June 16, 2008

Mobile Technology Facilitates Traveling

I recently took a short trip to Chicago, one of my favorite cities in the U.S. and I’ve decided to rely less on paper itinerary and use my smartphone to manage; the end result has been quite positive. Let me share that experience:

Before the trip, I visited my airline AA.com and learned that they have a mobile friendly site simply by pointing your browser to their website (more info here); this is great to know that I can keep up to the minute update on flight status. Their website also allows you to sign-up for flight SMS text alerts. In addition, our company outsources employee travel arrangements with an agency, so my itinerary was emailed to me. The travel agency works with a service called "Virtually There" which dynamically recalls my itinerary as my trip goes on; they provide a hyperlink within the email that works for both desktop and mobile browser which makes it very convenient for me to retrieve flight number and hotel address while I am on the go. As a backup plan (in case I can't get 3G data access), I also kept a text version of my itinerary using the mobile notepad. I also setup my Nokia calendar to remind me of my flight, meeting and other notifications.

During the trip, I relied on all the mobile services above; it was nice not having to always pull out my paperwork and shuffling around to get the info I needed. I've also used Google Maps a whole-lot especially when looking up meeting locations and restaurant information. Having Assisted-GPS to identify my location within a building is a must. Google Maps application for Symbian S60 now offers "favorites" which allows me to save a location where I frequent; I could have added to favorites before the trip but it all worked out on the fly. One of our vendors invited us to a Cubs game at a nearby roof top party; taking a cab from downtown Chicago to Wrigley field at 6PM is not wise; I used Google Maps to study the traffic updates which gave me a good estimate on my arrival.

Overall, I think the advancement in mobile functionality is going great for people who frequently travels. Services like Orbitz offering travel alerts as well; which makes a lot of sense. The current state of our domestic travel is very intense; we deal with the extra long wait in security, flight delays, FAA regulations and rising gas price. Mobile technology has been a silent contributor in all of this by providing a better traveling experience. I can see this area continue to grow and cannot wait to see the day when I can check-in via mobile on my way to the airport with one-click and line up all the peripheral services like ground transportation, hotel accommodation, etc.

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