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6 Tech Items That Are Changing the Way We Travel

AntonioGuillem / iStock / thinkstock.com

AntonioGuillem / iStock / thinkstock.com

Technology has had an undeniable impact on how we travel, and in recent years gadgets such as smartphones, tablets, and digital cameras have all added convenience and comfort while on the road. But those devices are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of technology items that are poised to have a major impact on how we travel. Here are 7 emerging technologies that will change the way that we travel in the years ahead.

Location Based Technology
Location based technology uses the GPS and WiFi features on a smartphone or tablet, to deliver suggestions on things to do and see that are close to your current proximity. Numerous apps already put this technology to good use, suggesting restaurants, entertainment options, clubs, bars, and other places to visit that are within easy walking distance from where you are located. They can even share discounts and deals from nearby shops, alerting you to sales that are happening in the area.

These types of services will expand in the future in a number of ways however, providing more information that is specifically tailored to your tastes and interests. It’ll also be fed to you without the need of specific apps, while having less impact on the battery life of your device. While traveling, it’ll help us to learn more about our destination, and provide us with a richer experience in general.

One of the burgeoning trends in technology in recent months has been “wearables,” which is the term that is used to describe gadgets that have been designed to be worn on our bodies. They include such devices as Google Glass and a growing number of smartwatches from a variety of manufacturers. These gadgets put data at your fingertips, allowing users to keep their smartphones in their pocket or bag, while still receiving alerts and updates on their watch or heads-up display.

When paired with location services for example, a smartwatch can provide information about what’s happening around you, while your smartphone stays safely tucked away. But these devices can also help travelers in a number of other ways as well, such as navigating a foreign city, or even boarding a flight. A few airlines have already updated their apps to support wearables, making it easy to share boarding passes on the screen of a smartwatch for instance. As these devices grow in popularity, expect to see new applications for their use come to the forefront.

Solar Charging
As we travel with more and more gadgets, it gets harder and harder to keep them all charged and working properly. This is especially true if you’re on a multi-continent journey, with stops in a variety of countries, where carrying multiple outlet adapter for each location can become cumbersome. But small, inexpensive, and relatively efficient solar chargers are making it much easier to keep our gadgets working while we’re away from home.

Advances in solar technology have improved the amount of power that is generated, even as the size of the solar panels has gone down. Add an external battery pack to save all of the energy that is generated, and you have a truly versatile system for keeping your favorite devices powered while on the go. The fact that this is clean energy with zero impact on the environment is just a nice side-benefit.

Cloud Services
Cloud services are another technology that have been around for awhile, but travelers are still discovering ways to use to their advantage. The “cloud” is an online storage solution that can store all kinds of documents and data, that can later be accessed from any computer, smartphone, or tablet that can connect to the Internet. These types of services include Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, and Microsoft’s OneDrive, with each offering a certain amount of free or paid storage capacities.

In the future, the lines between what is saved locally on our computers, and in the cloud, will blur completely, with just about any kind of document being at our disposal at all times. Personally, I like to store copies of my passport, travel itinerary, airline tickets, insurance, and medical information in the cloud, just in case I need to access them while on the road. I haven’t had to access them while traveling yet, but it is nice to know that they are there when I need them.

Social Networking
Yes, social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have already had a significant impact in the way we travel, as they have all made it easier to share our adventures with friends and family back home. But when you combine location based technology with cloud services, and put them to use on a smartphone, our photos, status updates, and itineraries can be posted automatically. This will allow those close to us to not only follow along with our travels, but also learn more about where we are, and what we are doing there as well.

Those same social networks already allow us to connect directly with representatives from the various airlines, get info from travel agents, and connect with locals before we ever arrive at our destination. Those kinds of interactions are likely to only grow, and improve, as we move forward.

Two more technology items that are already being implemented, but are still in the infancy of their life are RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and NFC (Near Field Communications). Both are used for short range communication of data between devices in different circumstances. For instance, RFID chips containing the personal data of travelers are already embedded in the passports of a number of countries. These passports can then be scanned by an RFID reader, to quickly and easily pull up information about the person holding it. These chips also make it harder to counterfeit a passport as well, adding another layer of security for the places that have embraced the technology.

The potential for how those chips are used moving forward is wide-open, especially as the possibility for re-writeable RFID chips become more viable, potentially allowing for the passport information to be updated over time, including electronic stamps from nations visited. As for NFC, this technology is already being used in smartphones and credit cards as well, allowing users to make purchases with the simple tap of their NFC enabled device or card. This could come in handy in the future as more companies embrace the technology, allowing us to travel safely without carrying much cash. NFC can be used between smartphones and tablets too, making it a snap to exchange contact info, photographs, audio and video files, and a host of other data.



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