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."