Google Trends is a very useful tool, the web service allows individuals to measure the relative number of searches and mentions that a particular term gets over time, and to compare those numbers with other terms. Google Trends is an interesting, if statistically poor, way that commentators take a gauge on (for instance) the relative interest in different open source initiatives.

Another thing I use to take a read on industry trends is to assess the tone of the dozens of PR pitches I get every day in my inbox. As an example, a decade ago almost every pitch was talking about how the vendor in question was applying cloud to their particular solution (regardless of whether it had anything whatsoever to do with the cloud). Fast forward a few years and it was all about big data and analytics.

Today, however, Blockchain would seem to be the choice of a new generation. In the past week I have received pitches for:

  • The world’s first blockchain-based fashion show (I can’t even…)
  • A blockchain-based travel market
  • Dozens of different initial coin offerings (ICOs)
  • Blockchain-based banking services
  • A blockchain-enabled freight service

Some of these I don’t even take the time to look at. The blockchain-based fashion show, for example, may well be an industry-changing concept. But considering my idea of sartorial elegance is slipping on a buttoned shirt to wear with my jeans, it is so far from my frame of reference that I didn’t even read the entire email.

But sometimes there’s a concept that might just have legs. A case in point is Arise Travel, an early stage company looking to use blockchain to rethink the distribution relationship between travel providers, third-party agents, and consumers. The idea of the Arise Travel Network is that it will be a digital marketplace designed to eliminate the inefficiencies and costs in online travel distribution market. Of course, the company can’t avoid the temptation to be grandiose about it all and goes on to explain that “the Arise Travel Network uses blockchain technology to rebuild the hotel distribution infrastructure into one that is secure, accessible, and flexible. This will spur competition and innovation in online travel, enable hotels to partner directly with multiple distributors, and reduce their distribution costs.” Not to mention, one assumes, find a cure for cancer at the same time.

So, hyperbole aside, what is arise doing here? The value proposition is described thusly:

  • Hotels and distributors come together directly without the need for contracts or middlemen. Hotels use a simple interface to set their commission rates and import inventory and rate data from their existing hotel system to their own secure blockchain. They then can make it available to as many distributors and partners as they choose via the Arise Travel Network.
  • Hotels set their own commission rates and can change them at any time to reflect market demand, inventory, or any condition. Changes occur instantly across the entire Arise Travel Network.
  • Commission payouts are automatic and done electronically. The Arise Travel Network blockchain method is secure, immediate, and eliminates the tedious process of reconciliation and follow up.

MyPOV

Arise is suggesting that one of the key benefits of its solution is to reduce the burden of reconciling commissions. They’re also suggesting that by providing a central place where hotel providers can set rates, there is no need to enter data into multiple systems. That makes sense, but there’s a caveat in all of that. Firstly, many providers see multiple rates and a combination f direct and third-party sales as a key differentiator. To many in the value chain, the idea of more transparency around rates is actually toxic.

Secondarily, while transacting on the blockchain makes sense from a perspective of a consistent “currency,” the reality is that outside of the network, providers will still need to transact, at least for the time being, in cold, hard cash. Blockchain is good and all, but its value is predicated on the entire networking being able to transact with it – I don’t see that Arise is going to be able to resolve that issue, at least in the medium term.

Arise isn’t nearly as cringe-inducing as the blockchain-baed fashion show, but if you were to ask me whether they’re doing something with legitimate value, I’d have to express a level of doubt.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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