Category Archives: Travel

Traveling this summer? Here is a list of the latest technologies being used for modes of travel – Part 1 of 2

By Bill Owen, Founder, | April 26, 2019


Many of us will be heading out to various vacation spots this summer. There have been many technological breakthroughs and improvements in general travel, if you have not already noticed. Even if you have noticed, some of that technology you were aware of has a good chance of being somewhat obsolete already. The purpose of this post is to list out the five key modes of travel and what to expect from each currently and in the not-too-distant future.

Note: There will be a future follow-up article that will discuss additional alternative modes of transportation (Motorcycle, Bicycle, Electric Scooter/Segway/motorized skateboard, walking and others). There are a surprising number of technologies that have been applied to these as well.

Modes of travel

  • Airlines
  • Rail
  • Cruise ship
  • Bus
  • Car (Personal, Uber, Lyft, Traditional Taxi, Rentals)


There have been many technological improvements in air travel that are making the experience more efficient and enjoyable. Even within the security aspects of travel (think TSA), various solutions are being implemented to move things along more quickly and effectively, without sacrificing safety concerns.

Smart technologies have been and continue to make their presence known at airports. Delta introduced and began deploying RFID baggage tracking technology in 2016. If you have the Delta mobile app and you check your bags, you will receive a notification when the bags are on your plane. In 2018, the board of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) voted at its general meeting to develop a standard within one year for using RFID to track bags. They are focusing on rolling the technology out globally in 2020. Check with your airlines to see if these technologies are currently available.

Location-based technology has been with us for a few years already, through smartphone apps. Airports are using beacons to track where passengers are and send personalized messages directing them where they need to go. The vast majority of airlines will have this technology in place within the next few years. Security line notifications via airport sensors exchange data and send notifications to passengers’ smartphones, updating them on potential wait times or delays. This proves handy in updating travelers on best times to arrive at the airport to avoid missing a flight, etc.

In late 2018, Iris and facial-recognition gates went live at Dubai Airport. Passengers can register their biometrics and then use retinal recognition as they approach passport gates, cutting check-in time down to less than one minute in some cases.

In-flight tech is another area of interest. The FlightAttendant Health Study has an app available for monitoring vital signs, with iPhone availability only at this time. Eventually, all smartphone operating systems and apps will integrate with plane cabins equipped with sensors to measure biometric details, providing a more personal and customized experience for each passenger. A general overview of some of the key innovations coming to airlines comes from the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany that took place from March 31 – April 2 2019  and covers in-flight entertainment, temperature-controlled seats and other technology updates.




The sole long distance interstate passenger railroad in the continental U.S. is Amtrak. Virgin Trains USA provides regional intercity service in Florida. Commuter rail systems exist in more than a dozen metropolitan areas, but these systems are not extensively interconnected, so commuter rail cannot be used alone to traverse the country. Commuter systems have been proposed in approximately two dozen other cities, but interplays between various local-government administrative bottlenecks and ripple effects from the 2007–2012 global financial crisis have generally pushed such projects farther and farther down the tracks, or have been completely shelved. The most prominent exception to the lower numbers of passenger rail transport in the U.S. is found in the Northeast Corridor between Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston, including significant connections in Connecticut and Massachusetts. The corridor handles frequent passenger service that is both Amtrak and commuter. New York City is known for its high usage of passenger rail transport, both subway and commuter rail (Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad, New Jersey Transit). The subway system is used by one third of all U.S. mass transit users. Other major cities with substantial rail connections include Boston‘s MBTA, Philadelphia‘s SEPTA, and Chicago‘s elevated system and commuter rail system Metra. The commuter rail systems of San Diego and Los Angeles, Coaster and Metrolink, connect in Oceanside, California. The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) has been a very reliable and popular mode of transportation for over 45 years.

So currently, there has been a long history of interstate and intrastate train activity in the Northeast region of the US, with primarily local commuter upgrades and expansions in many larger cities across the nation. Amtrak may hold its own for awhile, but there has been a change in the blueprint for train travel for many years now for most of the country. There have been areas of some technology upgrades to existing systems, but nothing of widespread significance. Amtrak is looking to modernize and speed up its trains in the Northeast region, the busiest U.S. rail corridor. It remains to be seen if it will be able to compete with the likes of the following companies nationwide (in the next section) that have current or upcoming transit activity/availability, including an emphasis on future technologies. Reinventing and resurrecting a once thriving mode of travel is still possible, and many of the brightest minds/entrepreneurs are betting on it for the future as a key optional choice for the public.

