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Sunday, 6 July 2014
The tech that will make travel easier, more interactive and personal
Samsung Futurescape: The tech that will make travel easier, more interactive and personal
This week Samsung ran its second Futurescape technology showcase in London promoting how the travel and transportation industry will increasingly use modern devices and software.
Some of what was on show was aimed at the retail side of travel, others the more functional side. Lee Hayhurst picks out some highlights.
This virtual showroom technology has been built by Gateshead-based ZeroLight. It is already in use in car showrooms by the likes of Jaguar and Audi.
The latter has got rid of all vehicles in its store opposite the Ritz in central London. The virtual product is built electronically from the manufacturer’s design specifications and the result is something that looks and appears to be just like the real thing.
It means the product is bespokable within the limits of what the manufacturer offers so, in terms of vehicles, different colours, wheels and set ups can be instantly added.
ZeroLights says this has seen a marked increase in uptake of premium features such as sports wheels on vehicles, because the customer sees how they actually look compared to entry level options.
The firm has worked with British Airways on the design of new premium-class cabins because it allows the user to take a virtual tour before anything is decided in reality.
It says it has also had interest from cruise companies because it allows people to take a tour of a ship before committing to a holiday.
Offering virtual tours of hotels is another obvious potential use of this in travel, although it does require a certain consistency of decor and design to keep complexity to a manageable level.
More excitingly the technology has been developed to work with Oculus Rift 3D virtual reality gaming headgear.
Oculus Rift was recently bought by Facebook, and the technology opens up the prospect of a customer being able to almost touch and feel the product in-store as they make their decision about what to buy.
Big Touch Screen Retailing
This interactive touchscreen sales wall, using Worldline technology, is in use in Adidas sports stores, and offers customers the chance to interact and research different product options before they buy.
Graphics, video, celebrity endorsements - you name it - all are available at the touch of a screen, enabling a store to offer limitless options without having to physcially hold all the stock.
For travel the opportunties for using such responsive large screen touch responisive technology is not new – Microsoft surface has been trialled in a number of travel agencies.
But the technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated and modern retail outlets are looking to offer customers use of such gadgets to drive footfall and improve the retail experience.
Interactive Digital Promotional Screen
In the foreground in this picture is a simpler version of the above designed by Worldline to be used to drive people into your store.
Product offers and QR codes are displayed on the screen giving shoppers attracted by what it is displaying a special offer if they visit a store.
They could be placed in airports to capture travellers’ attention as they arrive or check-in to promote retail outlets in the departure lounge.
They could also be used in shopping centres, or even in large stores to direct attention to particular outlets or concessions.
Reviews At Your Fingertips
Here is the Duty Free shop of the future - or it could be any type of store.
Shoppers are using technology on mounted Samsung tablets developed by Uberated, a company which is only two months old.
It allows in-store shoppers to quickly and easily access all professional product reviews for the item they are interested in, all in one place.
This way, the consumer gets the same ‘at home’ research capability they expect when researching a product but without having to go back and forth via Google to find the relevant reviews.
Being in store, they can then order the product there and then, having had their decision endorsed by the product review they’ve read in store.
To date Uberated has been developing their technology for the selling of electrical goods like cameras and has not exploited its application in travel retail.
However, a similar use could be envisaged for travel, with retailers using the tablets to offer more information than they currently do in brochures, including independent reviews and travel articles.
Touchscreen Tour Guide
Zafire is a software firm developing solutions for the aviation industry and this touchscreen interface has been developed with airports in mind.
Travellers can access general information about their destination at the touch of a button using the graphical display.
When not being actively used by a customer, the screen can be used to promote a particular retailer or attraction.
Zafire sees these sorts of screens proliferating in places like airports with the cost of having the hardware mitigated by various ‘advertising as a service’ commercial deals.
The firm has also developed the departure board of the future, which unlike conventional departure boards do not need lots of hardware attached to them to operate.
Cloud-based, they are basically plug-in-and-go digital devices working via Wi-Fi networks, so maintenance costs for airport operators are reduced.
Because there’s never a departure board where you need one, customers can use a mobile QR code app which downloads the relevant information onto their device and updates them on their phone.
These departure boards are currently in use at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.
Biometric secure access
More of a functional application of technology this one, but Samsung technology is being used to develop the customs gates of the future.
This gate uses biometric data to recognise the passenger and allow them through based on a scan of their face.
The technology will cut down on fraud associated with paper access or any other type of physical passes.
It could be used to control access to any office or building or at any point on the journey through an airport where security checks are required.
Real-time travel advice
Turning to the world of trains now, and Worldline again, which has developed technology to allow information from the control centre to be accessed throughout the network.
The concept is that the same source of data that the central control station uses is made available to all staff so they can pass this on to customers.
As many regular train users today know, getting reliable information from on-train and station staff about delays can be incredibly difficult.
Often customers or other members of the public on the scene are able to find out what’s going on and communicate this to travellers before staff.
The Worldline software allows this information to be accessed by the relevant people on handheld touchscreen devices.
In time these will also replace the old clunky portable ticket machines guards carry by being able to scan tickets for validity and retail upgrades or replacements there and then.
Technically there’s no reason why this sort of data can’t be made available to third parties so travel agents and tour operators can give customers up-to-date advice about delays getting to and from airports.