In-flight Entertainment… Is There An App For That?


In the not too distant future, there probably will be.

Photo courtesy of Australian Business Traveller

With the next era of in-flight entertainment on their radar scopes, airlines are starting to think outside of the box… um, I mean… outside of the aluminum tube. Cathay Pacific recently announced that they are toying with the idea of removing in-seat entertainment systems from their entire fleet. Qantas has started handing out iPads to its premium customers to serve as in-flight entertainment devices. One would assume that the majority of travelers boarding flights these days are carrying some form of Wi-Fi enabled mobile device. As a consequence, why don’t airlines just stream movies, music, games, etc. directly to travelers’ smartphones and tablets?

Based on recent news reports, the FAA may start lightening up on in-flight smartphone usage.  If that pans out, it will increase the window of time that travelers have to consume streaming, in-flight content.

Photo courtesy of Tnooz

By virtue of removing heavy in-flight entertainment systems, airlines stand to gain millions of dollars in fuel burn savings. Carriers also realize that “technology shelf-life” these days lasts about as long as a gallon of milk – unrefrigerated. What may be a cutting edge audio-visual system today will be outdated tomorrow. Considering how long it takes to deploy an in-flight entertainment system across an airline with a fleet of hundreds of aircraft, the problem is exacerbated exponentially. One possible solution… offer travelers an in-flight entertainment App.

Here’s how it might work. Prior to boarding your flight, grab the airline’s App from iTunes or Google Play.  Then, once you’re comfortably settled into 22k, fire up your device to access the carrier’s line up of streaming video, music, games, etc.  And while you’re at it, order yourself an in-flight snack that is delivered to your seat when you want it. Combine that with a USB port in every seat for device-charging purposes, and you’re all set. Doesn’t this seem like a natural in-flight entertainment evolution that does away with outdated technology?

~ Theo Szymanski

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So you’ve mastered SEO… How does your ASO stack up?


Like me, you’ve probably tweaked and re-tweaked your website’s textual content to ensure that, when it comes to search engine rankings, your company’s products and/or services are front and center… head and shoulders above your competition.  Well, with the onset of mobile apps, you now have a new marketing hurdle to overcome… App Store Optimization (ASO).

Designing, building and maintaining a successful mobile app certainly has its challenges.  However, unless you adopt smart ASO strategies, getting your killer app found among an ocean of other apps can be virtually impossible.  On a combined basis, iOS and Android now offer over 1 million apps in their respective online stores.  In my particular vertical, when you narrow it down to travel apps, you’re still dealing with hundreds of competitors jostling for prime position.

Tools are starting to emerge that analyze popular keywords, not only based on competitor content, but based also on the most common keywords entered by app store shoppers.  Using these tools, it makes it easier for you to identify common phrases that your competitors are using that you may have omitted.  Combine these tools with the intel you gain from app store analytics and reporting, and you’re on your way to mastering ASO.

Jim, Michael and I are interested in hearing from our readers regarding any questions, comments or feedback you may have.  Also, if you happen to be well versed in ASO, please share your challenges and success stories with us.

~ Theo Szymanski

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Out with 2011! In with 2012 Predictions!


While closing out 2011 we are keeping an eye on what’s ahead in 2012!

We have found there are plenty of relevant and cool technology innovators out there. It’s always fun to pontificate who the winners will be and how our business will adopt. Tablets, mobile, social, consumerization, Google, iTravel, (and old news, GDS, direct-connects) so where are we headed? What’s next?

While we often discuss innovative topics, the three of us do not have a better crystal ball than yours…however, found an article you will enjoy reading, if you have not already seen it yet, from our friends at Tnooz:

http://www.tnooz.com/predictions2012

Happy New Year to you and yours with much success in 2012!

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TeleNav Launches Free Navigation Service


20111215-071424.jpg

I recently stumbled across this article about an interesting new HTML5-based service that can be integrated into mobile applications and websites – Mobile Browser-Based GPS Navigation. Simple API that allows embedding GPS functionality with a single line of code.

