These unprecedented times are forcing the travel industry to reconsider the way it operates. Innovations in travel technology, and their speedy implementation, will be paramount to the success and continuation of the travel industry.
Fortunately, travel tech startups are working hard to offer innovative ways in which the sector can restructure to provide safer travel, both during and after COVID-19. We take a look at some of the ways this is happening.
Facial recognition technology
Already utilised in passport control processes, facial recognition technology requires a traveller to gaze into a camera as the immigration gate scans their passport. Pre-COVID, this biometric artificial intelligence has proved revolutionary, saving passengers and airport staff time and effort.
However, this technology is now on course to transcend merely airport usage. The same identity verification (much like Apple ID) that allows us to traverse through airports might soon be found in hotels to improve the customer experience further, keep physical contact to a minimum, and increase security.
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Of course, optimising security is a crucial aspect of this travel technology by allowing authentication of each guest’s photograph through a vast database. This could aid staff, making them aware of any prior run-ins with the law, or undesirable behaviours, as well as pre-empting their customer’s needs and preferences.
Big data and AI
Using biometric data is one way of harvesting ever more information on citizens, which, scary as it sounds, carries enormous advantages for the travel industry.
One fundamental way in which AI could prove to be hugely helpful in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 is through touch-less medical testing. One company with a potential game-changer is SymptomSense.
Its new technology could allow passengers to walk through a security-gate-esque contraption, and in a mere 5 seconds, produce a report detailing the person’s temperature, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and even their respiration rates.
Of course, as is a typical function of big data, this information would be stored in the passenger’s record and possibly made available to hotels and other tourism providers to assist with their screening process.
In Hong Kong, a live trial is taking place using a full-body disinfection process. Travellers are exposed, for just 40 seconds, to photocatalyst technologies and ‘nano-needles’, which can exterminate a virus lurking on skin and clothing.
As the robotics industry continues to develop in Southeast Asia, many startups will be looking at how to ease the pain of the travel industry through their products. Already in Hong Kong and Philadelphia airports, robots are employed disinfecting and cleaning. Other countries are likely considering going down this route too.
Singaporean robotics firm GleeTrees will be hoping to see the implementation of their AI-based robots for the processing of travel data in Airports. The Gleematic software automates the translation of documents which will speed up processes in travel hubs and hotels, ensuring data is collected accurately. The company attended the China Hotels and Travel Alliance (CHTA) organised forum in China in November last to discuss the possibilities for the hospitality industry.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
Many of us already enjoy the conveniences of IoT, possibly without realising it. As with the technology used by Amazon’s Alexa, the internet connects devices and appliances to the internet, allowing for easier remote control, typically via an app.
IoT will help the travel industry by centralising control of services in-flight, passengers may soon be able to alter their seat temperature, adjust the air-con, or order refreshments by merely opening up an app.
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In hotels, the same applies: a guest could pre-set their room preferences, including wake-up calls, air-con, and light dimming, all via an app.
In terms of health and safety, the clear reward here is in the reduced contact, decreasing the risk of infection.
Virtual and augmented reality
Travel tech startup Travel World VR is leading the way in virtual reality (VR) tourism. Although, far from merely allowing users to experience their ideal holiday destination through a VR headset. This travel technology aims to inspire travel sales by giving the user a virtual tour around a potential hotel or tourist destination. The company predicts that this will allow a ‘try before you buy’ experience, subsequently piquing interest and increasing bookings.
With funding in travel tech at an all-time high in Southeast Asia, raising over $1 billion USD in 2019, investments in the already burgeoning VR and augmented reality (AR) sectors in the region is likely to increase too.
The only way the travel industry will survive is by working closely with travel tech startups. Efficient medical testing, increased contactless transactions and progressive use of robotics and AI will all be invaluable in securing the future of travel.
Thanks to new travel technology, and help from governments across the world, the travel industry will indeed possess the resources to adapt to the ‘new normal’ effectively.