Travel Inc. taps wireless system for health alerts from CDC

Travel Inc., which handles travel arrangements for 100,000 people at 500 companies, earlier this month launched a wireless travel alert that it quickly tailored to send out health alerts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC in recent days has issued several alerts about the spread of a new strain of pneumonia that originated in Asia and started to spread throughout the world this week.

Linwood Hayes, senior vice president of Travel Inc. in Duluth, Ga., said the new travel alert service can also send custom alerts about airport delays due to increased security checks -- including new vehicle checks imposed at major airports because of the elevated terrorism alert from the Department of Homeland Security. The custom alerts are tailored to each traveler based on itineraries stored in the company's reservation database.

Travel Inc. has already signed up nine of its customer companies for the travel service, called m-Itinerary. According to Hayes, m-Itinerary can send alerts to any wireless device on any cellular or mobile network worldwide, although currently the service serves mainly U.S. travelers.

Travel Inc. recently launched a wireless travel alert that it quickly tailored to send out health alerts from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
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Travel Inc. recently launched a wireless travel alert that it quickly tailored to send out health alerts from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
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Travel Inc. can push security or health alerts to business travelers in the form of text-based Short Messaging Service (SMS) messages to cell phones or pagers, Hayes said. Users with handheld computers can also access the alerts with a Web browser. The SMS service costs $24.95 per traveler a year, and the Web-based service costs $34.95 per year.

The company also went live yesterday with another service it calls PeopleTrack, which enables companies to quickly locate workers in times of crisis. PeopleTrack is bundled with Travel Inc.'s Web-based travel management reporting application, GalaxyNet. Hayes said Travel Inc. can also tap its data warehouse to determine which travelers might be in a specific geographic location affected by a crisis situation. PeopleTrack can then be quickly e-mailed to all designated people within a company.

He said the report can also help managers determine if any of their employees will be traveling to or through "hot spots" around the globe and assess whether a trip should be delayed or changed.

Travel Inc. tapped wireless software developer Air2Web Inc., which provides wireless package tracking service for United Parcel Service Inc., for help with the travel alert service. Jeff Browning, Air2Web's wireless product development vice president, said his company also transmits the alerts from its servers to wireless and cellular carriers globally via high-speed circuits. Air2Web has installed software that allows it to send a message to any device on any cellular or mobile network in the world, no matter the underlying operating system of the device or the network protocol, Browning said.

Hayes said Travel Inc. paid between $5,000 and $10,000 to develop the wireless travel alert service and pays Air2Web $2,000 per month for its role.

Judi Kale, vice president of Ormandy Inc., a Duluth, Ga.-based software developer for cellular carriers, is one of the first users of the wireless travel alert system. Kale described it as an invaluable tool for managing travel, providing her with key information.

Craig Matthias, an analyst at the Farpoint Group in Ashland, Mass., said Travel Inc. has developed a unique product that meets the demands of business travelers in troubled times. Matthias said he knows of no other company that offers a similar service. He said that as travel becomes more difficult on the eve of a war with Iraq, Travel Inc. should "find a big market for the service."

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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