companies to build out their ancillary product strategies and boost profits.

Travel industry thought leader and author of the report Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research Group said: “The travel technology world is thriving, but poor digital experiences weaken the joy of travel and the potential profitability of travel retailers. Entering the era of complete retailing is the next frontier for travel retailers, where they are dynamically creating and selling relevant, personalized, appealing offers to travelers. Cloud and machine learning technologies that deliver data-driven responsive technologies will be core to this.”

“Groundbreaking travel tech companies are already delivering new generations of nimble and responsive technologies that are helping travel sellers to maximize sales opportunities spanning every traveler’s journey,” added Henry Harteveldt.

CarTrawler, for example, provides the technology for airlines to offer car rental, private airport transfers, and on-demand ride-hailing services at more than 50,000 locations in 174 countries. Working with more than 100 airlines, CarTrawler expands the airline’s offering to their customers, creating substantial ancillary revenues. Data is at the core of their offering, using data effectively to tailor offers to increase the potential of a traveler making a purchase. In CarTrawler’s first year of working with SWISS and Vueling, each airline saw its car rental conversion increase by 151% and 298% respectively.

Boxever, the data, and personalization firm working with major airlines around the world has been one of the pioneers in harnessing the strengths of data, AI and machine learning to help airlines such as EmiratesRyanair, and Volaris to use their data better and offer smart effective personalization to improve conversion rates and average order value.

Hostelworld helps hostels worldwide who especially cater to millennial and generation z guests to offer a complete retailing solution with their property management system software. As well as managing occupancy, the software is configured to sell ancillary services online, helping hostels to improve guest experience, reduce operating costs and drive ancillary sales.

Maire P. Walsh, SVP Digital Technologies, Enterprise Ireland USA said: “The travel industry’s demand for market-proven innovative solutions that supports the complete retailing agenda is high and are increasingly looking to Ireland’s strong cluster of travel technology companies for the solutions. Reflecting this demand, Enterprise Ireland’s portfolio of travel tech companies had combined international sales of close to €0.5 billion in 2018.”

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It’s no secret that tech has taken over the way business is done. Robotics are more sophisticated. A.I. and machine learning are driving automation with never-before-seen accuracy. The workforce and the workplace are evolving. Everything from product development to talent is affected. In this fast-evolving environment, adaptability and agility are critical in order for businesses to remain competitive in the shifting technological culture.

For these reasons, hundreds of industry professionals will meet at the OWS 2.0 Show, hosted by the association group IAOP, February 17-19, Orlando, Florida. Attendees will discuss disruption, machine learning, intelligent automation, the new governance, and all things transformation in the world of collaborative partnerships (like outsourcing, shared services, GBS).

IAOP is the association that brings together customers, providers, and advisors in a collaborative, knowledge-based environment that promotes professional and organizational development, recognition, certification, and excellence to improve business service models and outcomes. With today’s technologies causing significant disruption in customer experience (CX) operations around the world, business networking is critical.

For good reason, Ireland is globally recognized as a region where complex customer interaction meets technology, resulting in the enhancement of services, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. This year, three client companies will be participating at OWS in Booth #50, with the CRIOS Group. CRIOS is a group of high-performance Business Process Outsourcing companies from Ireland that partner with world-class corporations to deliver unparalleled service experiences.

Companies participating with the CRIOS Group at OWS 2.0 include:

Arise: Arise designs and runs Customer Support services that deliver excellent customer experience in a flexible, cost-effective way. Working with clients in complex, regulated and multi-lingual environments, Arise brings deep expertise across data, process, and service to deliver the best possible experience to their clients’ customers.

Arema Connect: specializes in customer conversations via voice, email and digital channels.  Delivering best-in-class 24x7x365 Customer Support and Market Research services. That’s why some of the world’s leading companies trust Arema Connect to be the voice of their brand.

Since 2014 Arema Connect have been working with Balsam Hill, one of the largest Artificial Tree eCommerce companies in the world. Arema Connect’s multilingual team has been taking care of Email, Telephone and Live Chat Support for Balsam Hill’s UK, French, German and Australian Customers on a 24×7 basis.

Zevas, a customer contact solution for companies that serve a cross-section of industry verticals from Telecommunications to Financial Services across European and North American markets.

Ireland hasn’t always been synonymous with automotive manufacturing. While Henry Ford did establish a factory in the land of his father 100 years ago, Ireland hasn’t had the heavy car manufacturing footprint of Detroit or Japan.

What Ireland does have is a very strong and innovative technology sector, and as the future of mobility motors towards increased use of connected, shared, autonomous and electric (CASE) vehicles, Irish companies are providing global automotive manufacturers with a range of software and hardware solutions.

This capability is being delivered across the whole CASE ecosystem spectrum, from software and data platforms to connectivity solutions, and all forms of componentry and electronics.

It is also being provided individually and collectively through collaborative industry organizations such as CAV (Connected and Autonomous Vehicles) Ireland.

Many of these companies are new disruptors from non-automotive backgrounds but with technologies and solutions that can be applied across sectors. All of them are focused on meeting the needs of a rapidly changing industry. Here are some of the companies leading the charge.

Getting connected

At Cubic Telecom, the vision is to enable any connected device in a car. Their connectivity platforms overcome the technical and data issues that automotive manufacturers encounter with mobile carriers and regulators in 145 countries around the world.

This allows customers such as AudiSkoda, and Volkswagen to collect data on vehicle performance while enabling more than 2.8 million drivers to enjoy internet capability in their cars.

Cubic CEO Barry Napier says: “Digital enablement is what we are trying to achieve. You talk to anyone at the OEMs and they’ll tell you they want to try to do more via connectivity and software. Go via the cloud, get rid of the hardware, get rid of the cost, get rid of the wiring, create the car lighter, create it faster, make it more efficient, make it safer.

