Not that long ago, it would have been unthinkable to do your banking online, or book all of your own travel with just a few mouse clicks. But technology is changing the way we live, and some of the most recent advances have the potential to make travelling a whole lot easier.
"So far, the Internet's population has consisted of, well, people. But now the machines are getting in on the act - not just humans using the network, but countless autonomous gadgets," Emanuele Angelidis, the CEO of Breed Reply, wrote in an article for The Guardian.
Breed Reply is a tech start-up focused on the Internet of Things (IoT). Folks like Angelidis are excited to see all kinds of gadgets come online.
The IoT is the idea of connecting commonly used devices to the Internet, including everything from thermometers to cars. While that might sound like something straight out of a sci-fi movie, it's quickly becoming a reality. In fact, Fast Company recently reported that the IoT "is barely representative today of what it might become tomorrow."
The technology is moving so fast that another term is starting to pop-up: the Internet of Travel. Connected devices in places like airports, as well as personal devices we wear or carry with us, are on the brink of dramatically affecting the traveling experience.
Let's take a look at five ways the IoT is changing how we get from one place to another.
The Connected Airport
The London City Airport successfully obtained a grant to begin incorporating IoT tech into its day-to-day operations in 2013. The perks for travelers have the potential to be revolutionary.
For example, imagine security lines that send notifications of estimated wait times. Or the convenience of automatic rebooking if you miss a flight, based purely on your location as reported by your smartphone. You could step directly out of the terminal and into a waiting car, the driver alerted with your precise arrival time. The entire airport experience, from security to catching a cab, would be more hassle-free.
There's a good chance you already own one key IoT traveling device: a smartphone. Several major carriers, like American Airlines and Southwest, offer free apps that allow passengers to check in, get their boarding passes, and check flight status on the go. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Apps like Uber make it easy to arrange for a ride from the airport. With Airbnb, you can make reservations for private rooms and whole apartments in destination cities. And don't forget to check the weather before you hit the road. Accuweather's app can keep you up to date on current conditions and forecasts, essential information when packing. Hopper, an app that helps you save on airfare, and Localeur, an app that shows you where the locals love to go, are two great apps "Time" lists as essential apps for frequent travelers.
While your smartphone can do a lot to ease travel pain points, it's not the only gadget in the traveler's arsenal. Recently, American "Today Show" host" Savannah Guthrie shared a picture on Instagram of her boarding pass displayed on her Apple Watch. Talk about convenient.
Other connected devices for travelers are on the way, including suitcases equipped with GPS tracking so that you know exactly where your baggage is at all times, hotel rooms that unlock by swiping your smartphone across a sensor, and even cars with automatic doors that simply open when you approach the vehicle.
Protecting Your Things
Earlier this year, "The Washington Times" covered the Travel Goods Showcase, highlighting several safety-focused tech tools. Among the recommended products were theft resistant bags by companies like Eagle Creek and PacSafe. These anti-penetration products are the perfect place to keep valuables, like your smartphone or tablet, while on the road.
When overseas, your passport is another concern. The next time you're out of the country, consider making use of the iPassport by iWallet. It comes with a finger print sensor to unlock the secured pouch, and is also equipped with Bluetooth connectivity, sounding an alarm if separated from your smartphone.
Of course, your personal safety is far more important than your smartphone, tablet or even your passport. How can you utilize the IoT to help protect yourself and your loved ones when traveling?
While there are a variety of apps focused on personal safety, only a few are designed specifically with the traveler in mind. Smart Traveler is one such app. Available at no charge from the U.S. Department of State, Smart Traveler puts key information at your fingertips, like travel alerts, maps, and even embassy locations. Another must-have app for the international traveler is Travel Safe, which includes a list of emergency numbers for your current location.
Without question, the IoT stands poised to make the experience of traveling more convenient in a variety of ways. A few years from now, we may find ourselves wondering how we ever managed with paper tickets and non-connected luggage. In the meantime, there are a host of options available that allow you to harness the power of the IoT right now. Make your next trip more pleasant with these tech tools. Are you ready to travel safe and efficient?
Sarah Pike is a freelancer, college writing instructor, and wanderlust sufferer. When she's not writing, teaching, or traveling, she's probably binge-watching RomComs and dreaming up her next trip. She also enjoys following far too many celebrities than she should on Instagram. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @sarahzpike
Check out 'Into the Wild' for more articles like this.
Sarah Pike is a Freelance Writer for Frontier, a non-profit conservation NGO that helps people plan their gap year with over 300 opportunities to volunteer abroad and take part in adventure travel across the globe.