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Free wi-fi in the UK, better security with a USB stick, batteries that suck a lot less and a tech-friendly carry-on that’s taking Indiegogo by storm.
You guessed it, it’s Travel Tech News time again!
Got a Mastercard? Congrats, You’ve Also Got Free Wi-fi in Britain
If you’ve got a Mastercard and are planning a trip to the UK any time soon, good news – you’ve now got free Wi-fi as well. The card company has teamed up with British Wi-fi company The Cloud to offer cardholders free access to 22,000 hotspots around the country.
The process isn’t entirely seamless – customers need to download an app and register their details ahead of time, and the Android version crashed every time I tried to open it in my testing.
Still, it’ll undoubtedly get fixed at some point, and does at least seem to work on iOS. Handily, it also comes with a map of hotspot locations, so you can plan your wanderings around your Wi-fi fix if you need to.
Google Announces New 2-Factor Authentication Via USB
Not content with offering its Authenticator app to secure your logins, Google this week announced a new USB-based option as well. The idea is that you’d carry your ‘Security Key’ (purchased from third party retailers, not Google) around with you, and use it whenever you need to log into your email or other Google accounts.
It’s only supported in the Chrome browser at the moment, but the idea is simple — enter your password, plug in the Security Key and tap the button when prompted.
I see this being most useful for travellers who don’t carry their own phone, tablet or laptop. In a cruel irony, they’re the ones most at risk of having their passwords stolen since they’re more likely to use public computers, but least likely to use 2-factor authentication since they can’t receive an SMS or use a smartphone app.
These new USB security sticks help get around that problem, and aren’t particularly expensive either. If you lose yours, you can still access your accounts with an emergency code you’ve previously generated.
Scientists Announce Battery That Charges in Minutes, Lasts 20 Years
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: battery technology kinda sucks. Even with all the other technology advances in recent years, you’re still going to be hunting around for a power socket by the end of the day and waiting a few hours to charge everything back up again.
After a couple of years the battery in your device will also hold much less charge than it did when new, so the problem gets even worse.
Scientists at a university in Singapore hope to change all that within the next couple of years, announcing they’ve developed a new lithium-ion battery that will charge from 0 to 70% in two minutes. No, that’s not a typo.
They also suggest that such batteries will last for 10,000 charge cycles – that’s up to 20 years – rather than the 500-1000 we see in consumer devices these days. Longer lifespan = happier customers and less waste. That has to be a good thing.
Breathless announcements of new battery technology aren’t uncommon, of course, so we’ll reserve judgement until these things actually hit the market.
Let’s just hope they do – I rather like the idea of being able to charge my phone at a cafe in less time than it takes to drink the coffee it’s providing me with.
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Stylish Carry-On That Charges Your Gear, Weighs Itself and Tells You When It’s Lost
This tech-filled carry-on is currently raising large amounts of money on Indiegogo, and it’s not hard to see why.
The Bluesmart combines a whole bunch of features into an attractive rollaboard design that (at least during the fundrasing campaign) doesn’t cost much more than suitcases without the bells and whistles.
The case comes with an inbuilt battery that can charge a smartphone half a dozen times, and has a digital scale that tells you just how far over the airline’s allowance you are simply by lifting it in the air.
There are also several handy security features, including remote locking and unlocking, location tracking and a proximity alert in case you leave it behind in the airport bar.
There’s a separate compartment for your laptop to make dealing with security scanning a little less annoying, and useful features like waterproof zips and TSA-approved locks. The campaign has raised 5x its goal with around a month still to run, so it’s very much going to happen.
The current minimum backing to get a Bluesmart is $235 + shipping – that’s around half of the estimated retail price.