How technology is affecting travel
We travel all around the world but it is in our own pockets where the main technology changes are happening. Use of mobile devices is skyrocketing. During 2014 flight searches from mobile devices have raised by over 150 percent according to the company. Mobiles are becoming more and more important, especially as last minute and in-destination booking providers. We look at major travel areas where technology is already making a big change. Needless to say these trends are growing rapidly and have a profound impact on how we think about and use tech during travel.
Roaming is going away
Mobile devices are not of much use if they aren't connected to the network. Which was often the case for the past years due to the very high roaming charges. Using data while traveling abroad was usually a last resort as it often meant eye watering bills to pay back at home. Roaming continues to be an issue but welcome changes are arriving for tourists travelling in Europe. In April 2014, the European Parliament voted to end roaming charges within the EU by 15 June 2017. The charges are already significantly lower than they were few years ago thanks to the price caps imposed on network operators by EU law. For instance, an MB of data cost more than domestic price + 5 eurocents. The domestic price comes out of contract’s free data allowance so effectively a MB of data used within EU costs no more than 5 eurocents. This is a big difference when compared to over 1 euro/MB few years back. These price caps are the maximum permissible prices. Operators are free to offer cheaper rates, for example British operator Three is already offering Feel At Home tariff which has no roaming charges at all in 16 countries around the world including popular holiday destinations such as Spain, Italy, France, Australia or United States.
Phone as wallet
The convergence between phone and wallet is accelerating. Apple Pay came to the UK in summer 2015 and now (as of 18 May 2016) it has been joined by Android Pay with a host of biggest banks supporting the technology from day one and the rest is soon to follow. All Android phones running KitKat 4.4 or later version of Android OS and eqqupied with Near Field Communication (NFC) chip can be used as Android Pay devices. Travellers can download Android Pay app from Google Play store and link their debit or credit card. The Android Pay app doesn't need to be open in order to make the transaction and payments below £30 can be made without unlocking the phone as long as the screen is on. For amounts higher than £30 users must type in their security codes or use fingerprint sensor.
Like Apple Pay, a unique code is generated per transaction ensuring bank and card details are not handed over to the vendor. However, Apple requires fingerprint verification for every transaction regardless of value.
Pay as you go
There are travel apps that already have a payment function built in such as taxi service apps like Uber and Hailo and last minute hotel service HotelTonight. Restaurant app OpenTable is also introducing direct payment from within the app in United States. So is a UK restaurant app Reserve which enables travellers to settle their bill within app. Trend is growing every month and paying with our phones is becoming more and more mainstream.
Since Apple launched it’s Watch in spring 2015, there has been a lot of buzz going on around wearable technology and what it can do for travellers. Travel apps can make the best use of wearable hardware. For instance, smart itinerary management app TripCase automatically notifies the watch if flight is delayed, cancelled of even if departure gate changes. RainAlarm is another example of clever way of adapting to new technology by making the watch vibrate if it’s going to rain soon in your area. There are many other travel apps that are working in tandem with smart watches and more are popping up every day.
Hotels are getting increasingly tech-savvy. Guests can already check in from their phones with Starwood SPG and Hilton. Both hotel groups are rolling out mobile phone keys meaning you can walk straight into your room without any queuing whatsoever along the way. Premier Inn’s new “tech hotel” brand, hub by Premier Inn (hubhotels.co.uk), is plans another 10 UK openings alongside its Covent Garden flagship hotel. As well as mobile booking, the hub app controls in-room climate and entertainment.
Services connected with one another
Individual travel apps are able to work with each other thanks to back end ties. Each application has opened doors for another application to tap into it thanks to what developers call APIs - application programming interfaces. For instance, Google Maps users can now reserve tables in restaurants in United States directly from browsing the area in the Maps themselves. Just type in italian food in Google maps, choose a restaurant and book a table without leaving the application or switching to another one. It is a similar situation with booking taxis and other travel focused services. The aim behind joining apps is to create a truly interconnected easy to use system to save travellers time and frustration.
All major travel technology trends have one thing in common - mobile. It is important to remember that our smartphones hold a lot of valuable information nowadays and securing them should be on every traveller’s agenda. Virus protection apps and remote wipe out apps should be an absolutely minimal safety addition to our phones. If we lose the phone or have it stolen while traveling it can seriously disrupt the entire trip, not too mention frustration and hassle that follows. Travel technology can be a fabulous companion but make sure it is secure and protected against the damage, loss or theft. Better to be safe, than sorry!