Cubic CEO Barry Napier

Barry Napier, CEO, Cubic

“We provide the specialist knowledge around connectivity, giving them a software solution that any part of the car ecosystem can plug into.”

The right signal

Taoglas’s cutting-edge antenna and radio frequency solutions for IoT applications ensure that not just cars, but any smart vehicle or machine, can network with the outside world.

Taoglas CEO Ronan Quinlan says: “There is probably a need for 30 antennas in the next generation of cars. You hear a lot of talk about connectivity, but you also need to know exactly where the vehicle is and what kind of vehicle it is, especially with autonomous vehicles. With our products, we can know where a device is within one centimeter outdoors, and two centimeters indoors.”

Taoglas CEO Ronan Quinlan

Ronan Quinlan, CEO, Taoglas

“Our verticals include the navigation of robotics and heavy machinery, vehicle tracking, connected vehicles, e-bikes and scooters, drones, agricultural equipment, and a range of IoT applications,” Ronan says. “Last year, for example, we sold one million antennas for positioning in robot lawnmowers.”

Smart software

The artificial intelligence-based object and gesture recognition systems developed by software manufacturer Emdalo Technologies also have benefits beyond the automotive sector.

CEO Daire McNamara says: “There are solutions out there using AI and IoT that can help improve car parking, public safety, congestion detection on streets, at airports, and in subway stations.

“Our customers tend to be experts within their own field – whether that’s automotive, medical imagery, smart cities, agriculture, or whatever – but they’re not experts in AI. We work with them to determine whether an AI solution can solve the problem that they have.”

Daire McNamara, CEO, Emdalo

Daire McNamara, CEO, Emdalo

Cost-saving solutions

Transpoco’s GPS tracking and fleet management software solutions offer benefits across areas including fuel consumption, vehicle maintenance, driver behavior, and administration.

CEO Andrew Fleury says: “With the Spanish national airline Iberia, for example, we get data from their vehicles on the ground at airports that allows us to really understand where savings can be generated. We can look at it by driver to driver or journey to journey together with the customer. With Iberia, we generated a 66% reduction in their vehicle running costs.”

Andrew Fleury, CEO, Transpoco

Andrew Fleury, CEO, Transpoco

Molding the future of vehicles

Producing the vehicle of the future is not just about software and digital hardware. It involves rethinking every part of the traditional car, including the materials it is made from.

Mergon International is demonstrating its capability to customers including Tesla, Audi, BMWToyota, Volkswagen and Rivian through innovative new plastic molding processes and materials.

The company’s Vice President of Business Development, Caolan Bushell says: “Lightweight air management systems is really what we’re famous for. Companies like Zoox and Canoo have come to us to design heating and air conditioning duct systems in their cars.

“That involves a number of different technologies, which have traditionally been blow molding but is now flow molding, injection molding, polyester fiber ducting, and foam blow molding. These enhance the performance of the car, particularly the acoustic performance. It also lowers the weight of the car, which in the electric vehicle market increases the vehicle range. We’re also using recycled materials in many cases as well, which increases the environmental credentials of the cars.”

Enterprise Ireland has taken over the first special report published by The FinTech50, creator of the prestigious top 50 fintech innovators’ list.

The FinTech50: Enterprise Ireland edition showcases Ireland’s growing status as an international fintech innovation hub, with Irish start-ups seeing rising global success in all aspects of fintech, including paytechregtech, and insurtech.

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Launched in 2013, The FinTech50 was the first list in the world to recognize fintech innovation in Europe and is recognized as a globally important fintech organization.

The FinTech50 2019 list, which was published in September, was selected from thousands of fintechs across Europe and includes both TopTen and HotTen breakout lists.

Ireland’s Swoop Funding is included in this year’s The FinTech50 HotTen. The Enterprise Ireland takeover edition features an extensive interview with Swoop founder Andrea Reynolds, whose award-winning start-up provides virtual chief financial officer services to SMEs.

Swoop is just one of a number of Irish success stories included in the publication, which features insights from key players in the industry.

Eoin Fitzgerald, senior development advisor fintech at Enterprise Ireland, explains how Ireland emerged as an international fintech powerhouse. Not only is the sector a government priority, he explains, but the agency is itself an active investor in fintech start-ups.

Jack Finucane Clarke, Enterprise Ireland’s London-based market advisor for financial services, shows how the use of deeptech, such as artificial intelligence and distributed ledger technologies, is increasingly enabling Irish start-ups to disrupt the sector globally.

He explains how the success of early fintech pioneers, such as Fexco and Monex, helped pave the way for a new generation of innovators such as Cambrist and MiFinity.

Ireland is blazing a trail in ‘fintech for good’ too, he says, with a number of companies addressing the world’s un- and underbanked, including gig economy solutions provider Trezeo and AID:Tech, who has pioneered the use of blockchain to deliver aid to refugees.

The Enterprise Ireland edition also looks at how Irish fintechs are using deeptech to help some of the world’s biggest financial institutions meet their regulatory and compliance obligations. This includes companies such as Governor Software and Gecko Governance, who uses blockchain to create integrated regtech solutions for managing compliance in the funds industry.

As well as providing analysis of the challenges facing fintech around the globe, the publication captures the opportunities the sector faces in 2020 and beyond.

Launching the Enterprise Ireland takeover edition, The FinTech50 founding director Julie Lake said: “One of the best things about The FinTech50 is the inspirational stories that emerge each year from our master list of 4000-plus innovators worldwide. We can’t cover them all, so this year we are opening up our platform to give others the opportunity to tell their unique stories in their own unique voices.”

