What if... Travel

With British citizens collectively leaving the UK 72.8 million times last year to visit overseas destinations, our sense of wanderlust shows no sign of abating. In fact, our desire to broaden our horizons is increasing by 3% year on year according to the Agency of National Statistics.

This increase in migrating humans has increased the strain on travel pinch points like airports, transportation and accommodation. These problematic disruptions of the status quo can often lead to hugely disruptive solutions that are born of frustration and can change an industry forever. So what can we expect if we apply a little blue-sky thinking to the way we move around our planet, and if you believe Elon Musk, potentially others.

‘Siri I really need a break’.

Searching for travel inspiration is the fun bit. Booking the flights, accommodation and hire cars can often be a laborious and sometimes painful experience. The rise of the Digital Virtual Assistant (DVA) will soon change this. What if you could you upload a range of ‘Life Preferences’ to Alexa or Siri and allow them to make highly educated decisions for you? What if you could say ‘Siri I need a break’? Siri would draw data from your browser or PInterest activity to understand where you would most like to travel. This could be based on not only destination data, but also food, arts and even music data. This data would allow the personal assistant to not simply book another holiday, it would curate a highly tailored travel experience.

For example, it might suggest a week in the Nappa Valley, with winery visits and wine tasting sessions. It would make reservations at The French Laundry for lunch. It hires a convertible 1960s Ford Mustang to allow you to explore the vineyards. Why? The DVA knows that you like warm weather because you commented about it on Facebook. It knows you like America because you pinned pictures of California and vintage American cars on Pinterest. It knows you would like the Ford Mustang specifically because you watched the movie ‘Bullit’ on Netflix 5 times. You also repeat purchased several bottles of Alejandro Bulgheroni Cabernet Sauvignon on winestore.co.uk and you also Googled recipes by Thomas Keller for a dinner party you were hosting.

The DVA would use data from your personal bank accounts and previous spend activity to define a budget for the flights and accommodation. It would you use your ‘Life Preferences’ to select a boutique hotel with a pool and spa because it knows from your gym subscription you like to swim and have an occasional massage. By accessing your calendar app it would analyse what dates and stay duration best fits in with your hectic schedule. The DVA curates all the elements and presents you with the pre-packaged experience, you just say have to say ‘book’.

Peace of mind.

In the current social climate security is front of mind for most people thinking about travelling. The increase in terror related incidents has made people think long and hard about where and how to travel. This ongoing problem is not just affecting the travel industry, it often has a negative impact on the economies of the 'high-risk' countries that often rely heavily on the tourist trade.

With this in mind, we are constantly striving for improved ways to increase security checks, but reduce the time they take. Although, 92% of passengers did agree that any inconvenience caused by the security screening was acceptable. Non-intrusive innovations like retina or facial recognition have been around a while, as have smart passports with microchips embedded inside. But how far away are we from actually being chipped ourselves. What if you could walk into an airport and the biotechnology could automatically pick up your personal signal, confirm it with facial recognition from CCTV and auto-check you and your luggage in without you having to queue at a desk. You simply drop your bag on a conveyor and use your thumbprint to allow it to be tagged. Your location in the airport is then tracked via the chip to improve both security and efficiency. This would also provide valuable data relating to passenger (and staff) behaviour, allowing us to design better airports with more intuitive and efficient user experiences. That's if airports still exist in the future...

78% of people support the use of driverless vehicles provided they are safe and resistant to cyber-attack.

Personal mobility means the sky is not a limit.

How humans physically get from A to B is in a constant state of evolution, but there hasn't been a huge leap for a long time. As we strive to commute quicker, more efficiently and in more comfort, technology is slowly starting to unlock amazing possibilities. Companies like Elon Musk's SpaceX and the Hyperloop One by Virgin are on the verge of significantly disrupting travel with huge leaps forward in mass transportation. With drone technology being successfully scaled up by Volocopter, Airbus’s Autonomous Skies project, and Uber Elevate to create autonomous vehicles, we can not only use our roads more efficiently, but we can all now take to the skies. The small 'Jetsons' style four seater vehicles would be the size of a family SUV, and could soon be hailed to the home via personal mobility apps that would work in a similar way to Uber. They would pick us up at home and fly us straight to work or equally a destination anywhere in the world. They are autonomous so require no pilot, and would be charged using renewable energy sources like wind and solar whilst in transit. They would also have zero emissions and be much safer (a recent survey foundc78% of people support the use of driverless vehicles provided they are safe and resistant to cyber-attack).

This approach would potentially see the demise of the airport or any transport hub for human transportation in the future. This not-too-distant tech will also increase the need for improved freedom of movement laws and increase the demand for innovations in more fluid security measures.

The personal jet pack which has been a future vision of personal transportation since the 50s is only now starting to become a reality, as is the hoverboard as imagined in the classic 1989 movie – Back to the Future II.

Making languages universally understood.

We already have apps that can visually translate text on signage using the camera on our smart phones, and translate audio in realtime to enable anyone to have a multilingual conversation. Using our ‘Life Preferences’ via the biochip would allow NFC technology to instantly present us with digital information in our native language or even our regional dialect.

Money makes the world go round.

There has always been a debate around a single global currency and whether or not it would damage the macro economic processes of individual nations. I believe people are less concerned by what currency they are using, but rather its value and range of acceptance. Digital payment systems like ApplePay and PayPal mean we can now transfer funds and make financial transactions easier and safer than ever before. The increasing adoption of contactless technology is fast pushing us towards a cashless society, as the need to carry physical currency is decreasing and credit and debit card use also on the decline. Pioneering retailer Amazon have already introduced Amazon Go a futuristic autonomous retail experience that at no point requires you to physically pay for the goods you buy. How long will it be until the act of physically paying becomes as obsolete as Blockbuster Video? Worst case, you will soon be using your thumb print to settle your bill wherever you go in the world, if you don't already.

Approaching a luggage free future.

How many of us stock up on new clothes, consumables and various other items just for a holiday, then store them away when we return home?

Services are beginning to emerge where we can have consumables shipped directly to our residence abroad to avoid the problem of decreasing luggage allowances. Is this the next step towards luggage-less travel? Could we soon have an appropriate selection of clothing waiting for us at our destination tailored to fit. It would be a subscription model and you would only ever hire the clothing you need, for the duration of your stay. Why purchase a big winter coat for a two week Canadian trip and have to increase your luggage allowance if you live in Spain the rest of the year? An autonomously selected wardrobe would be based on previous clothing purchases and online activity data. This could also work for self-catering holidays with kitchen cupboards pre-stocked based on previous shopping app data with services like Ocado.com in the UK or your local equivalent in your home country.

This approach would increase the speed of airport management as there would be no need to load and unload vast amounts of luggage. It would reduce the weight of aircraft, which reduces fuel consumption making other fuel options more viable as aircraft sizes would reduce. This would then reduce emissions and ultimately cost.

Humans as a platform

By storing our ‘Life Preferences’ on a biochip implanted under our skin, it would allow us to develop technology to read our data, providing tailored services in retail environments, transport hubs or in hospitals. The next natural step would be to have an actual Digital Virtual Assistant built into our body; reading our thoughts like a onboard computer. Ultimately making the human body a platform with a UI.

But let’s save that for another blog.

If you enjoyed this blog you may also like to read What if… Cities and What if… Cars.


Written by Darren Scott,
Creative Partner and Founder of Truth Creative