ConTgo Closing In On Connecting Clients To New API - Business Travel News

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ConTgo Closing In On Connecting Clients To New API

October 25, 2012 - 12:45 PM ET

By David Jonas

Mobile messaging and traveler assistance tech provider conTgo has an app. It's now available for Apple iOS, Google Android and Microsoft Windows Mobile, and it's got some pretty nifty new features like geo-location. But given sensitivities about data, some companies may be more interested in building their own customized apps, controlled completely in-house. ConTgo says it's working with the IT departments of two unidentified clients—one in the United States and one in Europe—to connect enterprise apps to the conTgo platform and provide travel and communications functionality via its new application programming interface.

"What we have been doing under the hood for the past six months is effectively opening up our platform to expose functionality into, initially, our own conTgo app," said co-founder and chief strategy officer Johnny Thorsen. "That initial step really was to prove that we can interact with apps and SMS in a completely seamless way. We are now ready and able to say to corporations, and potentially TMCs, that if you want to build your own app that integrates into enterprise-controlled data that you simply don't want to give up to external parties, we are now able to connect all your travel data and relevant travel functionality while you control the enterprise data side of the house. We are creating a new kind of ecosystem that corporate IT can control from an enterprise perspective and take advantage of the travel data regardless of which TMC booked it around the world, online or offline."

Though conTgo has an app, "we are not an app development shop," Thorsen continued. "Our job is to build a travel enterprise system, where the travel manager selects whoever the providers of booking services are, and they connect data into a platform where we mobile-enable it. One of the key challenges is that most corporations are moving toward a bring-your-own-device world, so there is no common standard. Therefore they want agnostic solutions that simply will adjust themselves to whatever the traveler population is at that point in time."

Though some travel management companies have expressed interest—notably midsize, regional ones "that realize the potential for getting involved in the mobile game with a much lower cost than building it all themselves," according to Thorsen—larger TMCs don't appear keen on the idea. "Our initial positioning of this has not created a lot of reaction from the large TMCs," he said. "The larger the TMC the less their ability and willingness to take this seriously. They want to build it because they want to control it."

That, Thorsen said, creates challenges for the big TMCs' customers. "I don't know a single corporation that uses one TMC globally," he claimed. "It really doesn't happen. Therefore, a corporation taking a TMC-provided travel app will be less and less likely. As a travel manager, are you prepared to have 10 different apps, each of which may have fairly relevant travel functionality but none with enterprise capability because they are developed and maintained by separate TMCs around the world? It is not a pretty picture."

This strategy makes conTgo more of a communications platform provider than a solely travel-specific facilitator. For example, the firm recently built technology that automatically switches to SMS when attempted push notifications to the app on a traveler's device are unsuccessful. This is useful when a U.S. traveler is overseas, has switched off data roaming to save money and isn't in a Wi-Fi zone.

"If you cannot reach the app in X minutes, defined by the company, we simply switch and send an SMS automatically so there is no black hole for communication," Thorsen said. "It's just a matter of selecting the right channel at the right time. The corporate IT guys want that capability. They don't want to build it themselves."

The SMS backup was included in a late September update, which also features "intelligent flight status monitoring." According to conTgo information, the ability of its platform to import content from multiple sources provides travel managers—and corporate security personnel—with a view of all employees who are delayed at the same time in the same place, regardless of how they booked.

"This is where you start to see the travel manager get into a whole new value-creation game," Thorsen explained. "They can create virtual get-together scenarios when they have 10 people stuck for two hours. The delay becomes a chance to meet colleagues. Suddenly, the corporate travel manager becomes a meeting driver at no cost. We facilitate not just telling them about this but connecting travelers to each other because we have the communication tools for them to reach out and connect directly to colleagues at the same place and at the same time. It's essentially a time-sensitive social network. It is there for two hours, and then it's gone."

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