If 2014 was a milestone year for the travel industry, 2015 could be an even bigger year for travel technology, with this year’s ‘movers and shakers’ producing a new generation of smart apps, devices and applications, and taking the travel experience to new levels.
In the bag
Eagerly awaited by frequent flyers is the arrival of smart luggage, in the form of Bluesmart, a carry-on suitcase with a built-in digital scale that can weigh itself and tell you if you are within airline regulations. Crowdfunded and developed by a US start-up, Bluesmart can also be locked and unlocked from your smartphone and will automatically lock itself should you become separated. You can also track your smart luggage via GPS - from your smartphone.
Combining beacon technology, which airlines and retailers use to send relevant push notifications to your device, with smart apps that will learn your preferences and offer predictive suggestions, is another tech trend to watch, according to content marketing agency Spafax.
Apex media editor at Spafax Terri Potratz says: “You are going to see a streamlined travel journey that will save you time when you’re on the move. Miami International Airport, for example, is installing beacon technology, and once paired with their official app, passengers will be able to view real-time flight tracking data, information on ground transportation, and receive special offers from retailers.”
More personal sightseeing
Organised tours can be a great way of getting around a city you’re visiting for the first time, but for many travellers, it’s more fun to explore on your own. One app that can help is AudioTrip, which uses interactive maps integrated with multimedia to connect local ‘guides,’ who have stories to tell, and places to show, with travellers who want to explore those places by taking part in an individual guided audio trip via their mobile phone.
Stay ahead of the herd
Holiday companies are updating their apps to improve customer experience, and Discover Africa has done the same, upgrading its HerdTracker app to a more detailed real time Google map with which explorers can track the latest wildebeest migration in the Serengeti. By calculating the exact location of the migrating herds and the lodges in Kenya and Masai Mara, the app allows adventurers to book last minute safaris based purely on catching the herds in the right place at the right time.
2015 could be the year that augmented reality - a ‘live’ view of the world, enhanced by computer-generated content - starts to push the boundaries, says Andy Speight, managing director for Digital Trip. “It gives travellers access to detailed information about a destination and lets them take control of their trip in new and engaging ways.”
Augmented reality can act as a live translator, a local real-time deal finder, a currency converter and offer new ways of interacting with those around you. By 2016 it is estimated that the market will have grown by around £3.2 billion, so travel operators might want to start taking it seriously now.
Mobile phones are already capable of handling many of our travel-related tasks, but devices like the Apple Watch, due out in 2015, with capabilities like one-tap flight check-ins, real-time transit updates and directions, and even the ability to unlock hotel rooms by waving the watch in front of the door, will transform the way that we travel.
And increasingly, travel apps will be developed to make the best use of smart watches. Travel management app TripCase, for example, automatically notifies a connected watch when there is a flight delay or cancellation, while Rain Alarm issues a vibration alert in advance of an approaching downpour.
Then there’s the sharing economy, says Mark Rabe, CEO of traveller engagement platform Sojern. Pioneered by the likes of Airbnb and Uber, this will evolve to meet growing traveller demand, sparking a raft of peer-to-peer applications and services catering for increasingly niche needs, from finding hand-crafted experiences offered by locals and taking cookery lessons with local chefs, to renting bikes and surfboards from owners in town, and borrowing baby equipment when travelling with children. And all done through a smartphone.