Welcoming Enterprise Ireland as its first invited curator, she said: “Fintech in Ireland is not only punching, it’s diverse and it’s scaling, with 32% of companies anticipating growth of between 100 and 500% this year. Enterprise Ireland has invested in over 80 fintech start-ups since 2014 and its portfolio of 200-plus financial services and fintech clients generated over €1 billion in revenue in 2017.”

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The Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2020) was held on January 7-10 in Las Vegas, Nevada. CES is recognized as the world’s gathering place for all those who thrive on the business of consumer technologies. It has served as the proving ground for innovators and breakthrough technologies for 50 years, featuring the entire spectrum of transformative technology that continues to redefine markets and shift business models.

CES 2020 saw more than 4,400 exhibiting companies debuting over 20,000 tech products to some 170,000 attendees across more than 2.9 million net square feet of exhibit space. From global tech brands to pioneering startups, the innovation at CES 2020 will revolutionize markets and change our world for the better.

The Irish Opportunity

Dylan Terry, Enterprise Ireland Development Executive based in San Francisco, and Eva Mahon, Enterprise Ireland Development Executive based in Seattle, attended CES this year with an eye toward identifying opportunities that may impact Irish companies.

“CES is America’s largest tech show, but it has a very International feel with 34.9% of attendees and 40% of media personnel coming from outside of the US,” said Terry. “This provides Irish companies with exposure to a broad, international audience, at a scale not seen at other tech shows.”

CES touches on many verticals, with conference topics spanning 5G/IoT, entertainment/content creation, vehicle technology, digital health, smart home, and AR/VR. This is reflected through the varied exhibitors ranging from traditional consumer electronics companies (Samsung, Toshiba, LG), ‘tech giants’ (Amazon, Google, IBM), to automotive OEMs (Honda, Ford, Audi, Mercedes). Such diversity of topics and exhibitors makes CES a unique show for Irish companies to attend.

Mahon explained that mobility was probably the sector with the most traction this year. There were various concept development announcements from automotive manufacturers, including; Audi, Hyundai, Toyota. Tech giants Amazon and Sony have partnered with automotive manufacturers, emerging as newer players in the space.

“There are, without a doubt, opportunities in the auto sector for IoT and connectivity-focused companies,” said Mahon. “We can expect a lot more from our cars of the future, with considerable developments in connectivity, improving the customer experience.”

Other trends included foldable devices, still at the infancy stage, but following Samsung’s initial release last year, there have been more prototypes released in both the mobile device and computer industries. AI was also a hot topic; its applications are seen across various aspects of life from smart homes to Delta’s AI problem-solving tool.

“The growth of large corporations, utilizing technology to expand their scope into new industry verticals was astonishing,” added Mahon. “Toyota, for example, unveiled their prototype community of the future that will be built near Mount Fuji. This city will fundamentally be built around autonomous vehicles and smart homes, striving for a vision of sustainable living.”

Enterprise Ireland Reception Event

Terry and Mahon said that the Enterprise Ireland networking event was very well attended, bringing together a diverse group of EI portfolio companies, industry executives with an Irish connection and those interested in innovative Irish technology companies.

“Our reception was an opportunity for peer-to-peer networking among our portfolio companies, allowing them to network and share experiences with one another,” said Mahon. “A topical area of discussion was the different strategies utilized by Irish companies at CES; some find it vital to have a physical footprint, i.e., a stand, whereas others just use the week as an opportunity to organize meetings with key customers and prospects.”

Enterprise Ireland was very fortunate to see an excellent representation of portfolio companies, including Black Knight, Cubic Telecom, Design Partners, Drop, FoodMarble, Jinga Life, Manna, Soapbox Labs, Sweepr, Taoglas, Video Elephant, Wisetek, and Xunison.

“We also invited industry executives from large tech corporations like Samsung and General Motors, who were curious to learn about the latest advancements coming from Ireland,” said Mahon. “This allowed us to showcase Ireland as a technological leader within the wider industry, at what is the largest tech conference in the US.”

Client Participation

CES 2020 was particularly exciting for Design Partners. They received a CES Innovation Award for their design collaboration with Logitech and celebrated several exciting new product launches with some of their clients, including Dell.

“CES is a great opportunity for us to meet new and existing clients to collaborate on future design innovations together,” said Cormac Ó Conaire, Creative Director, Design Partners. “Our mission is to Elevate Human Potential, and events like this give us an insight into what new products, technology, and trends are emerging that add real value to people’s lives.”

Niall Moloney, the VP Business Development for FoodMarble, commented that this was their fourth year at CES. The show represents an excellent opportunity for FoodMarble, allowing them to connect with many of their US business contacts, including potential retail and distribution partners, as well as investors.

“CES was a great success for us, and the event allowed us to connect with a number of key customers we have been talking to throughout the year,” said Moloney. “In addition, there are lots of interesting networking events around the show which allow us to connect with peers, new potential customers, and investors.”

Moloney added that while CES presents a perfect platform to showcase technology products, the show does require a lot of work, and it’s essential to try and arrange as many meetings as possible in advance.

“There are many great ancillary events that run alongside the event, including interesting talks and networking events,” said Moloney. “CES can prove to be a great gateway into the US market for consumer electronic/digital-based products.”

Client Announcements

In addition to on-floor and reception event participation, several Enterprise Ireland clients made significant technology and partnership announcements. Click through the following links to read the full announcements:

Drop and Panasonic

Drop Collaborates with Panasonic to add Marvelous Microwaves to the Drop Platform

Taoglas and Horseware Ireland

Horseware Ireland Announces Revolutionary Fitness Tracker for Horses Powered by Taoglas

Manna and Cubic

Cubic Telecom and Manna Enable Connected Drones

Sweepr and Amazon Alexa Fund

Dublin Start-up Sweepr Secures Investment from Amazon Alexa Fund

Xunison New Products

Xunison Presents Three New Devices with Cutting Edge Smart Features

An ambitious new initiative is designed to tap into latent entrepreneurship, explains Sheelagh Daly, entrepreneurship manager at Enterprise Ireland.

