Feature Story

Six Ways Technology is Changing How We Travel

by Jason Deign

Innovations such as mobility and the Internet of Everything are bringing real-time ease, flexibility, and fun to our journeys. Here are just some examples.

1. Where to go


Travel used to be about selecting a destination, hoping your luggage would get there with you, then worrying about tummy bugs for the rest of the stay.

Now, though, with apps such as TripAdvisor, you can now get a customer-eye’s view of the places you may be visiting, and check on other peoples’ reviews to see whether it measures up to your expectations. Best of all, you can carry the info with you on your mobile.

“We are definitely seeing a trend of people using TripAdvisor on the go,” says James Kay, senior media relations manager. “More than 100 million people have downloaded TripAdvisor apps. In fact, TripAdvisor is now the world’s most popular app, according to Distimo.”


2. What to pack


How many times have you arrived somewhere only to find you’ve forgotten your toothpaste/shades/phone adapter? To avoid that happening, you can now download the handy Packing Pro app developed by avid traveler Quinn Genzel.

“Going solo through Asia, South America, and the Middle East, I came to realize how important traveling light really was,” Genzel says. “To do so, list-making was essential, so I created Packing Pro, a digital packing list that is reusable and always by your side.”

It could also work with the Internet of Everything (IoE) in future. “Beacon-tagging seldom-used items can streamline packing,” says Genzel. “My app could store iBeacon IDs and help locate items. GPS-tagged luggage can also help keep track of everything while you're on the road.”


3. How to park

ParkingIt is bad enough having to wrestle with hire cars, foreign road signs, and maniac drivers when you are on vacation. But finding somewhere to park when you do not know a city can be a real pain. Or it used to be, until the advent of IoE-style apps such as JustPark.

Backed by carmaker BMW and Index Ventures, JustPark is up to 60 percent cheaper than on-street parking and saves you risking a fine. “JustPark lets drivers find and reserve spots in even the most notoriously difficult cities for parking,” says communications manager Anna Brook.

“JustPark works with local governments, car parks, churches, and even residential homeowners with a spare space on their drive. Over half a million registered drivers use JustPark over the world, particularly in the United Kingdom and increasingly in the United States and Australia.”


4. What to say

Thank youOne of the joys of travel is experiencing foreign cultures. The flip side is not being able to understand a word in shops, bars, restaurants and other outlets. That is when you reach for your mobile and fire up your Word Lens Translator app.

Created by Quest Visual and recently incorporated into Google Translate, Word Lens gives you a translation of any printed text just by taking a photo of it with your mobile camera. The app handles Russian, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Portuguese.

“It’s not perfect, but you can get the general meaning,” says Quest Visual. And provided you stick to printed text rather than handwriting or stylized fonts, the app works even when there is no mobile network connection. ¡Que bien!


5. Who to call upon

I heart tourists

You travel to get away from your old, familiar environment. The problem is that when you need help, whether it is to find a pharmacy or plan a day trip, you can be stuck for people to turn to.

That is why the folks at VirtualTourist decided to use technology to link newbies like you to old hands in wherever you are traveling to.

“VirtualTourist helps by providing tips, reviews, and photos from people who have been there,” says Kimberly Stirdivant Wason, head of PR and marketing. “VirtualTourist currently has 1.3 million members from over the world. Our tagline is The People Behind the Places.”


6. Where to look

Official Geocache

If you are looking to spice up your travels then why not turn each outing into a search for hidden treasure? Right now more than 6 million people are doing just that with Geocaching, the world’s biggest treasure hunt. To join them, you just need a mobile.

Using GPS, it can show you the location of the nearest treasure cache. With almost 2.5 million of them worldwide, including in places such as Antarctica, the chances are there is one within a few hundred feet of where you are now. But GPS is only good for up to a few feet.

So when you get to the approximate location, it is up to you to find the cache. Some are very cunningly hidden. Typically each cache has a logbook for you sign and a ‘treasure’, usually a trinket, for you to take… provided you leave behind something for the next geocacher.


7. What other innovations would you add to this list?



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