TeleNav Free Turn-By-Turn Navigation Service

My feeling is that this type of embedded service can be a huge addition to mobile applications and web sites – especially for travel. Imagine how great it would be to scan a QR code from your smartphone for a company you need to visit and your mobile browser launches and starts giving you turn-by-turn directions to get you there. If this is truly a free service everyone benefits in various ways:

  • consumers and travelers get a great and useful service
  • developers get to implement robust value-added feature to their solutions
  • TeleNav benefits by monetizing and reselling all of the location based data to advertisers and other media services

What do you think?

~Jim Hetzel
(written and posted from my iPhone)

Other References:

TeleNav

TeleNav Press Release

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Augmented Reality Apps & Meeting Space Planning


If you’re a meeting & event planning professional, you’ve probably stood in an empty meeting room and tried to visualize various seating configurations. Classroom style? U-shaped? Hollow rectangle? A two-dimensional floor plan might look good on paper, but when the room is finally prepared to your specifications, there’s always a chance of experiencing buyer’s remorse. Well, with the arrival of the iPad and other tablets, combined with augmented reality (AR) apps, those disappointing days may be behind us.

Simply hold up your iPad in front of an empty meeting room, select the “classroom style” seating configuration on your AR app and, like magic, tables and chairs are superimposed over the room. Want to see what the room will look like from different perspectives? No problem. Simply walk around the room and the AR image will adjust automatically! Want to see what a buffet style lunch will look like along the south wall? Point your iPad at the wall, tap the “buffet lunch” option and voila – lunch is served! Virtually, of course.

Can you think of any cool AR apps that would help you achieve your meetings and travel management goals? If so, chime in below and share your thoughts with us and your fellow readers.

~ Theo Szymanski

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Changing the way we pay for travel: What’s happening with NFC – Near Field Communications?


When I first started my career in business travel, I can remember flying the no-longer-in-business Eastern Airlines Shuttle to/from La Guardia/NYC to Boston and Washington. What was really cool, you didn’t even need a reservation and you could actually pay on board the plane. Well that might seem cutting edge for the late-70s “sans technology” as the flight attendants actually had to carry clunky credit card validation machines and
then gave you a paper ticket. It’s hard to even imagine the labor intensive
back-end processing which took place as a result. Looking back, it was fairly
efficient for those times.

Let’s ramp up the history lesson here and consider the emerging technology, NFC and not the National Football Conference but, Near-Field Communication . The payment options will develop and as my fellow blogger previously reported will likely eliminate the need to carry a credit card. http://alturl.com/ewk9j

There’s a trend among suppliers (airlines, car rental companies, and hotels among others) to improve direct purchasing, the end-user experience and direct channel commerce
for both leisure and business travelers. We have seen airlines (Delta) and
cruise lines (Carnival) increase their marketing and bookings via f-Commerce,
Facebook for example, supplementing web-sites and other traditional
channels.  These new points of purchase point to and validate the direct effort, versus using intermediaries; such as OLBT’s/online booking tools, GDSs and TMC/Travel Management Companies  QC and back-office processing, but it will take time to evolve.  Briefly and in other words, really messing up the past ten years of automated business travel bookings development.

Moving forward a bit, a current example found using NFC includes Starwood Hotels, for their new brand, Aloft Hotel.  Aloft is pilot-testing a service that enables guests to avoid the check-in line and head directly to their room. The service is being tested at the Aloft in Lexington, Massachusetts. It’s a start, and surely others will follow and in other travel service sectors, like the airlines and car rentals.

Now this might not be an immediate threat or even disrupt the current booking technology flow, at least yet, but consider the possibilities. For example, imagine checking in for a flight, you have your Smartphone with an NFC activated app, the airline recognizes you and within seconds you are getting messages about options for a discounted one day visit to the airline’s private club, a uniquely priced upgrade, a hearty meal to delivered to your seat (remember meals on airplanes?) or if flying in coach on an overseas flight -how
about a very nice amenities package with blanket, blinders, pair of flight socks, and tooth brush for arrival in the morning. And, of course, you just swipe your smartphone, not your credit card and like magic, your credit account is charged and the service is delivered.

All of these examples are all targeted at improving the user experience and provides options while not bundling the particular service at the point of purchase, or whenever you made your reservation and bought your ticket. Another example, paying baggage fees with your Smartphone via NFC instead of reaching for your wallet curbside while checking in at PHX on a hot summer day or in the winter, in the Minneapolis.

