I’ve just returned from our largest and most inspiring hack event to date, Destination Hack: London – held at the Impact Hub Westminster in Central London.
NB: This is an analysis by Sean Arena, executive director of new business ventures at Sabre.
Like the event we hosted last year at our headquarters in Southlake, Texas, Destination Hack: London delivered a hefty batch of amazingly clever ideas.
The participants were energized, creative, and jumped right into the challenges set before them.
With over 150 attendees, 39 projects, several partner technologies, and our own Sabre Dev Studio platform, you can imagine the myriad of concepts swirling around the room over the 24 hour period.
Check out our Storify page to get an idea of how the event progressed
Although we have participated in many hack day events over the past twelve months, it is only natural that our own company-sponsored contests remain nearest and dearest to my heart – with a healthy dose of inner reflection.
Contrasting our two most recent hack days held this past year, I was struck by a few key observations that clearly reinforce several trends we have been anticipating for some time.
What’s even more astounding is that some of these manifestations were practically non-existent (or much less pronounced) just ten months ago.
What the hacks had in common
Seriously though, aside from being a chaotic mental marathon of creativity, there were several distinct commonalities:
Several participants were not from the travel industry. This made the ideas that much more interesting, as well as their observed behavior in interacting with our technology. They came into the event with a totally fresh perspective and were not shackled by any preconceived notions.
The travel planning experience is far from perfect. Like last year, several ideas centered on how to simplify the overall planning process in deciding where to go, how to get there, and for how much. As one partner put it, “we have to relive it over and over again until someone gets it right”.
- “Smaller world, bigger megaphone”
Social has and will continue to remain an integral part of the traveler’s experience. Whether it is for inspiration, collaboration and sharing, recommendations, decision-making or feedback, they all play a critical role in the travel ecosystem.
Mobile-first strategies are becoming more prevalent than ever. Most concepts showcased at both events were exclusively mobile, or possessed an immediate mobile extension.
Both events possessed ideas (and winners) that centered on leveraging the travel ecosystem for good, and they were impressive enough to catapult themselves to the top of the judges’ list.
From a crowdfunding app that could help a family make an urgent medical trip to a specialist in another state or country, to an app that could leverage the unused free baggage allotments of frequent travelers to carry critical supplies to local charities, there is clearly more room for philanthropic ideas in the travel space to better the world.
What was different
The London hack brought into the spotlight some characteristics and concepts which had only flickered briefly at our previous events.
Shopping fatigue is what I would call it. No matter how clever the buying process has become, more and more online consumers want retailers, suppliers or search sites to do the work for them. I will tell you want I want, when I want it, and for how much, and you can get back to me when you find it.
- “The democratization of development tools.”
Let’s face it – everyone desires an easier and more efficient way to do their job. As programmers look to tools such as Slack and Twilio to streamline their efforts to build apps and messaging protocols, their efforts inch us closer to a world where application development is becoming much more mainstream.
Building apps, like many other creative endeavors, is a form of expression, and anyone of the creative mind naturally gravitates towards such opportunities to express themselves. Look no further than Apple’s Garage Band vs. Avid’s ProTools.
It’s always been there in some form or fashion. However, analytics are finding themselves much more front-and-center within the user experience (not just behind-the-scenes algorithms).
While people want simplicity, they also want validation and reassurance. As we are continuously bombarded to process more information, we seek new ways to improve context.
Three Hack Day projects illustrate this: Baytar, Avoid, Safe Destinations.
Whether it be providing local tours, guides, dinner at your house, packaging your own ideal destination, or simply providing recommendations on what to do when you’re there, we are increasingly seeing new models that empower the end consumer to become their own travel counselor, supplier or retailer – with true monetization potential.
- “VR and Wearables… are you really here?”
They have both been all abuzz for the past several years, however their presence in hack events has been very limited, if at all. But this year, we saw numerous applications and demonstrations of how these technologies can change the way we look at travel – literally.
Two Hack Day examples: Further (which is an Apple Watch demo) and Ikaros VR (which uses Timelooper VR software and Google Cardboard).
Reflecting on not only the amazing turnout but also array of innovative ideas that were spawned from our London and Southlake hacks, I couldn’t help but speculate on how hack events will continue to evolve, and what they may look like further out into the future.
- “Yeah, but what is the best way to make money?”
As payment platforms expand and become more adaptable, it is not inconceivable that we will begin to see teams instantly testing varying monetization hypotheses alongside the apps themselves.
- “Consumers’ Choice Awards…”
Last December, I attended a hack event at a local university, and was stunned to see that one of the teams had not only showcased a slick social collegiate app, but witnessed hundreds of downloads from students across the nation with zero marketing or publicity over the 24 hour period.
With advancements in plug-and-play analytics, off-the-shelf log-ins and registration software, we will likely continue to see success not only measured by judges of these events but also through real-time user feedback.
- “Some assembly required…”
Whether it be beacons, modular components to phones or computers, or 3-D printed adaptors, casing, or circuitry, it would appear that the scope of future hack events could ultimately take on a hardware dimension alongside software development – making it all the more interesting.
Virtual collaboration software will not pose the logistical challenges they do today, making the process of organizing and facilitating these projects from afar much easier. Events themselves might be much more spontaneous, and driven more by the needs of the general public vs. corporations or media outlets.
Furthering the thought above, as more hack events sprout from public needs and challenges, and the scope of what can be created and tested in a 24 hour period expands, it is only logical to consider that expectations of how quickly these ideas can be seeded will increase.
In addition to present day sponsorships, prizes, cash etc. that are handed out onsite by various incubators, accelerators, venture capital firms, and corporations, we are likely to see seamless integration of crowd-funding or investment opportunities intertwined with the events themselves.
All in all, I couldn’t be more pleased with our recent hack day events, and look forward to further advancing our travel ecosystem with new and innovative partners.
These experiences challenge us to think big (and differently), to meet the needs of tomorrow’s traveler, today while providing our developer customers with the tools to do so.
Stay tuned for additional news on Destination Hack activities around the world.
We’re just getting started!
NB: This is an analysis by Sean Arena, executive director of new business ventures at Sabre. It appears here as part of Tnooz's sponsored content agreement.
NB2: Click here to access to Destination Hack London holding page on Challenge Post, where you can find more details about each of the 39 hacks.
NB3 Click here to read an interview with Greg Webb, executive vice president for Sabre and president of Sabre Travel Network, about the first twelve months of Sabre Dev Studio.
NB4Image by Shutterstock