Gear We Like
Travel tech news: August 1, 2012
This week in travel tech news: Qantas rolls out iPads for entertainment, indoor ‘GPS’ may not be impossible after all, cut out the middle man on your next tour, and Amtrak join the twenty-first century.
Qantas relieves the boredom with iPads
In an effort to prevent passengers dying of boredom while trapped on one of its aging Boeing 767s, Qantas has announced the rollout of a new iPad-based entertainment system for every passenger.
The locked-down devices will be able to stream content wirelessly from a server in the plane, but do nothing else. To prevent theft, location-tracking security software has been installed.
Given the antiquated entertainment systems installed in the 767s and the huge cost of installing seat-back screens, this makes perfect sense from a cost perspective. We like the idea – and especially the touted future ability to stream entertainment on your own device – but will be interested to see how it works in practice.
Just how many spilled cups of Coke does it take to ruin an iPad? I guess we’re all about to find out…
Indoor ‘GPS’ now a possibility
Outdoor navigation via GPS has gone from fantasy to everyday occurrence in little over a decade, but finding your way around inside a building has been much tougher. Now researchers in Finland have used the Earth’s magnetic field to create an ‘IPS’ (indoor positioning system) that looks like it might even work.
In a statement, the head researcher for the project said "Each building, floor and corridor creates a distinct magnetic field disturbance that can be measured to identify a location and generate a map."
The researchers have created a company to develop the concept into a commercial reality, and if it ends up making it to market, the travel possibilities are endless. As travellers we are forever in places that we’ve never been before, and something like this could be a godsend when you’re trying to find out exactly where that mobile phone repair shop is in a Bangkok mega-mall, for instance.
Note that the approach only works with modern (ie, concrete and steel) buildings, so don’t expect to find your way out of the Labyrinth with it quite yet…
Book local tours with local people
In another example of technology cutting out the middle man, start-up Vayable connects travellers with locals offering unique experiences in hundreds of cities around the world.
I’m a bit jaded with many of the generic tour offerings out there, but having a browse around the site yielded some wonderful-looking offerings, typically at a cheaper rate than commercial tours as well. From photo tours in Istanbul to wildlife spotting in the Panama Canal, I was impressed with the options that the site threw up for consideration.
The idea of connecting directly with the person providing the tour also appeals, although Vayable does take a fairly steep 18% cut (three percent from the traveller and 15% from the operator).
It’s definitely worth a look if you’re in the market for a tour less ordinary.
Amtrak realises it’s the 21st century, offers paperless tickets
US train operator has joined … well … almost every other public transport company out there by offering a paperless ticket option for its customers. Even though you could make a reservation online in the past, the only way to get a ticket in your hand was from the office or a kiosk at the station.
Now travellers will simply receive an email with a PDF attached, that they can show on their smartphone for scanning by the conductor or at least print out at their leisure beforehand.
Now if only the routes and prices were a little better, people might even start travelling by train in the US!