10 Recent Innovations for the Modern Business Traveler
By Vince Chiofolo
Business road warriors, jet setters, and globetrotters of the world, your encounters with frustration, tediousness, irritation and downright difficulty are about to change.
Though the life of the business voyager may never be an easy one, technology has bestowed fresh and ingenious innovations designed to ease your aggravation, cut expenditures, and anesthetize the overall ache of your Irritable Travel Syndrome.
SMS Notification of Flight Delays and/or Gate Changes:
Many frequent flyers can attest to the occasional encounter of spending hours tediously packing and frantically trudging what feels like a carry-on full of concrete while mentally reviewing trip accessories, mauling through a forest of fellow airport inhabitants and their rolling luggage, only to arrive at the terminal to find a gate change, time change, or worse, a canceled flight.
If you have a cell phone, those days could now be over. Google has recently connected with FlightStats.com to offer a free text-messaging service that allows you to remotely check the status of your flight. The service sends flight status reports and other pertinent airline information via short message service after a flyer texts the abbreviation of the airline to GOOGLE (466453).
Empty Leg Auctions:
Those who value the luxury and convenience of privately chartered flying know first hand that value comes with a hefty price tag. Since many private airlines fulfill one-way flights for passengers, the airplanes must be transported back to base with or without a passenger. Since airlines prefer with over without (referred to as an “empty leg”), they are willing to bestow the complete service and lavishness that their airline provides at a price that won’t break the bank.
Solo Hotel Rooms:
Unfortunately, business travelers are often lonely travelers; flying and rooming solo, breaking the traditional “Noah’s Ark” style of traveling in pairs. Knowing this, hotels are beginning to accommodate the single sleeper with smaller (and cheaper) rooms.
The Jane, a renovated residential hotel residing in New York’s Meatpacking District, provides 50-square-foot, pod-like rooms starting at $89 per night. The encapsulated suites are perfect for the budgeted traveler who plans to spend more time in meetings than in the hotel room and doesn’t mind the shared bathrooms.
The New York Times says they are, “reminiscent of a high-class train cabin,” and describes them as being “just big enough for a custom-made twin bed and a shelf.”
Other locations offering closet-sized dormitories in the Big Apple include Pod on East 51st Street, also starting at $89 per night, and Ace on West 29th Street, which contains private bathrooms, starting at $209.
Less Expensive Rooms with a Non-Refundable Catch:
If community showers are not your style, a horde of top luxury hotels including Hilton, Hyatt, Starwood and Fairmont are offering super-discounted rooms with a catch, according to Time. The hotels justify the slash in price due to a clause stating that the rooms are non-refundable and non-changeable, the article states.
A business traveler who is willing to gamble could reap the benefits of the offer, so long as their itinerary remains unchanged.
Smartphone Boarding Passes:
Some time back, the traveling world was introduced to online check-in service for major airlines, which allows a soon-to-be passenger to verify their flight remotely from the Internet and print out their boarding pass, effectively avoiding long lines and hassles at the airport. In an increasingly paperless world, electronic boarding passes have cut the process even shorter by eliminating the need to print out the pass, but instead simply scan the barcode displayed on the screen of a web-enabled PDA device.
Time pointed out in a travel feature this week that such electronic passes have been incorporated into 42 U.S. airports; 27 being American Airlines (AA), 18 United (now part of AA), and 17 Delta. British Airways has also created a mobile boarding pass smartphone app that allows similar ease of check-in.
The new electronic process eliminates one of the many documents travelers must juggle through security. In the case of a forgotten pass, credit card, etc., passes are easily attainable from your pocket PC.
Inflight WiFi and Cellular Phone Usage:
Flight time is great to play catch-up on things like reading and paperwork; portable devices and in-flight screens also allow for movie and television viewing. However, every traveler reaches a point where they could use some connectivity time either web browsing or chatting with acquaintances other than the creepy individuals hogging their armrests.
WiFi in the air is no new concept, but major US airlines around the world have been making strides to partner up with Internet providers to offer the service to passengers. Virgin America and AirTran Airways support WiFi on all flights. Three Chinese carriers – Air China, China Southern and China Eastern – are looking to integrate full mobile coverage.
Forbes recently compiled a list of top airports that they consider “most wired,” offering the best in-flight Internet. Top of the list is Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Also included are John F. Kennedy International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, and Orlando International Airport.
The services are offered as an à la carte fee-required component to flights, of course.
“Time is Money” has always been a mantra in the minds of every business professional. In other words, the faster the travel from point A to point B the better. Railways around the world are working to accommodate this need. In the 1950s, Japan launched the 90 mph traveling Romancecar 3000 SE in Tokyo, a service meant to emulate the popular interurbans in the U.S. Midwest.
