Travel Trends and Our Sexy, Scary Future
Technology and personalization lead the charge in the travel
With the reopening of Google Glass sales in the U.S. and travel companies scrambling to convert their smartphone apps into Glass apps, there’s no doubt that the two biggest trends in travel today are technology and personalization. Think about it. We’re all obsessed with our gadgets, and the natural extension is for these mobile devices to help facilitate a seamless travel experience that’s customized to our individual needs. With the help of some future-vision technology, the travel industry is providing hyper-personalized experiences to those who are ready to embrace the future of travel. So bring it on, HAL.
In March, one of the most cutting-edge airlines out there, Virgin Atlantic, completed a trial run of wearable technology. The carrier equipped its Upper Class concierge staff at London Heathrow Airport with Glass and Sony SmartWatches in an effort to deliver a more personalized passenger experience. Virgin created a special app to work in conjunction with Glass and the smartwatches to receive passenger information, including itinerary details. Passengers were able to receive real-time intelligence, including information about local weather, and the concierge staff were equipped to translate that information into foreign languages.
During the Phocuswright travel technology conference in November, I was able to demo a similar program in development by CheckMate. With this app, you check in to your hotel while en route (in an Uber, of course). At that time, you can enter your rewards club number, set your preferences and request a better view. Meanwhile, a hotel staffer receives your requests via Glass and awaits you on the curb. The staffer sees your profile photo and learns all of the relevant details about you thanks to your data footprint, and the hotel can start that highly personalized experience as soon as you step foot on the property.
Earlier this month, Starwood Hotels & Resorts released its SPG app for Glass. The app is consumer-facing and allows SPG Members to set their preferences and manage their account.
Booking hotels and checking in via Glass is not yet enabled, but SPG Members can voice search Starwood’s hotels and resorts by destination, airport code or by checking what’s nearby. They can also get turn-by-turn directions to any Starwood property as well as explore photos of the hotel’s amenities and guestrooms.
Google Glass allows us to do some pretty cool stuff—that is if we can afford the $1,500 plus price point. Luckily, there are some knock-offs out there for us broke peeps.
Perhaps you don’t want to be the first cyborg on the block anyway. Well, for about $300, you could hook yourself up with a pretty dope (although limited) smartwatch and board your next Air Berlin flight like a boss.
AirBerlin, along with Spanish airlines Vueling and Iberia, have rolled out mobile boarding passes for the Pebble Smartwatch, Sony’s Smartwatch 2 and Samsung Smartwatch Gear 2. Here’s an example of how it works: AirBerlin’s iPhone app sends a digital boarding pass to the passenger’s smartwatch. He can then shake his wrist to access all of the essential details, such as the flight’s boarding time and gate number, and to reveal the barcode to be scanned.
We are at a point now where we are so obsessed with our electronic devices that the airline industry is being pressured into providing us with Wi-Fi access, juice for our gadgets and wireless access to the carrier’s in-flight entertainment (IFE) system so we can stream content straight to our device of choice. This trend, which is being referred to as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), is taking off with United Airlines.
Since April, United has given passengers on select aircraft access the airline’s inflight content via their iOS devices and laptops free of charge. They have been able to stream approximately 200 television shows and 150 movies on their mobile devices for the duration of the flight. It’s working so well that by the end of the year, this new BYOD system will be implemented on most of United’s domestic aircraft.
But the future of air travel is going to utilize our personal electronic devices in even more innovative ways. For example, B/E Aerospace and Thales have unveiled a radical prototype of the business seat of the future, which could be deployed in as early as three years.
The lie-flat premium seat is designed to remember you, based on the personal electronic device that you bring with you. Its computerized system identifies you by connecting to your social profile and reading your data footprint to uncover your travel preferences. In other words, it will know exactly what you want to eat and watch onboard as well as what kind of massage setting is going to tickle your fancy. The seat also features a killer surround sound system, but the coolest part of all is that you can control the entertainment system visually, meaning that you can start a movie by looking at it or pause it by falling asleep. The vision-controlled system is so advanced that it can read your facial features, test your vision and run a health check on you.
Maybe these advancements in technology are freaking you out a little bit. But you have to remember that privacy, as we knew it, is gone. So why not make the most of Big Data?
Fearlessly looking ahead, global futurist Daniel Burrus predicts that, in the next decade, we’re going to be traveling with individual 3-D travel agents who intimately understand our individual preferences. For now, this artificial intelligence device is being referred to as a Digital Travel Buddy.
“It could have the face, voice and personality of our favorite actor or comedian and appear to us as a 3-D hologram image, or inside a virtual environment, at our verbal command,” said Burrus in Skyscanner’s recent “Future of Travel Report.”
The Digital Travel Buddy will act as a tour guide that uses predictive algorithms to tell us only about the aspects of the destination that it believes we will be interested in. It can help us fine-tune our journey based on gender needs and our price range, among other factors.
There is talk that Apple is developing an early predecessor, a smart watch with 3-D capabilities, which could be released to the market as early as October. But wearable technology, such as smartwatches, could likely prove to be too bulky in the near future. For decades, the trend has always been mobile device miniaturization #amirite?
The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has our backs on that one. Microscopic bendable circuits are currently in development (I picture this happening miles beneath the earth’s surface in a secret laboratory, but that’s just me). The bendable circuits will be so tiny, approximately 1/60th the thickness of a human hair, that they can be implanted on a contact lens.
According to Skyscanner’s report, this so-called bodyTech or buddyTech is going to be available by the end of the decade. Futurists predict that Google Glass will be mainstream within 18 months and within five years, everything that Glass currently offers will be available on a contact lens. Yes, the Singularity is upon us, but these developments in technology are streamlining our travel experiences and making the journey more individualized—and ultimately a lot more fun.