Imagine checking-in with your thumbprint, using your smartphone as a room key or opening your hotel door to find a robot butler handing over the extra towel you requested from front desk. It may all sound pie-in-the-sky, but these are the types of initiatives operating or being researched and tested in the travel industry. Here we've rounded up eight of the travel technology trends that could shape your trips in 2015.
We already have Google Glass – smart specs with a digital lens showing information in smartphone-format, fed through technology built into the arm of the glasses – but all eyes are now on the Apple Watch, due to launch this spring. Apple’s first wearable gadget will beam messages, Facebook updates and apps to your wrist, with functions such as summoning Siri and using ‘taptic’ feedback to contact other Apple Watch wearers. Its competitor, Android Wear, lets phones send directions, messages, flight information and more to their watches.
Virtual reality travel
Armchair travel once meant travel documentaries and coffee-table books, but now we’re entering another dimension. Thomas Cook’s virtual reality holidays let potential clients view different holidays on a headset in selected stores in the UK, Germany and Belgium, following a successful trial at their Bluewater store. And with Marriott Hotels’ immersive 4D ‘Teleporter’, an Oculus Rift headset transports the users to other destinations and hotels. The next step is augmented reality; using gadgets like Google Glass to enhance the real-world or tools like Past View (a gadget that lets users experience Seville as it once was and interact with historical characters) to step back in time.
Smartphone room keys
Having one thing less to lose is always a good idea, and the Starwood hotel group are leading the pack after trialling the travel industry’s first mobile, keyless check-in this year. The Bluetooth technology has guests checking-in via the Starwood SPG app on their phone, bypassing front desk queues and using the device to enter their room. Hilton is also planning similar room upgrades next year, and aboard super-tech cruise liner Quantum of the Seas, the RFID (radio frequency identification) WOWband wristbands lets passengers tap to navigate around the ship, make onboard purchases and use as their room key. RFID luggage tags also mean passengers can use an app to track luggage to their room.