In a Nutshell: The world is projected to have 20 billion internet-connected devices by 2020, and smartphones and laptops are just a fraction of that total. Naturally, enterprises are looking to harness the commercial potential of those devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). But Fetch.AI doesn’t think that giving control of IoT data to central authorities is the right choice for consumers. That’s why the company is building a decentralized, autonomous IoT platform that leverages AI and machine learning to put more transactional power in the hands of individuals. And among the many who stand to benefit are consumers in the travel and transportation sectors.
People who travel have a plethora of digital tools at their disposal to help arrange transportation, lodging, and other services they need. But all that convenience can also create a lot of work.
That’s because apps have turned travel and transport into self-service industries, which means the tools travelers use can’t do their job without consumer engagement and input. Whether it’s a business trip or a family vacation, travelers often juggle an assortment of planning tools, with each being only part of the solution.
Why haven’t companies thought of a way to connect everything so it all works seamlessly?
Chances are, they’re trying to. But the team at Fetch.AI argues that the results aren’t necessarily in the consumer’s best interest — and with the digital infrastructure currently available, they can do better.
Today’s travel and hospitality industry, for example, is dominated by web aggregators that have put themselves between consumers and providers. Fetch.AI Founder and CEO Humayun Sheikh said that’s a problem.
“If you strip it down to its bare bones, these aggregators are buying in bulk and selling in retail,” Sheikh said. “They control the market because they can get you the volume.”
Fetch.AI envisions a future in which consumers can deploy their own software agents — similar to human travel agents — to connect them directly to individual travel services on the market. That includes hotel rooms and all of the other services travelers need, and the system would intelligently deliver the best deals and itineraries based on their preferences.
In that scenario, Sheikh said, “All the complex integration problems disappear. The agent breaks down the barriers and gets the aggregators out of the loop.”
That’s just one of the industries in which Fetch.AI is poised to emerge as a disruptive force by building a network to connect the IoT pieces involved in commercial exchanges. It aims to reduce the influence of aggregators in the hospitality industry — among many others — and also decentralize control.
Securing and Incentivizing the Sharing of Disparate Data
By 2020, the IoT is projected to include more than 20 billion connected devices. Far beyond computers and smartphones, it could grow to encompass just about everything. In travel and transport, that means not just the individual hotel room and flight aggregators but also ride-sharing services.
Fetch.AI acts like a brain governing how all those devices — and the products, services, knowledge, and skills associated with them — communicate with consumers and providers to exchange and create value.
The foundation of this new type of environment is a secure, high-throughput blockchain platform that Fetch.AI released as a beta in spring 2019.
“On top of that are smart contracts — we call them synergetic smart contracts — that can actually perform machine learning and AI tasks,” Sheikh said. “You want the smart contract to use complex mathematical problem-solving, so it becomes intelligent, which gives more autonomy to the devices on the platform.”
Within a decentralized environment established on the network, autonomous agents perform the communication and exchange functions. They represent, and act on behalf of, the devices, consumers, and providers, dynamically optimizing transactions in real time, intelligently prioritizing new information.
“It’s not based on human language and natural language processing,” Sheikh said. “It’s about agents finding each other, communicating, and exchanging information.”
Agents Can Autonomously Book Travel Based on User Patterns and Preferences
The technology is applicable in every industry touched by IoT. Fetch.AI brings buyers and sellers closer to each other by translating familiar functions associated with travel and transport. For example, imagine an Uber-like ride-sharing network — but without Uber.
“If you wanted to deploy an Uber-type organization on our system — creating algorithms to find different cars and match people together and optimize — you could deploy it quickly along with a payment structure,” Sheikh said.
Fetch.AI also shows promise for hoteliers. It proposes a structure in which consumers have access to book the hotel rooms directly through a smart agent. The hotelier will have a simplified concierge-like app as intuitive as any booking app available and will connect people to rooms with no third parties involved.
That means more flexibility and control for travel service providers over their products, and more opportunities to create a unique value proposition for customers.
And consumers won’t have to work as hard to get a better deal on a trip. These smart agents know their past travel habits, details associated with the trip, and their budget. The agents also connect with the providers, goods, and services travelers may need — and can negotiate on their behalf.
“You just tell your agent you’re traveling to San Francisco on these dates and book me the whole journey,” Sheikh said.
Fetch.AI: Placing Consumers Closer to What They Value
Fetch.AI isn’t building an industry-specific platform. Its set of tools can make exchanges work better for buyers and sellers in any industry.
A network of taxi drivers can use the intelligence behind the platform to execute efficient systems for transporting passengers and maximizing their return without compromising service priorities. Meanwhile, passengers can leverage the same system to find the best ride — even when they’re not looking for the lowest possible price.
There’s no need for a centralized authority to provide a platform to support those exchanges — charging fees in exchange for that support. The same is true across the entire platform-centric internet.
“If you look at big corporations, they have their incentives, and they own certain spaces in terms of their products or the data they collect from those products. It’s not economically viable for them to share that with everybody,” Sheikh said. “So that’s kind of our starting point.”
As IoT becomes more ubiquitous, enterprises seek to preserve or extend their control over a portion of it. Rather than cede control over to those systems, Fetch.AI gives it directly to the devices — and the buyers and sellers behind them.
“The objective is to build a system where devices can process their own data and become intelligent knowledge providers,” Sheikh said. “They can connect when they need to. And then you build the economic incentive on top — how and why they actually trade knowledge.”
And that intelligence embodied in Fetch.AI agents means the network is much more than a raw data delivery service.
“We are looking to deliver knowledge. We want to help people to extract knowledge and information, share it, and unlock the economic value inherent in it,” Sheikh said.