Recent updates and Future Rail

Hyperloops have been attracting a lot of attention. There has been a noticeable competition between Elon Musk of SpaceX and Hyper Loop Transportation Technologies. A concerted focus is on for creating a working hyper loop network that would transport passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes. In early 2018, Hyper Loop Transportation Technologies signed its first US Interstate Agreement between Cleveland and Chicago. Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Group is also interested in the future of high-speed rail in the US. Last year Virgin Trains USA, formerly Brightline, the high-speed rail company owned by Branson’s Virgin Group, opened its first rail line between Miami and West Palm Beach. Reviews have been positive, and the company has already committed to expanding its service north to Tampa and Orlando, with a second line slated to open in 2021. Last year, the company also acquired XpressWest, a high-speed rail project connecting Southern California to Las Vegas. That service is planned to begin in 2022. Branson believes that high-speed rail may be able to fill in the gap between long distance flights and car commutes in the US.

California, Oregon and Washington have already committed to funding for creating/exploring a publicly-financed high-speed rail system.


Cruise Ships

Technologies now used on cruise ships:

  • Remote check-in
  • Radio frequency technology
  • Intelligent navigation
  • “Smart” dinner reservations
  • High-speed video streaming
  • Geo-locate your children
  • Wearable credit cards
  • Personalized pampering
  • 3D printing and other high-tech activities
  • Instant social media shares

The cruise ship industry does not appear to be slowing down. Quite the contrary. According to statistics from the Cruise Lines International Association, the trend for cruise ship travel will continue to have an impressive growth profile, as they are at a record high. In their 2019 Cruise Trends and State of the Cruise Industry Outlook, trends that are impacting cruise travel are very positive and overall global economic impact details are listed. Most of the cruise lines are incorporating smart technology, including key chains, necklaces, bracelets, apps and more, offering a very personalized travel experience on and off the ship.

Generation Z is set to become the largest consumer generation by the year 2020—outpacing even Millennials. This generation, like the one before, prefers experiences over material items and is seeking out travel. Gen Z’s  gravitate toward visiting multiple locations and having a unique experience, such as headliner music and comedy attractions. High tech is a given, so cruise lines are providing the expected.

According to Cruise Industry News (January 2, 2019) and their Cruise Industry Trends for 2019, Princess Cruises continues to roll out its OceanMedallion platform, the cruise lines are working hard to upgrade connectivity and provide new apps and digital experiences for passengers. Ocean Medallion can also help parents keep an eye on where their children are at any given time.

Royal Caribbean Cruises is utilizing facial recognition to get passengers onboard the ship within 10 minutes of arriving at the terminal; while on the new Celebrity Edge, guests can use an app to turn stateroom lights on and off and even unlock the door.

At MSC Cruises, a personal assistant, Zoe, was debuted on January 31, 2019. Zoe launched on MSC Bellissima on March 2, 2019 in Southampton and will roll out on every new ship that launches, including MSC Grandiosa, which debuts in October 2019, and MSC Virtuosa in 2020.

MSC Cruises’ wearable bracelet allows monitoring in real-time and to check where kids are at any moment. The kids’ bracelets interact with the thousands of sensors on board so that you can find them in any of the ship’s public areas (cabins not included) in seconds.

Passenger-facing apps and connectivity solutions will continue to be hot topics.



Interstate & Intrastate

The most recognized long distance bus line is Greyhound. Greyhound offers free WiFi, personal power outlets, reclining leather seats, extra legroom, no middle seats, overhead storage, and restroom. In rural areas in the heart of the US, travelers will come across other bus providers. Trailways is a network of 70 independent bus companies. Free Wi-Fi, power outlets, a restroom, air conditioning, and reclinable seats are the standard on most buses today.

Megabus offers up their Megabus RIDE app that lets you choose from dozens of free movies and TV shows on your laptop, tablet or smartphone. They also have luxury double decker buses available. Florida’s RedCoach, which is known for its premium bus rides offers High-speed Wi-Fi, power outlets, restrooms, air conditioning, GPS tracking, security cameras and lap trays on all Classes. On RedCoach First & Business Class, amenities include Reclinable leather seats (140 degrees), footrests, LCD screens. First Class only: Snack boxes.

Mass Transit (Intercity and Intracity)

Mass Transit ridership has declined over time. What happened? Over the past few decades the clearest cause is this: Transit providers in the U.S. have continually cut basic local service in a vain effort to improve their finances. But they only succeeded in driving riders and revenue away. When the transit service that cities provide is not attractive, the demand from passengers that might “justify” its improvement will never materialize.

There is also the realization of the need for a universal system to pay for public transit. There are a myriad of different payment methods among types of city and regional transportations, which complicates travel. Some countries use a single travel card that works for a train, bus, subway or tram.

Tied to the need for a universal system are upcoming technologies that are quickly gaining interest in the transit industry world-wide. One area of interest is called Mobility as a Service (MaaS), which will bundle transportation options, and you can plan and pre-pay for services. A viable use of technology, considering some of the issues previously mentioned regarding current inconveniences and the decline in ridership.

