WTM: Check-in nightmare to end

6th Nov 2006

Airport check-in queues could soon be a thing of the past for travellers because of radio-frequency identification, according to Dr. Marvin Cetron, the world’s leading futurist. Dr. Cetron, speaking this week to nearly 50,000 travel industry professionals from 202 countries at World Travel Market in London, said airport misery for millions of holidaymakers is set to end by 2010.

Future generations will enjoy a smooth transition through the airport before catching their flight.

“Already in the States, radio frequency identification or RFID is speeding cars through highway tolls, paying for fuel with a new wave of fob keys and is being used by retailers such as Wall-Mart to streamline their order systems.

“The US Government will soon build it into passports, airport check-ins and at customs, because the travellers photograph and identifying data will appear automatically on the screeners or custom agent’s computer monitor.

“If need be, a minimum of travellers can then be confirmed by biometric identification.


“Many hospitality industry observers believe that this technology will trigger a revolution in guests’ services and managerial operations alike. For example this could be extremely effective for cruise ships and large hotels and resorts.”

Dr. Cetron, who has been flown in from the States to talk about “The Next Big Thing in Travel” to the industry’s senior and middle management, said:” Part computer chip, part radio transmitter, an RFID tag can store information and respond to queries from an RFID transceiver.

“Think of it as a sort of super-barcode that can be read at a distance, even when it is hidden from the reader’s line of sight”, he said. “RFID tags can store and report almost any information that could interest a user.

“Mostly, they just identify the item they are attached to, so the shippers can track their location, much as UPS and FedEx use barcodes.”

But there are still some problems to be overcome before they change the lives of holidaymakers for good.

One is that RFID tags do not always work. Early adopters have had to cope with large numbers of defective tags. Worse still there is still not common standards for RFID systems worldwide.

“Despite these problems, it is clear that RFID technology has a bright future ahead of it for travel and tourism.”

Dr. Cetron said that many other new technologies will also dramatically change the lives of holidaymakers.

“Computerised language translation has come a long way in the last few years - it is nearly ready for consumers. By 2010 devices resembling an iPod will be capable of translating speech from any of seven or eight common languages. Tourists will no longer have trouble communicating their orders to a waiter. However, a few years after that translation will go visual.

“Something resembling sunglasses will carry sensors that can tell where the wearer’s eye is pointing and then aim a camera. The device will translate street signs, store displays and even menus into the users native language and project the translated image onto the glasses so that is appears over the original sign.

“This new technology could bring leaner times for the world’s tourist guides but it will be fantastic for tourists.”


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