Ireland is to leverage a vastly underutilized resource identified by its government as having the potential to drive significant economic growth – It’s called women.

Enterprise Ireland’s Action Plan for Women in Business 2020 is part of a major strategic initiative that will grow the country’s stock of female founders, leaders and angel investors. The goal is both to create better businesses and to ensure faster economic growth.

Ireland’s ambitious plans for supporting women in business

By 2025, Enterprise Ireland – the country’s trade and innovation agency – plans to double the number of women-led companies growing internationally, and to increase the participation rate of women on its management development programs by 100%.

The unprecedented initiative will see the number of women participating on start-up programs, and the supports given to women in business through its Local Enterprise Offices nationwide, jump by 50%. Enterprise Ireland will grow its proportion of female-founded High Potential Start-Ups to 30%.

Currently in Ireland, the proportion of female chief executives is significantly lower than men, with the imbalance particularly pronounced in larger companies. Moreover, even where women are in senior management level positions, they are less likely to be in strategic roles.

Their underrepresentation is most pronounced in manufacturing, technology, engineering, and construction.

Underrepresentation of women clear in numbers

“Women make up more than 50% of our population and yet are underrepresented across the spectrum of economic activity,” says Sheelagh Daly, entrepreneurship manager at Enterprise Ireland.

Ireland has a 12% gender gap in labor force participation rate; just 30% of senior managers in Ireland are women and less than 20% of chief executives in Ireland are women – falling to just 9% in larger companies.”

Ireland has the highest gender gap in self-employment in the EU, less than 10% of venture capital funding goes to companies with female founders, and just 3% of angel investors are women.

In all, it’s a massive and interlinked imbalance but one that comes at a huge opportunity cost to the State. International research has established clear links between gender diversity at senior levels and better decision-making, improved productivity and increased profitability in business.

“Right now in Ireland, three times as many men as women are starting and growing a business. The gender gap is the result of multiple factors, some of which are complex, cultural and social, but what is clear is that if we can get more women engaged in entrepreneurship it will have benefits for the overall economy,” she says.

Action Plan for Women in Business

The agency will work to increase the participation of women in entrepreneurship and business leadership in a number of ways.

These include increasing the number of women-led, established businesses that are growing internationally; increasing the number of women becoming entrepreneurs; and increasing the number of women-led startups with high potential.

“On top of that, in what is a totally new departure for us as an agency, we need to increase the number of women in senior management roles. This is because senior people in any business are much more likely to see an entrepreneurial opportunity and to have the confidence, skills, ability and network connections – as well as better access to funds – to capitalize on it. In addition, we know that businesses with diversity in their senior leadership teams perform better.”

Enterprise Ireland’s Action Plan for Women in Business contains clear but broad-ranging steps. These include promoting more women in its marketing campaigns and ensuring all of its programs and supports are designed to maximize participation by women. Externally, it will work with key stakeholders to influence national policy, identify and address barriers to women’s participation in enterprise, and improve gender diversity at board and senior management level.

A new grant will facilitate the recruitment of part-time senior managers.

“This is not aimed at women only, but our experience suggests that women are more likely to take it up. It is about encouraging our companies to provide more flexible work practices as a key way to attract and retain women,” says Daly.

The agency will assess all its programs on the basis of gender inclusivity and take the same approach to government policy, from education policy to employment choices to labor force participation initiatives.

Redressing imbalances in the funding landscape is key. “Again it is down to a combination of factors but the fact is that there are more men in venture capital, which means more men making the funding decisions. The ‘homophily effect’ means that people tend to relate better to people that are like themselves. That can impact on women’s ability to raise funds,” says Daly.

On the demand side, research indicates that women who do seek out business funding tend to look for less money, “which can limit their opportunity to take up opportunities as they arise.”

Such barriers are well understood in the venture capital sector, which has introduced unconscious bias training and greater gender balance on pitching panels to help counteract it. “What we are trying to do is accelerate the pace of positive change,” said Daly.

She points to Enterprise Ireland’s experience with one of its best-known start-up programs, the Competitive Start Fund, as an example of what can be achieved.

“Simply changing its name by introducing a special call for a Female Competitive Start Fund saw applications from women grow five-fold.”

It’s exactly the kind of latent entrepreneurial potential that the Action Plan for Women in Business 2020 is designed to unlock.

“The fact is that the whole entrepreneurial ecosystem, the financial system, the business landscape has, for generations, been led by men. It’s only in recent times that women have begun to participate. This is about making sure we are saying to women ‘This is for you’, it’s about inclusion,” says Daly.

“It’s also about building a pipeline of female founders and achieving a significant cultural shift. That shift has of course already started. What we are doing is simply accelerating the pace of change – to the benefit of all.”

Máire P. Walsh, SVP Digital Technologies at Enterprise Ireland, describes the big changes disrupting the future of travel tech this year.

As the travel industry moves through massive transformation, 2020 will be a year when the industry takes a giant step forward, as stakeholders get serious about innovation and firmly put the customer first. Here are my top five predictions.

Rise of tech giants in travel

As Henry Harteveldt highlighted in Maximizing Revenue Across the Traveler’s Journey, a report commissioned by trade and innovation agency Enterprise Ireland, a large majority of customers are not satisfied with the travel booking process, as they feel they must shop across too many websites to find the travel services they want and need for their trip. Amazon and Google are two tech giants that could offer a customer-centric flow with all the trappings of personalized services and experiences.

Amazon is already testing travel sales in India through a partnership with Redbus, while Google continues to delve deeper into travel with its expanding suite of services to move customers from aspiration to action. It’s not unimaginable for either giant to firmly place a stake in the global travel market as the industry undergoes rapid transformation. The big question is do they do this through build, partner, or buy? One possible hindrance is the greater attention currently being paid to tech regulation.

