Smartphones may have become the ultimate travel gadget years ago, but the travel industry is now beginning to embrace other connected devices
One of the most surprising of these is the Ocean Medallion. Unveiled in January by cruise company Carnival, it is a tiny 50g disc which acts as a “personal concierge” for guests. Worn on a wrist or put in a pocket, the disc is laser-etched with the guest’s name, ship and the date of sailing; and it acts not only as a ticket for the trip and a souvenir, but also the door key to a cabin. It’s also used to pay for everything on board.
The disc uses the kind of technology that has been embedded in smartphones, including chips that enable Near Field Communication (NFC) and Bluetooth, and is designed to be invisible to the guest, who doesn’t need to switch it on or off, recharge it or interact with it in any way.
The Ocean Medallion works around a purpose-built Internet of Things network of intelligent sensors and devices, but a cruise ship is a closed, controlled and customised place. Could this kind of connectivity work for travellers in the wider world?
It already is. Carnival’s medallion is less of an inert dongle and more of a smart watch, something that’s also been embraced by the travel industry in recent years, seeing novel uses in airports, hotels and elsewhere. Starwood’s Aloft, Element and W hotels have been allowing guests to get into their rooms using a smart watch since 2014, for example.
They also give travellers the ability to use mapping apps from Apple and Google to navigate unfamiliar surroundings; a haptic buzz lets you know which way to turn, which cuts out the need to walk around strange cities while brandishing an expensive smartphone. Apple Watch and Android Wear watches can also be used as boarding passes on most major airlines.
With new generation wearables now equipped with microphones, biosensors, and even anti-pollution filters, high-tech travellers will have the world at their feet as they break new ground.
Adapted with permission from the South China Morning Post