While quick, rail designers wanted quicker and created Tōkaidō Shinkansen a decade later, then the 0 Series Shinkansen that achieved maximum speeds around 130 mph. The Japanese concept of the quick and convenient rail transport has other areas like Europe taking notice. New tracks are continuously being developed and improved on the emerging European high-speed rail network which spans the continent.
The third generation of the InterCityExpress portion of the system in Germany runs at 205 mph and could reach as high as 226 mph. Belgium contains four types of the speedy rails: Thalys, Eurostar, ICE, and TGV. Norway, Spain, Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Russia, and Ireland have tentative plans to create new high-speed rail systems or expand their existing ones to help the euro-traveler span the continent quicker than ever.
Maps and Apps:
New places could be scary; and precise destinations could be extremely difficult to pinpoint, even when using a traditional paper map. For overseas locations, language barriers preclude understanding directions from locals and make matters even worse. Electronic maps and smartphone applications, programmed to ease the process of navigation, makes the journeying of the average traveler a mindless and more pleasant experience.
GPS devices, which have been around for some time, navigate their users via a virtual map and voice navigation. As technology in global positioning systems has improved, so have the devices. They are now small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, and in the case of new product ARider, on your face.
The ARider gadget includes a biking helmet with iPhone dock which connects to a small screen in front of the user’s right eye, allowing for safe navigation while riding (minus the possible dampening on peripheral vision).
A non-biker could take advantage of a host of other iPhone (and other smartphone) applications that provide GPS navigation, such as MobileNavigator, TomTom for iPhone, and BlackBerry Maps. Not only do these apps direct you to your destination, but they could log where you have been if retracing your steps is needed. The technology could even allow the location of a lost phone.
Smartphone applications like London Tubes, Paris Metro, and UrbanSpoon have even been developed to navigate travelers who have no specific destination addresses by allowing the user to set general points of interest and choose from a list of potential options. Once a POI is found, the app will guide you there with ease.
More Transportable Luggage:
Those who travel for business tend to have no choice but to travel heavy. Suits, laptops, paperwork and the like could pile up to formulate a herd of luggage similar in weight to that of a Volkswagen. While your travel possession-load might be uncompromisable, the weight of your overall luggage could be reduced with the aid of innovative and sleek featherweight luggage.
German luggage producer, Rimowa, has produced a line of revolutionary polycarbonate multi-wheel trolleys, dubbed by them as Salsa Air, which the company promises on its site that it is 26% lighter than the original Salsa brand.
With similar hernia-preventing efforts, Tumi has a trendy line of lightweight packing cases composed of triple-layered high-performance alloy of both ABS and polycarbonate, according to its website.
If featherweight is still too heavy, new self-powered luggage might be the route for you. England-based Live Luggage’s line of Classic Power-Assisted trolley cases take the “lug” out of “luggage” by way of, according to its website, a flat motor built into the wheels that assists walking inclined paths. The Classic AG series offered by Live Luggage replaces the motor with an anti-gravity handle, which puts 85% of luggage weight over the wheels, the site claims.
Luggage Safety and Security:
Losing travel necessities due to airport negligence is infuriating. Recent technology, like AnyTrack’s GPS-100, has made it possible to track any device via GPS directly from any web enabled computer. The small GPS device that offers the “wireless location service” is perfect for pinpointing the whereabouts of your lost bag after discovering in dismay that the last lonely piece of luggage circling airport carousel is not yours.
The device could also be discretely placed or clipped to other items that could potentially go adrift, such as a family pet or a teenage offspring’s car, allowing them to be tracked and located Big Brother style. Goodbye privacy!
For when your luggage is in fact present on the luggage claim conveyor but with an abundant host of other lookalikes, US firm ETA has created a beeping and flashing device that attaches to baggage making it possible to identify luggage from the impostors. No more will arriving home to find a suitcase full of a stranger’s Hawaiian shirts and Speedos put a damper on future trips; granted that ETA’s device passes through security.
As important as luggage safety is luggage security. Those miniature baggage padlocks that contain a shackle with the depth of a paperclip are no big threat to luggage thieves and pickpockets. That in mind, Heys USA, producer of luxury luggage products, have created a bag that only your (and your friends) fingers could unlock, literally.
Heys’s BioCase contains no keys, no locks or numerical codes to remember, but biometric finger-scan technology which allows only the pre-stored fingerprints of up to eight individuals to gain entry, James Bond style. The device, which Heys refers to as “leveraged technology to rewrite the rules of luggage,” is chargeable via USB plug and composed of nearly-indestructible German polycarbonate.
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