Airbnb dives deeper into travel services

There is no doubt that 2020 will be a huge year for Airbnb with its projected IPO in Q3. While a successful IPO will dominate the headlines, so will their expansion into broader travel services including owning the sales funnel through offering flights and other services. Not only will this delight customers, it will demonstrate on their S1 filing that they are still innovating and thus drive broader appetite from the markets. Once they dive further into ancillary revenue opportunities, the company will witness explosive revenue growth and profitability. With the first two points, it will be interesting to see how OTAs – in particular Expedia and Booking – will innovate to drive loyalty and differentiation. One likely scenario is that one will get bought by a company eager to dominate in travel.

Máire P. Walsh, SVP Digital Technologies at Enterprise Ireland, describes the big changes disrupting the future of travel tech this year.

Máire P. Walsh, SVP Digital Technologies at Enterprise Ireland

Deep tech accelerates transformation

While it’s becoming more evident that stakeholders who innovate quickly are gaining more market share (for example, Delta Airlines), deep tech (AI, machine learning and deep learning) that can sit on legacy systems will help the industry further transform. Although it’s surprising to learn that even newer players in the industry have antiquated systems, it’s clear that many fail to innovate due to a fear of integrating these systems with new technology. The advent of companies who can bypass these systems makes it possible for stakeholders to finally take advantage of new core tech that will drive customer engagement, cost savings and profitability.

Ancillary everywhere

CarTrawler recently highlighted in their ancillary revenue yearbook that ancillary revenue has remade the business models of the global airline industry, representing 10.7% of all revenue. In 2020, it is time for other travel stakeholders to follow suit and take advantage of all the benefits ancillaries can offer. Not only will offering more products and services drive customer satisfaction, it could prove to be the mechanism for hotels and others to finally have tools in place to ensure they can drive direct bookings.

The customer finally becomes king

With so much competition and the ongoing threat of new entrants to the market, customers will finally reap the benefits of interactions vs. transactions. With heightened competition (expect more than just the above players to enter in a more significant way) and a race to earn customers and their loyalty, companies will need to innovate further around customer experiences. These experiences need to be more meaningful and encapsulate every stage of a trip from complementary offerings, immediate customer service, fast-track services through loyalty programs, or otherwise. The companies that put the customer first, drive personalization, know what the customer wants before they know it themselves — truly be customer first — will ultimately win.

Enterprise Ireland hosts its annual Travel Tech Summit in Westport on 8th April 2020. To learn more about the event and express your interest in attending, email:

A version of this article was originally published in the Sunday Independent.

Softworks helps companies streamline processes, increase productivity, and reduce costs through improved management, scheduling, and utilization of labor resources. Softworks offers reliable, proven solutions for time and attendance, labor scheduling, HR, and absence management. The solution allows both private and public organizations to better ensure compliance, reduce errors, eliminate redundancies, and improve reporting — while promoting a safe, positive working environment for all employees. Softworks was established in 1990 in Ireland and currently has offices in Ireland, UK, Canada, and the United States.

“Our solutions, while feature-rich, are designed to be intuitive and very easy to use,” said Andrew Ferguson, Chief Executive Officer, Softworks. “For example, a unique difference between ourselves and our competitors is our labor scheduling wizard, which builds optimized schedules based on the needs of the organization, along with employee preferences and skills; we also incorporate an organization’s existing work practices into our solution instead of making them change their work practices to fit our solution.”

Ferguson added that another unique point is that all Softworks modules are included as part of the core product. The Softworks solution is very flexible and scalable, and organizations can select the modules they need. There are no large premiums if they’d like to start utilizing additional modules over time. This allows companies to invest knowing that the solution will work for them no matter how their organization changes in the future. Softworks also integrates with third-party applications like most popular payroll and human resource systems, if required.

The Softworks platform is used by a range of organizations across all industries. Clients range in size from 250 to 50,000 employees and include well-known companies such as Dell EMC, Intel, Estee Lauder, Heineken, Kerry Group, Hertz, DHL, Tesco and Selfridges to name a few. The company also works with many public sector organizations, including government departments, councils, and housing associations. Within the healthcare sector, Softworks provides services for a number of large hospitals, nursing homes, and community care providers across Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Canada.

Andrew Ferguson – CEO Softworks

“Much of our business comes from word of mouth. We work hard to provide solutions that make our customers’ working lives easier,” said Ferguson. “We’ve found that once clients experience the benefits that we bring to their organization — such as a reduction in manual processes, improved accuracy of data, easier reporting, and the associated cost savings — then they are very happy about recommending us to other businesses.”

Developing healthcare in the U.S.

Softworks has recently expanded into the U.S. market with a focus on healthcare. Following research into this market, it was discovered that there is considerable interest in automated labor and safe staff scheduling solutions.

“Our U.S. team is receiving very positive feedback from hospitals and other healthcare providers, so we’re excited about our prospects in North America,” added Ferguson. “We’ve had considerable success in Canada with our solutions recently selected for the Geraldton District Hospital, in Ontario, the Markham and Stouffville Hospital, Ontario, and the Dryden Regional Health Centre (hospital and community care) all of which will roll out early 2020.”

Ferguson explained that workforce management is vital because it allows companies to uncover, understand, and address challenges that might be hindering the organization’s success or their employees’ satisfaction. With an adequately scaled workforce management system, companies can spot trends and take steps to address any issues before they become major problems. Workforce management also frees up HR teams and employees from manual, time-consuming tasks so they can spend more time on activities that add real strategic value to the organization, driving improvements on many different levels.

