ITA Software has quietly begun marketing Needlebase, a data aggregation tool, to airlines, online travel agencies and travel content aggregators.
In a brochure that was published on the Needlebase website late last year, ITA Software argues that travel companies can use Needlebase to "grow revenue opportunities both while customers are booking their travel and afterwards," automate updates to ensure content is timely and accurate, provide more personalized travel experiences, and boost SEO.
As outlined last Summer, Needlebase enables a company to acquire data from disparate sources -- XML feeds, Web scrapes and CSV files, for instance -- and then to merge and edit the data, publish the data or export the data to another database.
Needle -- as it is called around the ITA Software offices in Cambridge, Mass. -- is a reference to finding a needle (or piece of data) in a haystack.
The solution enables companies -- and not just travel companies -- to "harvest structured data from websites or feeds to build a vertical search engine or enrich existing data," the company says.
And, while the Needlebase website has been public for quite some time, ITA Software is now targeting the travel industry and offering Needle use cases and licensing plans.
Without publicly detailing specifics, ITA Software says one of the easiest ways to get started with Needlbase is for companies to deploy "one of our existing Needle travel industry applications ..."
ITA Software also offers to consult with companies on their application ideas so they can collect data using Needlebase and integrate that data with their websites.
The other option, ITA Software says, is for travel companies to use Needlebase in a Platform as a Service mode so they might build their own applications.
Pricing plans for commercial licenses range from $399 per month for "moderate-scale data aggregation" to $999 per month for larger-scale data aggregation projects.
On use cases, ITA Software says for travel destination pages companies "can combine bookable tours, attractions and events; free activites and events; restaurant bookings and reviews, bookable ground transportation services; airport guides; weather reports; travel guide content, and other information sources" to increase customer loyalty and attract commissions for ancillary services.
Needle can also be put to use for SEO page generation, ITA Software says.
"Use Needle to integrate data sources to create unique, content-rich landing pages for major events, conferences, sports teams, concert tours and many other subjects," the company says.
Here's how ITA Software uses Needle to retrieve bookable events, sourced from numerous third parties, in conjunction with flight searches on its Matrix Airfare Search pages:
The UI doesn't look very pretty, but you can click on God of Carnage, for instance, and book the play on TicketCity:
Of course, one of the $700 million questions is what would Needle mean for ITA's airline customers and Google Travel if Google has Needle at its disposal?
Much of this is speculation because Needle is an unproven product and Google is keeping its potential plans for ITA largely to itself.
Would Needle, if it is successful, merely be a new revenue stream for ITA and Google, or could Google use it to advance its airline and hotel search ambitions by better aggregating ancillary services data?
Those questions remain to be answered.
Meanwhile, ITA is doing some hiring for Needle and has two full-time and two intern openings.
For example, there are openings for a semantic database curator and tester who can "concieve of, publish and promote a variety of attention-getting demo databases using Needle."
Needle obviously aims to sharpen its marketing focus.