I recently made a comment in a thread on future developments in bio technology with the view that I already consider myself to be technically augmented. Thanks to my mobile and its always-on connection to the Internet I have access not only to global human knowledge, but to my social circles and situational as well as location based information at the point of need.
Actually, that’s only true most of the time. When traveling, although there are some exceptions, that augmentation of mine is cut off. I become disconnected – and it hurts.
I’m writing this while on a train, which is one of the more positive traveling experiences. My mobile is connected throughout the trip, and if the train company offers WiFi (or I bring my mobile broadband) my laptop is as well. Since the train manages to arrive at my destination without needing my constant attention and guidance, I can also write blog posts like this one. Let’s claim that trains fulfill two of the three needs I’ve identified as being important when traveling – and let me get back to what they are in more detail later.
Tomorrow I’m going to catch a plane to Munich, where I will participate in a panel on Thursday with a topic related to this blog post. I fly quite a lot. When in an air plane, being connected becomes more complicated. We’re told to turn our mobiles off (with dubious motivation, but that’s a topic for another time) and to only use non-wireless equipment while in the air. To be fair, there are some airlines now offering in-flight WiFi, but it’s still an exception. I’d say flying currently only fulfills one, maybe two, of the three needs we have when traveling.
The conference I’m going to be at is Telematics Munich, an event focusing on the in-car digital environment. I like cars. I’ve had a driver’s license for about 18 years now and for most of that time I’ve commuted daily by car. For traveling, it’s a strange environment. While passengers in a car have a similar experience to passengers on a train, it’s quite hard to be connected as a driver. There’s no problem with the actual connection to the Internet, but since constant attention is needed to stay (safely) on the road there’s a struggle of concentration. Some research claims that the dangers we associate with using mobiles when driving is actually due to the shift in attention, and while headsets and voice commands allow us to at least have our hands free it’s still not optimal, and this is an area where I project a lot of future development to take place (not only self-driving cars, as is being researched by our friends at Google). Driving, currently, can be said to barely fulfill a single one of the three needs we have when traveling.
In my view, those needs are:
1) Being connected [to the Internet]
2) Having available attention [to act upon events]
3) Reciprocating information [about the travel itself]
This third need is barely being tapped into at the moment, and this is where I see very fertile grounds for new ideas and new business opportunities. One of the first well executed solutions I came in contact with was Waze, the crowd sourced navigation service. It feels quite natural that it’s the current speed with which you can travel on a specific road that’s important – not the speed limit or historic data. The current road conditions being easily crowd sourced from the very ones currently traveling on that road, and easily collected through their Internet connected mobiles.
But what about all the other dynamic conditions around us when traveling? Seatguru helps me select good seats when flying, but how can I find out where the currently shortest queue is for the bathrooms? Is there fresh coffee in the bistro on this train right now? Do I know the persons in the car in the other lane up ahead?
Let’s call it social. It’s either the perfect use of an otherwise overused term, or it’s at least the best one I could find. I want traveling to become more social, dynamically, at the point of need, where everybody reciprocates.
This is what I want to discuss in my panel at Telematics Munich. I’m currently on the first leg of a train-flight-car trip to get there.