Getting back to my way-back when in the 70’s example, let’s take a look at current
example. ANA, All Nippon Airways.  Japan’s leading airline, ANA, has been using
NFC technologies with smartphones to compete with the country’s “bullet” trains
for more than five years.  The major difference in Japan between domestic, fast train services from city center, to city center is the time lost to/from and at the airport. ANA has combined the ticket and boarding pass in your phone, so you can arrive and board your plane within fifteen minutes, versus 60-90 a real timesaver.

So how does this change the way we think about buying airline tickets and traveler services? In the future, users could conceivably buy their air ticket using their phone at a convenience store, like a “7-11” with such readers. Or, how about when you check-out of the Aloft hotel and on to your next city and appointment?

For more on NFC here’s a link to Oracle’s site and definition with cool
graphs too.  http://alturl.com/d2f92          

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Business Travelers Will Welcome “Rapid Battery Recharge” Technology


If I were to create a list of pros and cons associated with my use of mobile technology, I could sum up my cons on a cocktail napkin. My top three cons are: short battery life; running out of battery juice when I most need it and the amount of time it takes to recharge my mobile phone/laptop battery. Living in an “instant gratification” world, I’ve often pondered the possibility of a new “flash recharge” technology that would give you the ability to recharge your battery in a matter of seconds vs. hours. Well, thanks to the folks at MIT and other progressive scientists, I predict that we’ll enjoy the benefits of this technology within the next few years.

Based on a MITnews article published back in 2009, scientists have been tinkering around with new, state-of-the-art lithium rechargeable batteries that have very high energy densities. Using a new power processing technique, scientists manufactured a small battery that could be fully charged or discharged in 10 to 20 seconds (it normally takes an average of six minutes to fully charge or discharge a cell made from traditional materials).

Imagine walking up to a “flash recharge kiosk” at an airport or hotel lobby. You connect your device, and in the time it takes to watch a 30 second Kony-sponsored video commercial, your battery is fully recharged. I look forward to that day…

~ Theo Szymanski

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Emerging Payment Technology Trends for the Business Traveler


What would travel be without your trusty credit card in your wallet to pay for your airline tickets, hotel stays, car rental, meals and other expense while on the road?   Evolving payment technology may soon change how you use that credit card and interact with merchants when you travel.  Banks, e-commerce money transfer services (i.e., PayPal) and now Google are aggressively changing how payment transactions are taken and made.

Traditional credit card transactions are made by swiping your credit card at a merchant’s cash register (point of sale terminal) or providing your credit card number over the telephone to the merchant who manually enters it into their terminal to process the payment.    This current process works well but is not without limitations and compromises.  These compromises include:

 For the merchant –

  • A need to establish a merchant account with a payment service to accept credit cards and pay a fee to that service which is typically a percentage of  the transaction plus an additional fee.  This can be quite costly for small vendors who do not process sufficient volumes to get the best rates.
  • Merchants are typically tied to their cash registers and credit card terminals which makes it difficult for them to be where their customers are, like a conference, sporting event or even the middle of a crowed airport terminal.
  • Mobile credit card terminal solutions are bulky and cumbersome.

 For the consumer/business traveler –

  •  Often need to carry multiple credit cards which can be bulky and cumbersome
  • Credit cards expose sensitive information that can be stolen and misused like the actual credit card number or personally identifiable data that can be used for identity theft.
  • Not all merchants accept credit or debit cards due the inability of the vendor to have a credit card terminal with them in cases like: a roving hot dog and beer vendor; mobile kiosk; independent contractor or door-to- door salesman.

 The latest payment technologies address these limitations and are moving us closer and closer to becoming a cashless society.  A great example comes through the use of the smartphone as an inexpensive on-the-go credit card terminal.  This enables almost any vendor to accept a credit card – whether they are selling travel pillows in an airport terminal, umbrellas on a rainy day inNew Yorkor the Peanut Vendor who wants to sell you that $6.00 bag of peanuts at the ballpark.  The smartphone has significantly driven down the cost of mobile credit card terminals and made them easily available to any merchant – big or small. 