School bus

While school buses have not changed all that much from the outside, a lot has gone on in the inside over the years, and I’m not talking about screaming kids! The technology in the bus has definitely changed. Focus areas are creating a safe environment, enhancing the bus rider and driver experience and improve on the efficiency for the school bus.

  • Router (can connect up to 128 students on WiFi). Key to the connected bus.
  • Student WiFi
  • GPS and Routing
  • Driver Tablet
  • Telematics
  • Camera (Inside & Outside)
  • Student ID Cards
  • General Purpose Input/Output (GP I/O)

In short, a lot of the things that you as a student could get away with in the past, have been trimmed down a bit 🙂. The bus driver may know a lot more about any situation than you realize (good or bad). Security and safety for the students and driver has definitely been stepped-up.

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Photo: Mark Harris, Contributing Editor – IEEE Spectrum



The personal automotive industry is leading the pack when it comes to new technology innovations that we, as the public, use every day and with which we are most familiar. This is driven in large part by both customer demand and the auto industry recognizing not only that demand, but the importance of incorporating safety features/measures. Many innovations have come from the automotive industry. Over the last eight years, automotive corporations have been investing in or have acquired emerging technologies and startups at a pace not seen before.

I’m not going to list all of the available technologies, as that would easily be an article all by itself. That will be a multi-part article for the future. Some of the best recent rundowns on technology are from Autotrader in their “The Best New Automotive Technology for 2019” and also the more up-and-coming technology and futuristic-focused Digital Trends piece “Self-driving, electric, and connected, the cars of CES 2019 hint at the future

Uber, Lyft and other transportation network companies

Both Uber and Lyft, and other smaller related companies, are Peer-to-peer ridesharing that relies on geolocation/mobile app technology using GPS. They have created proprietary apps that are designed well. Alerts letting you and your driver know where each of you are located, estimated time of arrival, including your profile and the driver’s identifying information: name, car make, model and color as well as license plate number. That identifying feature alone helps assure that you are riding with the right person.

On the growth front, there has been recent Wall Street activity from both Uber and Lyft. Uber filed its preliminary S-1 on April 11, 2019, and it is reported that it will be trading in May 2019.  Lyft filed its preliminary S-1 on March 1, 2019 and they sold stock to ordinary investors starting on March 29, 2019.

Drivers for these and other companies are relying on the service for their livelihood, and investors are betting on the companies’ ability to turn a profit and be a success. Both Uber and Lyft continue to lose a lot of money paying drivers for each ride. To become more profitable, or profitable at all, both companies could cut their costs by as much as 75% by replacing human drivers with autonomous vehicles. Both companies have indicated a movement in that direction. That turn of events is looking like 10 years out, realistically. Can these companies survive until then? Uber is a much more diverse company, which should help. They go beyond ride-hailing and into food delivery (Uber Eats), freight (Uber Freight), air taxis (Uber Air) and driverless car technology. On the other hand, Lyft is more one-dimensional and focused solely on transportation. With the waiting game on autonomous vehicles in play, diversification could be the saving grace for Uber.

Traditional Taxis

Long gone are the days of hailing a taxi curbside or even calling up on a taxi main number for a pick-up.

Today hailing a cab is as easy as tapping on your downloaded app. Now you can get a taxi whenever you want, including late night, which was an issue in the past. GPS technology connects you with the driver. A comparison of some of the advantages and disadvantages of traditional taxis vs. transportation network (ridesharing) are here. The biggest issue may be the price competition with Uber, Lyft and other traditional transportation network companies. Additional information on how cab companies are addressing some of the new transformative changes in the industry can be found here. Good insight in how these companies are adjusting and surviving to remain as an integral part of transportation options.

Future of taxis

Run down on the air taxi, Bell Nexus that Uber may use for their air taxi (Uber Air) (Video)

Traditional taxi service will still be with us for some time, as they continue to adapt. However, the traditional taxi industry is being largely offset by large tech companies and automakers. Will these large tech companies and automakers strike eventual deals with long-standing taxi companies and work together? Time will tell.

Rental Cars:

One of the key advantages before buying a car is renting the same car make and model for an upcoming trip. Most of the rental companies have all new, and nearly new, late model cars. You will see firsthand how the car handles, what technologies the car has and how effectively and easily they work. October/November are traditionally the best months to buy a new car, as dealers are looking to unload last year’s models and make room for the upcoming year car models. They are motivated to sell and you can usually get a really good negotiated deal. So if you are currently, or soon to be, in the market for a new car, plan ahead and give the make/model of car a true road test before buying.

All of the technologies that are listed under the personal car section above applies here. One interesting note is that the rental car companies are going through a major change themselves. Enterprise is at the forefront of a rapidly changing car rental industry with their Enterprise CarShare program (as in ridesharing).  Expect other companies to follow suit. The competition rages on.