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Latest Travel Tech Innovations

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We love Day 1 of the annual PhoCusWright conference—the Travel Innovation Summit. A full 30 companies present; some are startups, some are existing companies introducing new products; four judges then give feedback (which ranges from encouraging to blistering). The day offers a snapshot of where we are in the evolution of travel technology.

Mobile and social, of course, are huge trends—as is the move toward photographic discovery, a la Pinterest. Maptia is one new company jumping on this bandwagon, launching with 20 million photos pinned to maps. It’s a good idea and it’s clearly a popular activity; it’s also something we saw at this conference two years ago, when Gogobot launched.

Another word we heard a lot: “engines.” Bynd introduced a “desire engine,”—a customizable system of web and mobile apps—while Traverie talked about its “discovery engine”—adding friends’ photos to your bucket list.

We liked the verticality of Beachscape (which boldly launched during their presentation), which focuses on finding the perfect beach hotel. And we thought TourWrist was worth a second look; the company is trying to revive the ancient digital art of 360-degree virtual tours. Is it a stepchild to video or a step toward virtual reality?

One unique new product: KnowDelay, which claims to be able to predict weather-related delays three days before your flight, and shows you alternate routes. Pretty cool, but airlines are still going to charge you change fees no matter what kind of crystal ball you might have.

We’re excited by the reinvention of Clear, using biometric info to speed us through airport security. And we’re anxious to try out TripLingo, a mobile translation app that launched at last year’s conference and introduced a host of new features yesterday.

Some of these products will grow and thrive; others will blow through their funding and move on. Just call it the evolution of travel.

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