For healthcare specifically, labor scheduling is a major headache with managers spending a significant amount of time manually creating and maintaining complex staff schedules and trying to balance labor costs with patient care requirements. This presents an opportunity for an automated labor scheduling solution, which helps automate scheduling fairly and equitably, so managers can drive efficiencies and reduce the need for agency staff while at the same time delivering exceptional patient care through safe staff scheduling.

Automated tasks

“Across all industries, we see the increased need to demonstrate compliance with labor regulations and pressure to find ways of reducing costs and optimize operations,” said Ferguson. “And at the same time, they need to maintain flexibility and quality standards, and deal with attracting and retaining employees — workforce management solutions can help with all of these areas.”

While workforce management may have started with employees clocking in and out to record working hours, it has evolved to now cover automation of complex labor scheduling, absence management, project tracking, HR, and flexible working. Through comprehensive real-time reporting and information, Softworks solutions are enabling organizations to drive efficiencies and better ensure compliance while promoting a positive environment for employees.

Workforce management helps HR managers reduce the administrative burden on their HR teams. They spend less time administering employee absences, annual leave, time in lieu, and sickness so they can spend more time on initiatives such as employee engagement, performance management, and development.

Additionally, the solution helps protect the company from being at risk of non-compliance with labor regulations. Automating time and attendance also increases the accuracy of payroll and the speed with which the payroll is created, again saving time and leading to happier employees.

A platform of efficiency

Workforce management software saves time by eliminating data duplication and reducing time spent on manual tasks that can easily be automated, so it frees up employees to spend time where the organization needs them. The organization is making direct time savings from this, and then, in addition, by tracking employee working hours, they are saving money in the area of reducing or removing overtime and agency costs, reducing overpayments and reducing absenteeism. Aside from the direct savings, indirect savings are to be made in ensuring legislative compliance, improved employee retention, and increased employee satisfaction.

“We’re seeing increased demand for solutions that support employers in managing flexible and remote working practices,” added Ferguson. “As part of the drive toward improving employee engagement we also see an increased requirement to roll out employee self-service features to allow employees to check and book annual leave and flex-time balances, enter individual shift preferences, bid on available shifts, and check future schedules no matter where they are.”

The Softworks solution can be either cloud-based or server-based. In all situations, Softworks is committed to ensuring the security and protection of all personal information and provides a compliant and consistent approach to data protection. Softworks is ISO 27001 certified, meaning that the company has been independently certified and awarded the internationally recognized highest standard for managing information securely.

The company conducts automated vulnerability scanning of the solution and infrastructure as well as using CREST certified, third-party penetration testers. Softworks also includes GDPR compliance as standard.

The Irish Advantage

“It would be very remiss of me not to mention that Ireland is a great place for us to call home,” added Ferguson. “With Ireland’s pro-business environment, its young and talented workforce — we are a naturally forward-looking country that is strong on relationship building, and this is reflected in the way Softworks approaches our business.”

Leading Irish-owned digital healthcare company, patientMpower, is building on recent U.S. market success and has announced further expansion plans to aid those suffering from chronic illnesses with new developments in the area of kidney disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 37 million adults in the United States are estimated to have chronic kidney disease. In some states, the illness has become so prevalent that they have created statewide task forces dedicated specifically to preventing, treating, and educating the public about the disease.

patientMpower provides award-winning technology solutions for people living with long-term illnesses. Its solutions enable patients to better manage their care remotely and provide data insights for healthcare providers and researchers to improve treatments. Following the recent announcement of major funding, in the form of the Irish Government’s Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund, patientMpower plans to expand into chronic kidney disease with the development of a new artificial intelligence medical device for kidney dialysis.

The kidney dialysis solution will build on existing patientMpower technology, which allows patients to monitor their health (e.g. weight, lung function, and blood pressure) and manage their medications all through a patient-facing software application. EMR connectivity lets healthcare professionals see health data in real-time whilst smart alerts trigger them to intervene when necessary. patientMpower’s technology is already being used by the Transplant Institute at NYU Langone to enable lung transplant recipients to be monitored from their own homes.

Eamonn Costello

Eamonn Costello- CEO, patientMpower

“Our solution was developed to make life a little easier for people fighting through difficult conditions,” said Eamonn Costello, Chief Executive Officer, patientMpower. “Our technology empowers patients to better manage their health and provides healthcare professionals with insights to improve outcomes.”

The future of the automotive industry is being written – and it’s being written in code. Software, rather than hardware, has become the focus of manufacturers as digital technology disrupts the status quo of the sector.

Under pressure over emissions and sustainability, manufacturers are focused on transitioning from the internal combustion engine to a future of connected, shared, autonomous and electric vehicles. Traditional supply chains are changing dramatically as new technology providers force manufacturers to rethink where value can be created and by whom.

To assess the level of opportunity this disruption offers OEMs and supply chain partnersEnterprise Ireland, the trade and innovation agency, asked a panel of experts what they think lies on the road ahead.

Consumer trends in automotiveRethinking the car

Dr. Engelbert Wimmer, CEO, and founder of German specialist automotive management consultancy and investment company E&Co (Entrepreneurs and Consultants), believes that traditional players will have to adapt and make room for the entrants from non-automotive backgrounds.

“We are reconsidering every piece of the traditional car,” Dr. Wimmer said. “That means a whole new supply chain because the concept and characteristics of a vehicle that you want to operate 90,000km a year on a shared mobility or on an autonomous platform will be completely different because the durability and ownership will be changing.

“This could be an ideal road for Ireland’s fantastic software capability because software will ultimately be the driver of all these new functions, and you need to have a toolchain that brings those software components together – integration, testing and then deploying and maintaining them in the field.”

“Every time you have a disruption of this size and with this technology scope, new entrants will have a super chance.”

Manufacturing intelligence

Hiren Desai, Head of Strategy and Innovation North America for Continental, believes that forming new partnerships with technology and software specialists is vital for OEMs (original equipment manufacturers).

