Archive by Author | juliaweits

Technology of the Week Team 15: Priceline.com versus Airbnb

Want to go on holiday? Instead of visiting an archaic travel agency (80/90s style), consider diving into an online auction where you might bargain your way into a luxurious 5-star hotel in Manhattan, New York City. Or stay at someones mansion in Kenya and take care of the giraffes in the backyard.

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The former, Priceline.com applies a B2C business model offering exclusive hotels to offer up their otherwise vacant rooms on an anonymous basis, whilst the latter applies a C2C business (or, collaborative consumption – Botsman & Rogers, 2010) model offering consumer a means to earn some additional income whilst away from home themselves.

The anonymous feature of Priceline.com implies a higher level of uncertainty than normal for consumers in exchange for a lower price, i.e. the option to trade down, whilst still being relatively certain preferences (location, star-rating etc.) are fulfilled. Also, organisational learning is applied. Airbnb basically offers all available information, including house rules set by the host, reviews of hosts about guests and vice versa (word-of-mouth). Prices are fixed but fellow consumers can find something fitting their preferences in detail. A simple comparison: Priceline.com uses the information provided by consumers to search their database and find the consumer a match to bid on; Airbnb uses the information provided by consumers to offer a complete list of potentials where even more lodge-specific information can be found and allows the consumer to make up his/her own mind. However, both businesses aim to offer a solution to properties that would otherwise be vacant and have disrupted the hospitality-industry, offering consumers increasingly more options to choose from. In other words, the buying power of consumers has increased.

So, how would you book your holiday?

 

Pay-as-you-go Personal Assistants

After reading the articles about electronic market places and auctions for the upcoming session and thinking about the business solution we have to come up with for Designing Business Applications, I started to think about how we make and create business around us. ‘Apps’ are entering the market place on a daily basis; people manage to come up with ‘solutions’ where some people did not even know a ‘problem’ existed. Thus, we are not always using information (i.e. disgruntled people) to come up with solutions. As technology is within reach for most of the developed world, many of the proposed solutions are technical in nature.

However one can also create a business by letting people tell them about their problems, instead of making them up ourselves. Fetchamsterdam.nl is an example of such a business. This Dutch company basically acts as a temporary employment agency. Or, put in terms of the upcoming lecture: Fetch has created an electronic marketplace for personal assistants. People can come up with the most bizarre requests; Fetch will scour its pool of PAs and find someone to do the job. Look at the request of the week below:

Fetch

For non-Dutch speakers: someone lost his/her keys in a drain in front of their house while in a hurry. They requested Fetch to send someone to dig for the keys, lock the bike and leave the keys on a table as the person in question had to go to work.

This way, Fetch simply sits back and waits whilst people inform them about their hitch. Customers mention in detail what they wish Fetch to do and the company selects someone from their pool able to do the job (they also have people skilled in plumbing, (house) repair work or willing to book your concert or flight tickets). Using social media and word-of-mouth, Fetch manages to use technology to create a very low threshold for people to approach them with their (often bizarre – check out the other “request of the weeks” on their Facebook) problems. Besides, having an actual PA is simply too posh in the down-to-earth Dutch culture. Also, people know exactly what they want Fetch to do and thus provide the firm with detailed information, leaving less room for errors.  So, would you pay someone to FETCH your problem?

“Baby Monitor Update – Your baby has just stopped breathing”

Baby Monitor

IT has enabled us to efficiently and –usually- effectively store and use big amounts of information to our advantage. Automation has cut costs, shortened supply chains a.o.. Other IT innovations have improved safety, health care and have even saved lives. A new innovation discussed on Techcrunch, the “wearable baby monitor”( Techcrunch) caught my eye whilst searching for a topic for this forum.

Whilst not immediately relevant for what we discuss in this course maybe, the technology did raise a number of (controversial) questions for me. The monitor is a small device that can be put around a baby’s ankle, measuring things like heart rate, the temperature of the baby and the room, the level of light, and more. The information gathered can be accessed via an app on your phone. The app will warn you if something is wrong, e.g. “the level of light in the room is not optimal” or “your baby has just stopped breathing”. I have to admit the app would be quite helpful in case of the latter, but with regard to some of the other options the technology focuses on, such as optimizing the temperature in the room, the level of light, I find it is going a bit too far. It is meant to make it easier on parents, enabling them to make it as comfortable as possible. Nevertheless, the technology does not measure other stuff relevant for a small child’s upbringing, such as the need for attention or interaction. Also, creating a 100% safe and comfortable atmosphere for your child could harm the baby in other ways, for example with regard to its overall immune system.

Apart from these more biological aspects, it is still a technology and technologies can experience failures. What if your app has not been updated correctly or the software has a bug which could give off wrong warnings or incorrect information, resulting in parents not noticing something could be wrong with their child or worried parents making their children go through numerous unnecessary, expensive and possibly harmful medical tests? Could it be that the technological world might have become a bit too enthusiastic with regard to making our life easier? Could people rely on information provided by technology too much, foregoing more emotional, human-specific aspects?