Voice is “here to stay” according to Jonathan Midgley, Director of Engineering at Trainline, who added that building a voice app was “a no brainer”.
We caught up with Midgley to ask a few questions about how Trainline is using AI in its products.
Before we get started, a note that Jonathan will be speaking at Travel Technology Europe later this month in London – details here.
In what ways is Trainline experimenting with ‘AI’?
Trainline is building innovations that harness AI in a number of areas. Most recently we launched a voice app for the Google Assistant. It’s the UK’s most advanced rail voice AI, with 12 levels of conversation depth – you can ask it about anything from whether your train is running on time and the weather at your destination to the number of changes you need to make. The voice app relies on machine learning to get smarter – the more people use it, the more accurate it becomes. We’re really proud of this one, and I use it myself each morning to check on my commute.
Another example is BusyBot, which crowdsources data from our app users on the busiest parts of the train, this is then fed into the bot so it can recommend which part of the train passengers should get on to have the best chance of getting a seat.
An example of BusyBot at work in the Trainline app
Do you think voice only experiences (such as Google Assistant) are here to stay, or are they more toys than tools?
Voice assistants, and the smart speakers which use them, are undeniably on the rise. Building our own voice app was a no-brainer, as it can enhance the travel experience; if you’re on the go – walking to the station or rushing around at home before heading out – voice is crucial to getting speedy, hands-free updates on your journey.
Voice is here to stay – if you look at the CES trade show this year one of the biggest trends was the number of products that had a smart assistant installed in them.
I only recently read about BusyBot – has it been a success and how much further do you think you can interact with travellers via your app?
Engagement with BusyBot has been excellent so far, with around 26,000 people interacting with it every day! It’s amazing how much information travellers are willing to share in order to help their fellow passengers.
BusyBot is just one of the innovations our 250+ strong team of travel tech specialists and engineers are working on that make people’s journeys more straightforward. Price Prediction, the UK’s first ever price prediction tool for rail travel, is another good example. The tool uses billions of data points to advise our app users how long they have left to buy a ticket at the current price, often helping them make significant savings.
Price Prediction from Trainline
Which company do you consider most influential when it comes to customer experience and expectations (either in or out of travel, online and offline)?
Amazon is usually open in a tab on my browser – it has led the way when it comes to UX innovation. Elements which are now commonplace, such as recommending other products based on the content of the customer’s basket, were driven out of Amazon’s early innovation. It is also a master at managing UI convergence across a huge estate – with multiple large teams focussed on areas of the site, divergence is a constant challenge – but Amazon makes it look easy!
What events do you plan ahead for? Brexit? Renationalisation?
Ultimately, I’m a tech guy and my focus is on ensuring my teams are happy and inspired to create cutting-edge technology that continues to enhance the customer experience!
Travel Technology Europe takes place at Olympia, London, 21-22 February.
N.B. Econsultancy and Travel Technology Europe are both part of Centaur Media.