Hiren said: “The supply chain is going to undergo disruption over the next 10 to 15 years significantly when it comes to software coming in and replacing all the hardware that companies are used to producing.

“Companies like Continental are experts in industrialization, which essentially means manufacturing. Now, what we’re really talking about is having software factories able to produce intelligence, able to write code, able to produce artificial intelligence, that’s where it’s heading.”

Consumer trends in automotive

Barry Napier is the CEO of Cubic Telecom, an Irish company that provides global mobile connectivity solutions for automotive manufacturers including AudiSkoda, and Volkswagen. He said that changing consumer trends mean that manufacturers are focused on software that delivers technology, which is leading to a leaner supply chain.

“Increasingly when people are buying a car, they’re not asking what’s the horsepower and does it have a sunroof and air-conditioning? They want to know ‘is it connected and what’s the range I can get?’. The mindset has changed,” he explained.

Barry Napier, CEO, Cubic Telecom - Why the future of the automotive industry is being written in code

Barry Napier, CEO, Cubic Telecom

“Historically when you went to an OEM and you said to them, we want to do something, there was panic in their faces because they had to go and change the hardware and then there were multiple partners they had to talk to in order to do that.

“It’s easier to change software, so now they are looking to do as much as they can via software solutions, putting mainframe concepts into vehicles and then seeing how they can run that through the cloud. The mindset is there with the OEMs to make the car lighter, faster and doing it all via software.”

Driving the future

With two billion cars expected on the world’s roads by 2035, the need for more sustainable transport is greater than ever. The ability to develop innovative solutions that help OEMs meet the demands of consumers and regulators can help drive the future.

Irish companies are already providing applications for automotive OEMs in areas such as sensor technologies, motion and position control systems, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud services, connectivity, and cybersecurity.

Meanwhile, CAV Ireland is bringing together stakeholders from industry, academia, research, transport authorities and expert agencies including Enterprise Ireland to collaborate on opportunities in the connected and autonomous vehicle supply chain.

CAV Ireland’s members include Jaguar Land Rover, who has its Centre for Networked and Autonomous Vehicles in Shannon, and French vehicle technology giant Valeo, who has a large facility in Tuam in Galway, and there are even plans for the development of a future mobility campus near Shannon Airport where new technologies can be tested and proved.

Dr. Wimmer agreed that collaboration is the key: “It is not about one company producing all this,” he says. “It is about collaboration and partnership. The toolchain has many, many links that need to be linked together.”

From data collection to animal nutrition, a lot more is expected from farm machinery today. Lorcan Allen from the Irish Farmers Journal speaks to Robbie Walker and Matt Higgins from Keenan to learn how the company is adapting to modern farming.

When you talk of bundles or a bundle offering, the first thing that usually springs to mind is a sports and entertainment package or the latest deal from a phone and internet provider. For one Irish farm machinery company, the bundled sale has always been at the core of how it does business with farmer customers. According to Matt Higgins, general manager of Carlow-based machinery manufacturer Keenan, the company has never just sold a steel machine to farmers. Instead, the company has sought to bundle services and nutrition advice with every sale.

Keenan has always been a concept sale. This goes right back to the 1980s when we developed the Easy Feeder machine, which was the first of its kind in Europe,” says Higgins. “We began offering nutrition support and advice to farmers alongside this machine. So it was very much a bundled product from the very early days and this has continued right through to our InTouch technology today,” he adds.


In May 2016, the Keenan business was purchased by Alltech, the animal nutrition company privately owned by the Lyons family. Alltech’s acquisition of the business made sense as it brought a new level to the bundled offering that Keenan could sell to its customers.

According to Robbie Walker, chief executive of Keenan, there are four stages to the evolution of the Keenan business model.

“The first stage for Keenan was during the 1970s when the company sold an extremely well-engineered machine that farmers could rely on. The second stage for the company came in the 1980s when Keenan began selling good nutritional advice alongside the machines,” says Walker.

“The third stage was combining the machine and nutritional advice with digital technology. This gave the business much more control and improved our ability to offer advice to the farmer. Finally, the fourth stage for Keenan has been the acquisition by Alltech, which allowed us to combine the machine, the nutritional advice, and digital technology with actual nutrition from Alltech,” he adds.

Looking at the wider industry, Walker says you can already see that manufacturers are needing to evolve their business model to offer customers a bundle of services alongside the physical machine.

“True innovation in a company is also about innovating your business model, which for Keenan is about combining the machine with digital and nutrition. That’s where I believe the future of Irish manufacturing is going. Irish manufacturers are going to need to bundle services along with their product in the future,” says Walker.

Keenan invests in R&D

Unsurprisingly, R&D and new product development are an important investment for Keenan. In 2017, the company announced it was appointing Michael Carbery as its new head of innovation to focus on developing its R&D pipeline.

Keenan looks at its innovation pipeline from two sides: engineering and digital.

“On the engineering side, it’s vital we continue to innovate because any engineering company will not survive without innovation,” says Walker. “Farmers in technologically advanced countries like Germany and Denmark, where we have very strong sales, are starting to adopt robotics and technologically advanced ways of feeding. As a result, we’re having to imagine what the robotic future would look like,” he adds.

“We’re looking to collaborate with companies outside that have developed the technology we need and fast-track any new product development,” says Higgins.

“For example, the self-propelled feeder we launched in 2017 was a result of a collaboration with Storti, an Italian company. That collaboration allowed us to bring a proven product to market very quickly,” he adds.

On the digital side, it’s all about data, or more precisely, the analysis of data collected on farms. Keenan’s digital platform, InTouch, was first launched in 2015, and the company is now looking at the next stage for the software program.

