Israel has long been a hotbed of travel technology. But of the 300-plus Israeli startups ISRAEL21c estimates are in the travel space, most are dedicated to helping tourists figure out where to go, what to eat, when and where to stay and how best to get there.
Covid-19 has upended that side of the travel business for now. But Israeli companies are once again at the forefront – in this case, creating technologies that can help keep travelers healthy in our new pandemic reality.
When it’s finally safe – or at least safer – to travel, Israeli travel tech companies will play an important role. We’ve chosen eight to feature; see more in the graphic below.
Would you trade spontaneity for the ability to dine out, go to a concert or fly overseas again? Binah.ai thinks that’s a fair bargain during a pandemic. The company’s software scans a person’s skin to read vital signs associated with a higher likelihood of Covid-19 infection.
The software can be embedded into the website of a restaurant, airline or concert venue so you could do a scan at home in advance of arrival using your computer’s camera. If all looks normal, you’d get a pass to present. Binah measures heart rate, oxygen saturation, respiration rate, mental stress level and heart-rate variability with accuracy between 80% to 99%. The company is working towards FDA approval now.
The biggest risk of flying in the midst of the pandemic is not on the plane but maintaining social distance in the usually crowded and snaking security-check line prior to boarding. Artificial intelligence-based software from Israeli startup SeeTrue can help speed up the process by 30% or more.
SeeTrue’s tech plugs into existing scanners to automatically alert screening staff to any suspicious objects in a passenger’s carry-on luggage. That means agents open 50% fewer bags than they normally do, and as a result, faster movement at the conveyer belt.
Another benefit: less physical contact between agents and bags. That’s important for travelers but also the agents: 2,885 TSA workers in the US have tested positive for Covid-19 to date and nine have died.
What SeeTrue does for airport security lines, Israeli startup Wishbox wants to do for hotel check-ins. The company’s software integrates with existing hotel management systems and booking engines such as Booking.com to send out smart messages to guests by email, SMS and WhatsApp.
The system allows the hotel to collect information from arriving guests (passport scans, security deposits, late check-out requests, e-signatures of documents) without contact. Travelers therefore spend less time in line at the front desk. Wishbox users can also purchase hotel services, such as meals and room upgrades, remotely.
Wishbox can even replace the in-person concierge desk by recommending trips, tours and local attractions. The system can also send out a health questionnaire for guests to complete prior to arrival.
Have you ever arrived early at your hotel only to discover your room was still being cleaned? That was a mild annoyance before Covid-19; now it’s risky business, as it may mean spending more time in a public area waiting for the key to be ready.
As You Stay allows travelers to choose their check-in and check-out times precisely – and to save money by paying prorated rates if they’re arriving late (or to spend less if they need a late check-out but not a full extra night). By not forcing everyone to depart and arrive at the same time, housecleaning can be staggered, hotels can operate more efficiently, and guests can minimize standing in line at the common 3 pm check-in time.
WishTrip helps attractions such as zoos and parks reopen safely by adding staff-to-guest communication tools. Download the WishTrip app for the attraction you’re visiting, and the staff can chat with you online, minimizing face-to-face contact and lines.
A mapping system shows operators how many people are at a particular site and the guests’ locations; staff can then push out alerts notifying guests of overcrowding and directing them to quieter areas.
Updates on safety guidelines and customized Covid-19 welcome messages can be delivered as well. There’s a site map for visitors and WishTrip can overlay the locations of dedicated handwashing stations, alerting visitors when they’re near one – an important hygiene reminder.
Even as a return to commercial tourism seems far in the future, eager jetsetters are speculating, “What will it cost?” Will airfares jump to make up for lost time and lower capacity? Or will they plunge to incentivize reluctant tourists? The same question applies to hotels and attractions.
Fetcherr uses artificial intelligence to predict prices up to a year in the future with 90% accuracy, even in the event of an “black swan” event like a global pandemic.
The product is for companies, not consumers, and not just for travel (Fetcherr ran its initial tests on product data from Amazon) although that’s where Fetcherr is starting due to Covid-19. Companies “don’t have a clue what’s going on,” CEO Roy Cohen told ISRAEL21c. “We provide certainty in uncertain times.”
If you’re hesitant about interacting with a touchscreen in a public space in the age of Covid-19 – say, receiving your boarding pass from an airport kiosk – Israeli startup Touchless.ai says: Talk, don’t touch.
Its Chrome browser extension allows developers to add voice control to their touchscreens with no new coding. Simply say commands like “up,” “down,” “save” and “checkout.”
A Touchless-powered interface adds numbers to existing onscreen menus in order to avoid problems other systems have understanding when people speak naturally, in a non-structured way. Touchless.ai is a pivot for Israeli startup Hi Auto, which builds speech-recognition technology for cars.
You’re in a foreign country and you fear you might have Covid-19. Who are you going to call? How do you find a trusted doctor locally? Does the doctor the hotel recommends speak your language?
Air Doctor’s app connects travelers to physicians according to language, location, medical specialty and reviews. In December 2019, the company added a telemedicine service enabling travelers to virtually meet with physicians who speak their native tongue.
As the coronavirus pandemic hit, the company saw a 150% jump in use. Insurance from Israeli insurer Phoenix allows tourists to use Air Doctor abroad with no out-of-pocket fees (Phoenix is an investor in Air Doctor).
The company is also partnering with mobile operators who can promote Air Doctor to enhance users’ peace of mind. The app is live in 42 countries and includes a list of Covid-19 testing sites in 28 countries.