As technology improves, we are constantly evolving how we interact with each other, with businesses, and this creates both positive and negative effects. While concepts like AI carry a growing weight of wonder and unease, there are more mundane technologies that are both a foundation for AI-driven progress and that have a greater impact on our daily lives. At the core of this is what is known as a “digital thread”. While exact definitions differ depending on context, you can think of your digital thread as all of the data that makes up your past actions, represents who you are, and shows the trajectory of your future. Much of the research today is focused on the digital thread of a product in order to improve its quality and lifespan, but we as humans have our own digital threads.
But why are digital threads a newer concept? And how can industries such as travel make use of the digital thread to enhance their customers’ experiences? To answer these questions, we need to better understand what a digital thread is, then look at it in the context of the travel industry. We need to look both at the benefits and risks, and understand why blockchain technology is the key to unlocking your data while still protecting it.
The Digital Thread
To better grasp the concept of a digital thread, it’s best to start in the context of a product. Research is continuously working to provide examples and architectures, such as the digital thread for aerospace components. For this example, think of an aircraft nose cone as it goes from raw material to a finished product. A digital thread would be the collection of data that makes up its “birth”, such as raw material characteristics, the data from the manufacturing processes, inspections, certifications, and its deployment onto an aircraft. If this data was collected and stored for further analysis, you would know a great deal about the component and what it should be capable of. If you continue to track the part over its lifetime using various sensors to detect damage, fatigue, maintenance, etc., you would be able to use various tools such as AI to better predict possible failure before it happens and predict the remaining lifespan.
Now think about yourself in this context, and imagine what the digital thread must look like for your life. If you could collect, store, and use all that data to better understand what makes you who you are, understands your goals and desires, and can make accurate predictions to help enhance your life, you would be making the best use of your digital thread. One key component to all of this is from the word “thread”. The reason this concept is newer is that in the past, we created all this data about ourselves through our actions and experiences, but much of it was not recorded, tracked, collected, and stored for further use. Instead of a “thread”, we had a collection of broken strings. Now, with technology and big data, more of this information is collected and used.
The dark side of this is that today, data brokers already have significant information and sell it without your consent or permission to whoever wants to pay, whether it be marketers, competitors, and even governments. This is in part why if you search for something online, you will be swamped with ads for that item for the next two weeks.
So how do we aim for the best of both worlds? It would be nice to lend this information about us to businesses we trust so they can offer better products and services that match exactly what we want. But is there a way to do this without losing control of our digital thread? It turns out, there may just be, and the linchpin is blockchain.
Travel Industry and Your Digital Thread
One of the first pioneering uses of an entire industry banding together for a common goal on blockchain is the travel industry, and its creation of the Camino Network. This is a chain designed to collectively provide travel services to customers and businesses in a cooperative way, globally, and across all travel services.
In terms of a pioneering effort you couldn’t ask for a better use case. Travel by its nature relies on working with many different entities to (hopefully) patch together a seamless experience. For the traveler, they want to essentially have a single service that starts and ends at their door, with a certain experience in between. What often occurs are delayed flights messing up hotel reservations, tours booked on the wrong dates or sold out ahead of time, lost luggage with no one taking responsibility, etc. A seamless, interconnected experience using a digital thread approach would be an ideal solution. For this, the “experience” (the entirety of your trip) would have its own digital thread, with unexpected changes immediately identified, reflected in related parts of the trip, and adjustments made to ensure the trip is still excellent. On the other side of this experience is you sharing the data that makes up your digital thread so the various members of the industry can better understand what you want, make suggestions, and ensure you meet your travel goals.
Using blockchain, these different providers of the travel industry can create the “experience” digital thread, and your trip can start looking more and more like a seamless service rather than a patchwork. The final piece to the puzzle, however, is an emerging blockchain tool called ZK Proofs that can help users maintain control of their most personal data while still interacting with vendors. Users can provide verification and other key actions without having to actually share the raw data they want to keep private, which could go a long way to preventing predatory data brokers from poisoning industry-driven blockchain networks.
A Bright Future
We will have to continue watching networks like Camino as they branch out and provide cooperative services for an entire industry. If it succeeds we can look forward to other industries following suit and working for collective success. The great news is that as these networks succeed, it’s the customers that will benefit the most. And creating digital threads that ensure a seamless, intelligent, and adaptable experience will ensure a new standard for the services we enjoy most.
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Martins Micheal October7 months ago
I see a great revolutionizing of the travel industry