 Another alternative for making and processing payments is PayPal, which is a very well established payment service that allows a registered user to make and accept payments for merchandise services.  Transactions are facilitated through PayPal via the use of your e-mail address and a secure password.  PayPal brokers the payments from bank accounts and credit cards without the user exposing actual credit card or bank account numbers, giving additional security and consumer peace of mind.

 Further building on the convenience of smartphones for accepting credits cards is a fantastic service like Square ( www.squareup.com ), which allows anyone (businesses and consumers) to accept credit cards without needing to be an official credit card merchant or even being a business!    What makes Square such a brilliant service is simplicity – simple sign-up process, simple and slick smartphone app (iOS and Android) and a simple and clever card swiping mechanism that plugs into the headphone jack on  your phone.   Square is ideal for anyone who wishes to make or receive credit card payments.  I, for one, ran a great yard sale recently and was able to accept credit cards which really helped make more sales without the typical haggling that happens at these types of events.  Beyond my yard sale example,   the service is a tremendous business tool for small businesses or independent contractors to accept credit cards.  Another clever use is when you’re stuck paying the bill for you and your buddies at your local watering-hole.  You no longer have to hear your buddies say they will pay you later because they don’t have any cash – after you pay the bill you whip-out your smartphone and Square reader and take each buddies’ credit card payment. 😉

 At some point in the future physical credit cards will be a thing of the past.  Google, for one, is deploying Near-Field Communication (NFC) technology as the key component of their Google Wallet service.  Google Wallet combined with NFC allows virtual versions of your credit cards to be stored securely on your smartphone, and with a simple tap and use of a PIN, payments can be made wirelessly to the merchant.  Although NFC is not exclusive to Google or its exclusively limited payment services, Google is one of the major players in addition to other major banking institutions endorsing and promoting this technology as the future of payment services.

 New technologies are quickly evolving and changing how we pay and get paid for things.   So the next time you pull out your wallet and look at your credit cards, think about a future when that plastic may just be a thing of the past.

 ~Jim Hetzel

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Personalizing the Online Booking and Business Travel Experience


It never ceases to amaze me how intuitive sites like Amazon.com, LinkedIn and Google can be.  Based on my buying habits, my network of professional associates and my search history (respectively), I am served up information that is literally tailor-made for my persona. I’m sure you’ve experienced situations where LinkedIn displays a list of “People You May Know” that is eerily accurate. These types of highly personalized experiences are now starting to enter the online travel shopping and booking domain.

Until recently, your online travel profile has contained fairly standard data elements like address, seating preferences, loyalty numbers, etc. Some clever online booking tools (OBTs) are now starting to expand the traveler’s profile to include personal preferences. Let’s say that: you’re hooked on Starbucks; you love to jog in the morning; and you prefer a westerly facing hotel room to avoid the glaring morning sun.  While you’re planning a business trip to San Francisco, your OBT lists ten properties that fit within your corporate travel policy – great! But wait, it gets better.  Two of those properties have a Starbucks cafe in the lobby and are conveniently located next to picturesque jogging tracks – perfect!

Our own (Trondent’s) TravelGUIDE, a free AirMAIL supplement, has been offering this level of personalization for some time now. You’ve had a hankering lately for Italian food? No problem. Just configure your “cuisine settings” accordingly and TravelGUIDE lists all Italian restaurants within close proximity to your hotel.

I guess we all strive to achieve a work-life balance. As business travelers, why shouldn’t we also strive for a policy-personalization balance?

~ Theo Szymanski

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Air Travel 2050: Airbus Concept


One of the most fascinating discussion topics related to business travel technology is the future of aircraft design which is often overlooked when we focus on social, mobile and distribution/content developments. So for now, and while we are waiting for Boeing’s commercial rollout of their 787 Dreamliner, you are invited to put on our creative seat-belt and take a look into the future.

Know my co-bloggers here are huge Star-Trek fans, so I can only hope this will make you jump and shout out loud “…beam me up Scotty!” Checkout the video link below and see what Airbus shared at the world famous Paris Air show this week. 

Safe travels…Michael Jacques 

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