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GOPASS Global derisks pandemic-impacted travel with AI infused analytics

Once upon a time, in a country not too far away, people boarded airplanes to head to distant lands, nourished by small packs of pretzels and chilled beverages.

When an ogre called Covid-19 roamed the realms, all that stopped. People stayed home. But they never gave up the dream of those small packs of pretzels and distant lands…

…We all want to press pause on that particular story.

GOPASS Global’s AI powered data analytics platform is intended to hit fast forward for all travellers, providing critical insights about safer interstate, international, corporate and leisure trips.

The organisation has constructed a data lake that takes in information from 35 different sources, covering 240 countries 3,900 airports 732 airlines and 260 aircraft.

It has also developed 37 separate risk models that interpret the data to provide an easy-to-understand assessment of the risk of a trip accounting for everything from the final destination to the seat location on the plane.

As the prospects for leisure and business travel improve, GOPASS Global has signed international distribution agreements with organisations including Sabre, Global Travel Network, Lufthansa City Centre and Hickory Global Partners that make the platform available to a raft of corporate travel professionals and travel agencies.

The pretzels should be nervous.

Algorithms analyse biosecurity risk

GOPASS Global’s Covid-19 biosecurity risk analytics platform uses a series of sophisticated and specially designed AI algorithms to interpret its vast collection of data.

The cloud platform is 100 per cent Azure-based and uses a range of Azure services such as Azure API Management, Azure Active Directory, Azure App Services, Azure Cosmos DB and Azure Databases for MySQL Flexible Server.

The platform analyses a mix of relatively static information – that for example details the layout and management of different airplanes – as well as continually updated information about Covid-19 infection rates and travel rules and regulations for countries and regions around the world.

Graphical interface of GOPASS' data analytics platform
GOPASS Global’s Covid-19 biosecurity risk analytics platform uses a series of sophisticated and specially designed AI algorithms to interpret its vast collection of data (Source: GOPASS Global)

GOPASS Global is the brainchild of a team of data analytics experts who were working at AlphaZetta Consulting when the pandemic unfurled.

When many of the team were furloughed AlphaZetta founder and CEO, Tony Ohlsson and Mark Radford, founder and director, started spitballing the idea of an intelligent platform that could help people feel safe to start travelling when the worst of the pandemic abated.

A group of AlphaZetta’s data analytics specialists ran with that idea and started to map out what that would take – what data sources would be needed, what machine learning algorithms would be required, and how the resulting insights could be put to use by corporations and travel agents.

As the platform took shape they set up the new business GOPASS Global – with Radford as CEO and Ohlsson as chief data officer.

Portrait image of Tony Ohlsson
Tony Ohlsson, Chief Data Officer, GOPASS Global

Leveraging a virtual team of data science experts who were based everywhere from Copenhagen to Germany, Switzerland to Sydney the platform continued to mature, taking in data feeds about the spread of the virus from reputable sources around the world. These include Johns Hopkins University, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the scientific online source, Our World In Data.

Ohlsson explains that having three separate virus data sources helps lift the overall quality of data available to GOPASS’s AI algorithms.

GOPASS Global also takes in information from 240 different countries moderated by other models, including Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, that assess how accurate each of those data sources is.

Ohlsson adds; “Another feed from Oxford shows us how the governments are responding. We take the Google community mobility feed, which gives us data for every city around the world, right down to parks, retail, work, what the mobility level is in a city. So we can see are people locking down or standing up?

We have 730 different airlines and aircraft from an A-380 down. We have thousands of airports and all the data on the airports. And then basically we put all that together, run a machine learning algorithm to give us the trends.

“That’s how we can distill it all down very quickly to say, when you search a flight, this is going to be the safest way to go and give you the readout of why that is. “

While all the data to allow people to make those decisions themselves is readily available – it would be a Herculean task for any individual or travel agent to bring all the sources together and analyse the data in near real time.

That’s what GOPASS Global has been designed for.

