Opinion: Apple, the iPhone and the future of travel

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Slide 11

Did I mention the Internet of things? Driving that is a technology called Machine To Machine, or M2M. There's challenges to the evolution of M2M -- partly through tangible problems such as the world running out of IP addresses, partly through the need of a network infrastructure capable of carrying and understanding all the dumb data being shared by objects as mundane as a washing machine.

I won't talk about everything on this slide. Just two ideas:

-- Lost baggage is a pain. It's a crisis for the customer. It's a public relations nightmare for the hotel or airline. Stick an NFC or M2M tag on the baggage and you should be able to find it, just so long as it's still on the network. So not a complete guarantee against theft, yet, but certainly a big help when your bags end up in the wrong part of the airport.

-- Another idea that's been talked about for some time is use of NFC devices as car keys. The scenario's like this: You call a car hire company, and hire a car. They send you an SMS message which puts a code inside your phone. They also message the car that's closest to you they have available to rent. Using your phone's mapping technology, you go to the car and wave your phone over the lock. The car unlocks, get in, wave the phone and the car starts-up. You never need to visit the rental firm, you just let them know when you finish with the vehicle and they rent it to the next customer (after cleaning it up, of course).

Of course, many of these ideas aren't new. What is different is that this time round it looks like they may actually become real.

Slide 12

So I've gone a bit further, and done some speculation.

There's already work taking place on smart signs for advertising. I imagine in future you'll have smart signs in hotels and public places -- wave your phone near these and you'll get a translation.

Then there's Iridium -- the people who used to make satellite phones -- well, they're using their satellite infrastructure to develop an automated machine-to-machine system for aircraft. This was approved for use by the US FAA last year, and means passenger flights across the Polar Caps will be possible for the first time. Which should cut an hour or two off of some journeys. Previous navigation systems didn't work at the Poles.

Analysts believe that by 2025 every car will be connected to a mobile network. That means every car will have a built-in SIM. They'll be contactable. You'll never lose them. You'll enjoy a range of in-car services, including multimedia streaming over 4G networks. You will however also get speeding fines and road taxes as you travel, and where you are will always be known.

I also imagine that, in future, devices in your hotel rooms will know what your favorite TV shows (for example) or room temperature might be, simply by interrogating data you hold on this inside your phone. Data that's harvested by your device before you leave your home.

My fear, of course, is that as the entire travel experience grows more user-focused and more comfortable, we may find the challenge and reward of visiting new destinations will shrink.

Slide 13

I'm almost finished now. This slide was really just about using a picture of a girl dressed in a fabulous costume and a man in a hat playing a tiny guitar.

What I hope I've managed to achieve in this presentation is to give a sense of how much things are already changing. You see, we're not looking into the future any more, we are the future.

As these devices become ever more essential items to anybody traveling anywhere using any service, then it must surely stand to reason that, in order to unlock the potential value to be had within this tidal wave of change, it's essential to get involved now, to focus on the users and to ensure you already have a mobile presence that offers something useful, something distinctive, something to help reinforce your brand.

I believe this applies in any business, within any industry.

As people's use of mobile devices becomes pervasive, then your presence on those devices will become the digital equivalent of those glamorous people you put on your reception desks: you'll want your app to make a good first impression, and such is the customer power in the new smartphone age, your products and your services must be able to back that good first impression up.

Got a story? Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when these items are published here first on Computerworld.    

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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