big data and travel

Tourism: big data at the service of travellers

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For the past four years, EURECOM researchers and French startup Data-Moove have been working to radically improve the tourism experience in the territories. Based on technological innovations from the labs, they have succeeded in aggregating information from the web and social networks to offer an ultra-local and exhaustive vision of what a geographical area has to offer.
 
TRe-opening a restaurant, concert or hotel on a sightseeing trip abroad can sometimes be an ordeal. Each establishment, each event has its own Facebook account, its own web page, and there are few sites that effectively bring together all the things to do in a territory. For the tourist, this means spending time on social networks, to the detriment of holiday activities. The challenge is therefore consequent for Data-Moove, a French startup that wants to change the game by offering a complete overview of a territory's offer. On 2 March this year, the young start-up inaugurated a kiosk in the airport of Saint-Barthélemy, in the West Indies. By using it, travellers arriving on the island can get a global view of the activities available on the territory, and thus create a holiday itinerary. The terminal is complemented by a mobile application proposed by the island's Tourism Committee and available free of charge to the end user.
 
 
Such a service responds to a growing demand from tourist offices to use digital technology to enhance the value of their territories. To meet this need, Data-Moove asked Data-Moove to join forces with the research teams ofEURECOMa component of the Carnot Telecom & Digital Society Institute. The start of the partnership between the two players dates back to 2015. The team of Raphaël Troncy, a researcher in data sciences at EURECOM, was then involved in the European 3cixty project, from the Digital EIT. "We were looking to automate the collection of information related to tourism and culture." remembers the scientist. "We wanted a platform that brings together everything about accommodation, points of interest, seasonal sports or cultural activities..." In short: to offer exhaustive and very local knowledge. Launched a year earlier, the project was already producing a mature technical solution. All that was missing was a commercial relay, and it was Data-Moove, freshly created, that embodied it until the end of the project in 2016.
 

Search social networks

During the three years of the 3cixty project, EURECOM researchers had to solve the problem of the heterogeneity of information sources. TripAdvisor and Facebook do not use the same languages, and restaurant information is not in the same form. It was therefore necessary to represent these flows of data collected on social networks by semantic graphs: clouds made up of words linked together according to the nature of their relationship. People, places, dates and actions are thus described in a standardized way, and then processed to return standardized information to the user, regardless of the source of this information.
 
"Because we aggregate many sources, there's a good chance that the same information will be present twice in the data stream." points Raphaël Troncy, introducing a second technical challenge. Solving this problem of duplicates involves making a measure of similarity between the indications of place, date and title of events. " So we developed a learning algorithm to do this resemblance study automatically " explains the researcher. Another learning model was developed to automatically predict the category of a poorly described event. This makes it possible to directly present information as being related to sport, theatre or music, for example.
 
The technical solutions developed during 3cixty have been implemented by Data-Moove in its first product : City Moove, based on an application like the one used by Saint-Barthélemy. "Our aggregated information flow technology can also be connected to an existing application." says Frédéric Bossard, co-founder of Data-Moove. The objective is to avoid as much as possible the multiplication of digital offer on a territory. The company therefore prefers to work with tourist offices to improve the tools already in place. "The problem with territories is that they often have too many applications, each specialized in one field." says the contractor.
 

Tomorrow's tourism, brick by brick

The two partners have decided to capitalize on this success by pushing further the use of digital technology in the tourism offer. In 2017, they are committed to the European PasTime project - again supported by the EIT Digital - whose aim is to propose recommendations for activities during stays. "The idea is to ask the end user what time he arrives in a city, and offer him a route directly." sums up Raphaël Troncy. Here again, research in learning on large volumes of data has been carried out. Typical profiles have been built from user interactions on social networks. "The real challenge is to build a package, i.e. to link interests with food and event preferences." describes the researcher. This is an additional layer to City Moove to add a dimension of customization.
 
A third layer is already planned. EURECOM and Data-Moove have been working since February 2018 on a new product: an intelligent conversational assistant to answer questions about a territory's tourism offer. This work, entitled MinoTour, is part of the European H2020 Data Pitch project. The chatbot set up will also have to learn from users' searches and provide answers according to the aggregated flows constituted by City Moove. "There's a logic in our products, Frédéric Bossard Point The solution is to build, brick by brick, from the database to the conversational agent, the solutions best suited to the territories. »
 
After Saint-Barthélemy, the next implementations of Data-Moove's solutions will be tested in Saint-Tropez, Madeira, and more widely in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region. These are areas where tourism is a major issue, which will enable us to continue to improve our products in order to satisfy both local authorities and tourists as much as possible.
 
Source : MTech, 15/03/2018
 

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