Category Archives: TripPlanr

Press release: "NUI Galway and Tourist Republic to Make Travelling Tailor-made"

TripPlanr will be aimed at the more adventurous traveller who wants more than a weekend for two in one of Paris’s main hotels

NUI Galway’s Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) is to develop a new intelligent trip planner in collaboration with Irish start-up Tourist Republic Ltd. The internet tool, TripPlanr, will allow travellers to plan more complex trips than existing technology allows, such as combining multiple destinations on a fixed budget and timeline. The cost of this initiative is €200,000 and has received support funding under Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation Partnership programme.

TripPlanr will be aimed at the more adventurous traveller who wants more than a weekend for two in one of Paris’s main hotels. The technology will combine’s traveller recommendations with information from airlines and accommodation providers, suggesting the most perfectly-attuned trip possible.

Jan Blanchard is CEO of Tourist Republic and sees huge benefits in the partnership: “We knew that to build the intelligent trip planner which we have in mind, we needed a team to rival the in-house expertise at Google or Yahoo! Through Enterprise Ireland we have this opportunity to bring our vision to reality with DERI, which is the largest Semantic Web research institute in the world”.

DERI’s specialised expertise in Information Mining, the Semantic Web and Web 2.0 applications will allow TripPlanr to filter data and make recommendations based on the preferences of the traveller and their social network. Building on’s existing destination review site, the new solution is expected to increase the probability of the traveller booking the targeted option suggested.

According to Dr. John Breslin, Project Leader with DERI at NUI Galway, and founder of the popular online forum, “The pre-internet problem of information deficit has been replaced with the problem of information overload. We are faced with an overwhelming surfeit of similarly sounding destination descriptions and offers. We hope to make online trip planning much more personalised by enabling networked knowledge using the latest technologies developed here at DERI.”

The TripPlanr project has a skilled team in place to research and develop the application, and the project is currently recruiting for web developers to join this exciting work. TripPlanr is expected to be in beta testing by the end of the year.


My week in California

I had a nice productive week in San Jose / San Francisco last week, where I attended the Semantic Technologies Conference 2008 (SemTech 2008) and some other nearby events. SemTech 2008 had a record attendance of over 1000 people, and it was great to meet up with old friends and new (some of whom I had often conversed with online but not in real life).

  • 20080528a.jpg Arriving on Sunday afternoon, Uldis, Stefan and I prepared for our SemTech 2008 tutorial. On Monday, we gave the tutorial entitled “The Future of Social Networks on the Internet: The Need for Semantics“, inspired by our IEEE Internet Computing article from last year. You can get the slides here. We talked about how a combination of FOAF and SIOC could be used to represent and interlink people and social objects within and across social websites. The tutorial was well received and we had some interesting questions afterwards…
  • On Tuesday morning, I chaired a late-breaking DataPortability interest group session, where I quizzed Chris Saad on the initiative and we had a good discussion with Daniela Barbosa, Danny Ayers, Ian Davis, Henry Story, Uldis and others. Afterwards, I attended the keynote talks by Nova Spivack and Eric Miller. You may already have seen my reports here and here respectively.
  • On Tuesday afternoon, I met with Sanjay Sabnani, CEO of CrowdGather and friend Chris. CrowdGather is a big network of medium to large message board sites that includes the huge General Mayhem community. (Disclaimer: I am on the CrowdGather Inc. board of advisors.) That evening, we met Ashely and went along to the SF Beta event (“The San Francisco Web 2.0 Mixer”), where I saw some interesting demos including Hitchsters (share taxi trips to the airport). After dinner, we had drinks with TouristR‘s Conor Wade, LeFora co-founder Vinnie Lauria and friend David. Unfortunately, I was pretty much “wiped” with jet lag by then.
  • 20080528c.jpg 20080528b.jpg On Wednesday, I took it easy. From the lovely Hotel Kabuki in Japantown, I wandered up Fillmore to see what old breakfast haunt Galette had become (it’s now La Boulange). I skipped on to another breakfast favourite, Ella’s, and had something of a mammoth breakfast (yes, those three plates of food in the picture!) that kept me going for the day. After a spot in Kinokuniya, where I picked up the latest in the Alita: Last Order manga series, I walked on and drove over the Golden Gate Bridge, and then headed back south again for an evening spent with family in the locality.
  • On Thursday, I attended some more SemTech 2008 talks in the morning including Steven Forth et al. from Monitor presenting about Team Learning on Semantic Mediawiki and also part of the FISHBOWL SemTech Reflections discussion session. In the afternoon, a team of us DERI researchers headed up to Radar Networks in San Francisco where we presented some of our work and brainstormed on things we could do together.

