Going mobile: Travel's eventual high-tech future

Fri Feb 3, 2012 12:50pm EST
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By Peter Myers

LONDON (Reuters) - Welcome to the airport terminal of the future.

There are self-service bag drops but no check-in desks. Your passage is seamless, punctuated behind the scenes only by discrete Near Field Communication (NFC) sensors.

Occasionally you stop to scan your NFC-enabled smartphone at a touch point. Your biometric information, picked up by automated surveillance cameras, will ensure there's no need to queue up to see whether you pose a security threat.

This is where travel needs to be, say technologists who also insist that their wizardry, if employed universally, could solder together the jagged edges of the industry.

It may sound far-fetched, but automated systems that talk to handheld devices are in the trial stage: In Australia, Qantas has rolled out frequent flyer cards with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to streamline the luggage-tagging process; Japan Airlines (JAL) is deploying NFC-based mobile boarding passes later this year for domestic flights.

"Technology is joining the dots by giving passengers the opportunity to 'automate' their way through the airport touch points," says Renaud Irminger, a director at air transport communications and IT solutions provider SITA.

But a report from global IT group Amadeus on how airlines, airports, ground transportation firms and hotels can be more collaborative, argues that there is no focus on the interfaces where travelers feel the pain.

Andrew Curry, a director of The Futures Company who helped research the Amadeus report, told Reuters that if nobody leads on this, nothing could happen for five or 10 years.   Continued...