“InTouch recently went through the Pearse Lyons Accelerator program this year and that produced two new ideas for the platform,” says Walker. “This first is a second-generation platform called InTouch 2.0, which is a software and hardware update for the InTouch system. The second idea is a new concept called InTouch Go, which will be an evolution of the current system,” he adds.

Lean at Keenan

Since acquiring the Keenan business in 2016, Alltech was quick to reaffirm its commitment to continuing manufacturing Keenan machines in Borris, Co. Carlow in Ireland. The company works with Enterprise Ireland, the trade and innovation agency, to implement lean manufacturing principles across the business in order to improve efficiencies in the plant and eliminate waste.

“Lean is something that needs to be consistently worked on in a business. It’s about standardizing what people are doing, reducing inventory levels and eliminating waste in your business,” says Higgins.

Interestingly, Keenan has begun to evolve its interpretation of lean principles to how it interacts with customers.

“Lean made a big impact on the Keenan business but it was initially done on just the manufacturing process. Now, we’re looking at the customer journey and inputs to the factory,” says Walker.

“That’s basically how we receive our orders from customers, how this information is then passed through to the factory and how we place orders for parts to meet the specifications of each machine. We’re evolving lean from the engineering process to include the customer experience,” he adds.


The growing focus on the carbon emissions produced from animal agriculture presents opportunities for companies like Keenan who are focussed on precision agriculture or getting more from less. The company was recently carbon accredited by the Carbon Trust in the UK.

“Keenan machines are now recognized as a technology that can reduce carbon emissions on farms. This is certainly unique for a feeder wagon,” says Walker.

“Our technology can help farmers be more carbon-efficient, meaning they can produce more milk for the same amount of feed or produce the same amount of milk but using less feed. And that includes our InTouch digital platform and our nutrition advice for animals. We’re taking a mechanical, digital and nutritional approach to reduce carbon emissions,” he adds.

There is a corner of Ireland where taking a drive along the road from the airport will soon be like driving into the future. In Shannon, County Clare, there are plans to capitalize on collaboration among a growing number of companies operating in the technology sector by developing a future mobility campus in the town. The move is the latest step in the development of Ireland as a hub for the development of connected, autonomous, shared and electrified vehicles.

John Cormican is General Manager of Vehicle Engineering at Jaguar Land Rover Ireland, which last year opened an 88,000 sqft Global Centre of Excellence for connected and autonomous vehicles near Shannon Airport.

At Enterprise Ireland’s CASE: Driving the Future forum, Cormican explained: “What we’re doing, together with a bunch of partners, is putting together a smart city IoT campus where we can prove out our technologies in a physical area. A testbed scenario, essentially.”

Irish capability and collaboration are driving Jaguar Land Rover’s journey towards future mobility 2

Tom Kelly, Enterprise Ireland’s Head of Innovation and Competitiveness, meets John Cormican, General Manager of Vehicle Engineering at Jaguar Land Rover Ireland at CASE: Driving the Future.

Why the future of mobility is forming in Ireland

Jaguar Land Rover’s selection of Ireland as the location for this center for researching, developing and integrating new technology and software into cars epitomizes a shift in the focus of car manufacturers, away from traditional automotive manufacturing bases such as Detroit towards technology hubs such as Silicon Valley and Ireland.

“People haven’t typically associated automotive with Ireland,” Cormican said. “We don’t have a heavy manufacturing footprint like Detroit, Germany or Japan. What Ireland does have is a huge amount of technology. Facebook, Google, IntelCisco, Ericsson, Valeo, Johnson Controls, Uber, Analog Devices, Microsoft, Dell, Salesforce, LinkedIn – all of these companies and others are employing hundreds of thousands of people in technology in Ireland.”

The presence of these multinational companies has spawned a tech ecosystem of innovative Irish companies that are developing products and applications across multiple sectors.

Cormican said that the capabilities that exist, for example, in the CAV (Connected Autonomous Vehicles) Ireland cluster of companies, together with the collaborative nature of the organization, are attractive for automotive OEMs such as Jaguar Land Rover.

Why the future of mobility is forming in Ireland 3

Delegates at CASE: Driving the Future visit Jaguar Land Rover Ireland’s Centre of Excellence in Shannon.

“Most of these companies are not designing automotive-specific solutions,” he said. “They’re designing cool technology that can fit into aerospace or can fit into IoT applications or can fit into automotive or mobility services,” he says.

“Whether they’re sensor companies or artificial intelligence companies or cybersecurity companies, they’re all creating different technology solutions, which can now be relevant for the automotive market, which wasn’t the case five or ten years ago when it was mostly about engineering components.

“The supply chain has been greatly disrupted and the relationships we have now are going away from a traditional OEM tier one, tier two, tier three supplier model towards a lot of collaboration and innovation. That’s because sometimes the technology and solutions are emanating from a tier two or tier three supplier in the old way of thinking – so why wouldn’t we have a direct relationship with them to understand how their technology works and how we get it embedded in our vehicles?”

Why Jaguar Land Rover chose Ireland

Alongside this burgeoning capability, other factors that made Ireland such a compelling location for Jaguar Land Rover included the availability of talent at universities and institutes of technology.

Cormican said: “We’re employing people with different skillsets than other locations – people with skills in software engineering, artificial intelligence, machine learning, embedded software, virtualization, cloud services, functional safety, and cybersecurity. There is a constant flow of graduates with skills in these areas.”

The future of mobility is a journey towards connected, autonomous, shared and electric vehicles. In Ireland, it is also a journey of collaboration which Cormican believes is only just beginning.

“It’s a genuinely exciting time because it really is a transformation. It’s about people having mobility services in the near future, where they would have been excluded in the past. People who perhaps can’t drive or don’t want to drive will have many more options. In Jaguar Land Rover, we call this the Destination Zero strategy – zero emissions, zero congestion, and zero accidents.”