20080528d.jpg And I flew back on Friday, arriving back in Galway on Saturday. San Francisco is still a very special place to me, and I look forward to a proper family holiday there in the next year or three. Funnily enough, on Sunday I was driving behind a car with a California license plate on a Galway road – it was a long way from home!

Now, it’s catch-up time again. We’ve had a busy few weeks here in DERI what with our major funding review (which was held on-site a fortnight ago), so a lot of stuff went by the wayside (if I haven’t replied to you yet, please accept my apologies as I have a backlog of e-mail to get through and also my phone SIM card died this morning).

So what else is happening? I had an interview with Maryrose Lyons yesterday for the latest Brightspark Consulting newsletter, and today I’m correcting some exam papers that were put on a very long finger. I also got a copy of Jonathan Zittrain’s “The Future of the Internet – And How to Stop It” in the post which I’m looking forward to reading soon…

Trip planning via the Semantic Web

I am delighted to announced that DERI, NUI Galway and Tourist Republic Ltd. have been successful in receiving funding from Enterprise Ireland (under the Innovation Partnership programme) to work on the TripPlanr project: a semantically-enabled collaborative trip-planning application for individuals and groups.

Before the advent of the Web, a traveller’s options were limited by the scarcity of information he or she could find about a destination. Planning a trip involved visiting travel agencies, making phone calls and asking friends or friends-of-a-friend for their experiences. These days, the Web allows the traveller to purchase travel tickets, accommodation and other travel products with the minimum of human intervention. However, the lack of expert guidance has made processing and assessing various travel products extremely difficult. The traveller is presented with a surfeit of similarly sounding destination descriptions and offers. In short, a problem of information deficit has been replaced with the problem of information overload.

Last year, Jan Blanchard, the CEO of Tourist Republic, approached myself and Conor Hayes in DERI with the idea of extending their existing TouristR destination review site to help the traveller plan a more complex travel product, such as a trip with multiple destinations on a fixed budget and timeline. In this situation, there is no online assistance to help the traveller cope with the additional problem of selecting and combining multiple elements so that budgetary, geographical, temporal and other personal constraints and preferences are observed.

TripPlanr, an integrated trip-planning advisor, is the result: a joint project between Tourist Republic and DERI that will tackle the information overload and planning problems by filtering and making recommendations based on the preferences of the traveller and their social network. The TripPlanr application builds on the existing TouristR platform and DERI’s specialised expertise in recommender systems, information mining, the Semantic Web and Web 2.0.

Today, online travel booking is used mainly for trips with few parts, like airline tickets. Unlike existing trip planning applications, it is envisioned that the new TripPlanr application will allow users to book more complex and personalised trips with a number of parts. By collecting relevant data and suggesting it to the right user at the right time, TripPlanr increases the probability for that user to book or purchase the product or service in question.

Last month, there was an interesting interview by Marie Boran in the Irish Independent with the creator of the Web, Tim Berners-Lee, in which he outlined a typical travel scenario that can be aided by Semantic Web technologies:

Your flight is to JFK airport, your business meetings are in New Jersey but you want to go sightseeing in New York and your hotel must be near a diabetic-friendly restaurant. Planning a business trip can be stressful at the best of times but doing it all through the web can be an eye-opening experience, says Tim Berners-Lee, as he explains how his invention, the world wide web, has its limitations and why he has spent the past decade working on its upgrade: the semantic web. “To make a detailed travel decision or similar, you need to see all that information on the same map. Currently, you have to print out all the data, sort through it and then stand back and see if you can make the connections yourself. “With a semantic website you could pull all these information forms together instantly and put them on the same map.”