There are infinite ways that technology can help enhance the user experience during the travel process. From search, booking and payment, via the passenger journey to accommodation and experiences, even in the reconciliation of expenses for business travellers after a trip, the options are endless. But, Amadeus Ventures is already showing a pedigree of being able to find those projects that meet a definable goal that is worthy of investment – both financially and in terms of development time.
Amadeus Ventures is the startup investment programme of travel industry technology provider Amadeus and its investment list includes some names that are already becoming well established. The corporate venture capital fund was born in 2014 as an innovation vehicle to drive collaboration with the startup ecosystem. Since then, it has developed more than 20 joint projects with our portfolio companies, growing by three to five companies every year.
Last year, Amadeus Venture made four minority investments in early stage startups at the cross road of travel and technology. The last of these saw it lead an investment round of USD9.8 million in Refundit, a digital solution that aims to allow tourists from around the world who are visiting Europe to claim their VAT refund as quickly and efficiently as possible. Additional investors include, among others, Portugal Ventures and seed round investors.
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This year, its first investment is in mobile identity solution Airside, which allows United States citizens and Canadian visitors to expedite and securely pass through US Customs with a mobile passport app instead of using paper documents. The platform has previously received investment from backers including Bain Capital, Blazar Ventures, GroTech Ventures and several other leading VC firms.
Airside’s mobile biometrically-enabled identity verification platform is already being used by eight million travellers to enjoy a paperless experience at customs in more than 30 US airports. This collaboration will facilitate the integration of some of Airside’s components into the Amadeus Traveler ID platform, helping the travel industry to move closer to developing frictionless experiences for travellers.
When travelling through an airport especially, proving who you are can be a repetitive, time-consuming and rather annoying experience with numerous manual checks of paper documents – passports, boarding passes. The Washington DC start-up has already demonstrated it can enhance the traveller experience with a quick and simple authentication process ahead of travel. This not only delivers a better journey experience, but can also ease the traditional ID bottlenecks in the process.
Authorised by US Department of Homeland Security, Airside works by empowering travellers to submit their passport and Customs Declaration forms to the app ahead of time, in order to then access separate, fast security lanes at the airport. The traveller simply scans the app and a decision about border entry is made immediately, speeding up their journey.
However, the use-cases for this technology extend beyond custom checks. Whether it means making a booking, boarding a cruise ship faster or checking in to your hotel room remotely, Amadeus is working on a global platform, with strategic partners such as Airside, to allow players across the industry to create memorable, frictionless experiences for their customers.
Like all technological developments there is always the question of privacy and this is increasingly an issue when it comes to sharing official documentation. Under the platform, Airside actually puts privacy and control in the hands of the passenger thanks to a decentralised architecture, which means that passengers control their own data rather than it being stored in a central database that may be vulnerable to breaches.
“Biometrics is a key trend for the industry, and one we feel has the potential to reshape air travel as we know it today,” says Suzanna Chiu, head of Amadeus Ventures. “Airside has developed an innovative identity management solution that presents many opportunities to improve the passenger journey.”