6 Technologies That Will Change The Way We Travel In 2015
There is little doubt that technology has changed the way we travel in recent years. The proliferation of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets has not only provided us with more opportunities to stay in communication with friends and family, they’ve managed to keep us more informed and entertained along the way too. Those devices will continue to play a vital role in our travel experiences, even as new technologies emerge that will shape the way we travel in the future. With that in mind, here are 6 technologies that will impact the way we travel in 2015.
Near Field Communications
Near Field Communications (NFC) is not a new technology, but it is one that is about to become much more prominent. NFC is a protocol that allows two devices to communicate with one another over very short ranges, allowing them to share data or enable certain extended functionality. It has been around for a number of years on Android smartphones, but has only just made its first appearance on an iPhone with the release of the iPhone 6 last fall. Apple’s acceptance of NFC has enabled the company to launch its contactless payment service Apple Pay, which is a safe, secure method of making credit card transactions. Apple’s arrival into the “digital wallet” space has brought a certain amount of legitimacy to the technology, green lighting its acceptance and use at more outlets. As a result, we’ll soon need to carry less cash with us when we travel, and we’ll be able to make purchases without fear of our credit card information falling into the wrong hands.
NFC won’t be just used for credit card transactions however. Some hotels have begun experimenting with using the technology as a method for unlocking your room as well. Essentially, a digital key is issued for the the length of your stay, granting you access to your hotel room. Soon, you’ll be able to book and pay for that room directly from your smartphone, and by-pass checking in at the desk by using your electronic, NFC-enabled key directly from your mobile device.
The Rise of Wearables
Wearable technology such as smartwatches, fitness trackers, and Google Glass have quietly emerged onto the tech scene over the past couple of years with very little fanfare with the mainstream public. But as Android Wear continues to mature, and the Apple Watch is finally released this spring, these devices will start to play a more important role in how we travel. Like the smartphone before them, these gadgets will provide a host of new functionality, much of which we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of just yet. For instance, in addition to being stylish and customizable timepieces, smartwatches also push notifications and alerts directly to your wrist, letting you know when someone has sent you a text, email or voicemail. Beyond that, they’ll also offer travelers the ability to do one-tap check-ins for flights and hotel rooms, provide navigational data while exploring a new city, and may even eventually provide realtime translation of foreign languages. When combined with NFC technology (which the Apple Watch does), they can even be used to open locked hotel doors or make mobile credit card payments too. The promise of wearable technology has been on the horizon for several years, but in 2015 it will become a reality.
Airports Get Smart Too
Airports are finding new ways to interact with passengers that pass through their gates too. Many of them are now installing Bluetooth “beacons” which use a low-frequency signal to beam contextually relevant information directly to a compatible smartphone. Messages could include updated flight information, estimated wait times at security checkpoints, or coupons for use in a nearby restaurant or bar. The goal of these beacons is to make the overall travel experience better for passengers, while also allowing them to navigate through the airport more quickly and efficiently too. Miami International Airport became the first in the world to roll out beacons across its entire facility, but look for others to soon follow suit. Before long, these beacons will be common place in airports across the globe.
Dump Your Bulky Camera at Last
There has been a movement amongst travelers in recent years to forego carrying a heavy camera in favor of simply taking photos with their smartphone instead. While this certainly cuts down on weight of our bags, until recently it also meant making compromises in the quality of our photos as well. But newer smartphones, like the iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy S5, give users more manual control over settings, improved color reproduction, better image stabilization, and other advanced features too. The result is that our smartphones are quickly evolving into the best point and shoot cameras that we own. Meanwhile, companies like Olloclip and Photojojo have released add-on lenses for smartphones that allow for better options for zooming too. Suddenly you no longer need to carry that heavy DSLR and large lenses to get great shots, and in 2015 a good smartphone will deliver fantastic photos without compromise.
Robot Butlers and Bartenders
Artificial intelligence remains in its infancy, but that hasn’t stopped some hotels and resorts from installing robotic servants. For instance, Aloft hotels in Cupertino, California has already introduced “Botlr,” a robotic bell hop that can deliver shampoo, mail, snacks, and other items to any of its 150 rooms in about three minutes time. Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines outfitted its new high-tech ship the Quantum of the Seas with robot bartenders that automatically mix drinks for passengers in under a minute. Those mechanical mixologists reportedly had trouble keeping up with the demands of passengers on the ship’s maiden voyage, but the bugs are expected to be worked out in the near future. Look for similar robots to begin appearing in upscale hotels in the months ahead.
A byproduct of the increased use of mobile devices is that many destinations are now seeing the value of providing wireless Internet services to visitors. As a result, more options for free Wi-Fi are appearing all the time, and will continue to roll out throughout 2015 as well. An increasing number of hotels, airports, restaurants, and even cities are now building wireless networks that provide a measure of connectivity at all times, giving us the ability to share our travel experiences with friends and family back home. By the end of the year, Edinburgh, Scotland will have free Wi-Fi active in its city center, in addition to on its buses and trams. By June of 2015, 25 cities in India will offer free Wi-Fi as well, while cities in China, the U.K., the U.S., and other major countries are planning to follow suit. By the end of the year, free public Wi-Fi will be more common in major metropolitan cities across the globe, making staying connected while on the road a much easier prospect.
What other technology trends 2015 has in store for travelers remains to be seen. There will no doubt be an array of impressive new apps and websites that will have an impact on how we travel, making it easier than ever to not just get to the places we want to go, but enjoy them more fully as well.
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