18 months ago we brought you a story on wearable computing and what it might mean to travelers in the future. In that short time, we have seen a large number of wearable devices come and go. Heads Up Displays like Google Glass have faded and most of the wearable attention has shifted to the wrist, with a large number of manufacturers releasing smart watches of varying capabilities on several different platforms.
Today, Apple is announcing the details of their Apple Watch. Manufacturers such as Samsung, LG, Pebble, Sony and more have already introduced watches on various platforms including Android that promise to help you through your daily life.
But are smart watches really useful to travelers? Here is a brief business travel scenario that illustrates why they just might be. Some of the fictional events below are realities now. Others could be soon using existing technology. Some are just possibilities of what might come in the near future:
Heather woke up for her early morning flight. She checked her phone and glanced at her day’s itinerary, noticing that she needs to leave her house in 48 minutes in order to reach the airport on time (available now). While driving to the airport, Heather received a cue that there was an accident slowing traffic on the route ahead. Keeping her eyes on the road and her hands on the wheel, she used voice commands to access a less congested route, putting her quickly back on schedule (available now in Android and iOS).
Heather reached airport parking and boarded the shuttle to the airport. As she approached the terminal, her gate information appeared on her watch face (available now). She made her way into the terminal, through security, and was guided by her watch’s navigation tools directly to her gate with several minutes to spare (future). When it was time to board, Heather watched with amusement as traveler upon traveler fumbled with their phones or pulled out folded-up paper boarding passes. She smiled at the gate agent and elevated her arm slightly, touching her watch to the gate as it let her right through (future). She boarded the aircraft and enjoyed an uneventful flight.
Upon arriving at her destination, Heather waited to de-plane by checking her messages on her watch (available now). Once in the airport, Heather’s smart watch again guided her through the unfamiliar concourse directly to the car rentals area (near future). The rental car company greeted her via her watch and told her which aisle she could find her preferred car (near future). She bypassed the long line at the counter, got in the car and drove off into the city for her big meeting. Heather located public parking near her destination and again used her smart watch to help her navigate on foot the rest of the way to the unfamiliar building (available now).
She was greeted by her clients and led into a conference room and began to work her way through the multimedia presentation she had prepared on her tablet, using her watch to effortlessly advance slides and access dynamic supporting information (available soon). In the middle of the presentation her client asked a question that she wasn’t quite prepared for. Luckily, her colleague back home was participating in the meeting via videoconference. He used his watch’s sketch tool to send a quick signal to Heather’s watch. She received the quick message and confidently answered the client without missing a beat (available on Apple Watch). The meeting was a success.
As Heather left the building, she stopped for coffee, paying with her watch (available now). She got into her rental car and drove to the hotel. As she entered the lobby, she glanced at her watch and noticed that she was already checked in with her room number displayed on the watch face (partially available now on smartphones at some hotels). She reached her room and touched her watch to the keypad to open the door (available soon).
Relaxing that evening, Heather received a message that her morning meeting had been cancelled. She used her phone to look at her flight and then pulled up alternate flight options to see if she might be able to get home earlier. Finding a flight that might work, Heather used her smartphone app’s touch to call feature to instantly connect to a travel counselor, who got her on the earlier flight (available now – check out Dash from Travel and Transport).
In the morning, Heather checked out via her watch just as easily as she checked in and she made her way back to the airport. As she got through security and moved towards the gate she received a notification on her watch that the gate had changed. She reversed course and headed to the new gate, reaching it long before the other passengers.
While in flight, Heather decided to sample the airline’s selection of premium snacks. Although her bag was stuffed firmly under the seat in front of her, she had no problem paying. Raising her watch to the flight attendant’s tablet to pay (available now on at least one airline – more to come), she quickly completed the transaction and shifted her focus to how to open up that little container of hummus.
Upon flying home and reaching the airport parking lot, Heather pulled out of the space and touched the gate with her watch, which registered her mobile payment (near future). The gate swung open and she headed home – another successful business trip.
What do you think of this story? What did I get right? What did I get wrong? Will smart watches and other wearable technologies really be a convenience for business travelers or will they just be a short-term fad? Tell us what you think in the comments or via Twitter.