by Michael Shapiro | May 28, 2010

When discussing mobile apps for travel and meetings in the corporate world, the topic of security inevitably comes up. Mobile technology, by putting more power in the hands of the individual traveler, planner or attendee, essentially removes some control from the grip of the corporate IT department. Travelers might or might not be using smart phones issued by the company, and they’re likely downloading travel apps from the Internet to use while on the road. This out-of-company-network activity could be cause for concern, depending on many factors.
According to some, the best way to combat security risk is for the corporation to take a more proactive stance in getting mobile functionality to travelers. That’s one factor that drove American Express to release a new mobile solution, MobileXtend, for its corporate travel clients. Amex collaborated with technology providers Rearden Commerce, WorldMate and conTgo — all of which have been offering mobile solutions for quite some time — to integrate the functionality. Among the features of the new solution are alerts with respect to all facets of an itinerary (air, car, hotel, rail); a quick way to get travel program info such as preferred transportation vendors, dining search and reservation functionality, flight schedule searches, social media integration and currency exchange rates. Such features are increasingly common in travel smart-phone apps. For MobileXtend, Amex also added SMS text-messaging features to the mix, such as Policy Manager and Communication Manager, as well as the ability to broadcast general messages to a group of travelers or survey them.
It isn’t the first instance of mobile technology being issued within a corporate travel program context, but the fact that Amex is rolling it out really speaks to the increasingly universal appeal of mobile-device functionality — and the potential benefits of putting it to use at the corporate level. The MobileXtend solution, as well as those offered by Rearden and other technology providers, allows the corporation to maintain more control in terms of security concerns, but it’s just as much about increasing compliance to travel policy, by providing information about preferred suppliers and policy any time a traveler needs it.
In an NBTA webcast broadcast earlier this week, “The ROI of Mobile,” the vast majority of attendees did not currently have a mobile strategy in place. As more solutions become available, it will be interesting to see how programs integrate and roll out mobile apps on a companywide basis.