Dynamic scoring and early alerts

Built on Microsoft Azure, GOPASS’s data sources are accessed via APIs and stored in an Azure-managed MySQL database. GOPASS’s unique algorithms score and interpret the data, and provide the insights either as a dashboard direct to the customer, or as an API so that the data can be integrated with a travel agent’s or corporate travel-software system.

Portrait image of Mark Radford
Mark Radford, CEO, GOPASS Global

The company’s website also features maps of the world colour coded to show in near real time the regions with highest risk. But the real value comes in providing support to travellers planning actual itineraries.

“We do some dynamic scoring,” says Ohlsson. “So when you’re querying a flight, we’re pulling the flight details from the Amadeus flight systems. And as those flight details come in, we’re scoring them in the API routine to render the data out through there.”

The end-to-end solution has been built on and with Azure platforms and tools.

Mark Radford says this allows continuous innovation of the GOPASS Global platform. For example, although originally conceived as a Covid-19 related travel risk tool, the platform could be expanded to account for geopolitical or environmental risk.

Lift the lid on the analytics and it’s quickly clear the extraordinary complexities involved in helping a traveller choose where to go, which airline to use, which airport to transit through – even which seat to select.

Radford explains the team had to get to grips with the internal layout of every type of commercial aircraft. “That was a base research project – to go plane by plane, count the toilets, look at the seat configuration, understand the filtration and the classes, and then work out, given all of that, where are the best seats on that plane from a COVID point of view?

“But then the overall thing of which flight to get and how do I know which is the safest airline out of this stack, which airport should I transit through, and all of those, they’re calculated on the fly. The underlying AI gives us the trend information, but that algorithm is actually just a weighting. So it was just a straight weighted average algorithm for all the different risk factors in the flight.”

Graphical interface of GOPASS' Travel Risk Assessment platform
Although the platform was originally conceived as a COVID-19 related travel risk tool, the platform can also expand to account for other environmental or geopolitical risks (Source: GOPASS Global)

Then it gets even more complex.

As Radford says; “The actual configuration of a plane or an airport doesn’t change very often. But on the other side, things like the travel advice changes; can you enter? Can you not? Do you have to do tests? Is the airport open? Happens very real-time.

So on one side, you’ve got real-time stream feeds of all the different travel conditions coming in. And on the other side, you’ve got quite static data.

GOPASS Global’s platform takes all of that into account to provide real time risk scores for pretty much any proposed trip.

For corporations, it’s gold says Kristy Williams, chief revenue officer. They need to get their people back travelling, doing deals, building relationships. But they need to do it safely.

“We’re giving them those metrics to make decisions.” By integrating the feed from GOPASS Global with a corporate travel platform and building in the company’s own thresholds it’s much simpler to assess travel plans.

Portrait image of Kristy Williams
Kristy Williams, Chief Revenue Officer, GOPASS Global

“So that means that anything that’s at a five and under (risk assessment), yes, you can book on the online solution. Anything five to seven, you can get your immediate manager’s approval. Seven up means ‘listen, we’re going to talk about it. We’re not comfortable with that’. Or as a company, that’s a no go. So it’s really just giving everyone a sort of a baseline to work from, with clear guidance, which is really important,” she says.

The same sort of insights are also available to travel agents booking corporate or leisure travel for customers.

GOPASS Global also features an alerting feature – so that if a trip is booked a couple of months in advance when the risk assessment is at say, five, but that then shifts to an eight a week before the travel is scheduled, an alert will be sent beforehand.

The system can also trigger reminders so that travellers know when to get a Covid test or fill out an entry form ahead of the trip and meet the current rules and regulations.

There are at time of writing seven GOPASS Global products available to the market, all delivered in less than a year. The Azure platform automatically ensures these services are available globally with innovation spurred by access to the full gamut of Azure tools and services and GOPASS’s inherent agility.

Ohlsson is clear though that GOPASS Global does not hold any personally identifiable information, by design. So it’s not going to offer vaccination or health certificate services.

It does however cut through the Covid complexity to provide that all important travel risk analysis so that people feel a lot more secure to once again take to the skies.

Graphical interface of GOPASS' platform
GOPASS Global’s platform takes many factors into account to provide real time risk scores for any proposed trip (Source: GOPASS Global)