Quantum Technology Delivers Ease

Royal Caribbean International’s new smartship creates a better cruise

By: Marilyn Green

<p>In addition to a skydiving simulator, Quantum of the Seas offers keyless entry to staterooms and robotic bartenders. // © 2014 Royal Caribbean...

The technology on Royal Caribbean International’s (RCI) new Quantum of the Seas is so smoothly, logically blended into life onboard that it makes returning home a bit of a shocker — you actually have to take a key and open your door. Guests on the November inaugural cruise were confronted by technological miracles; the designers of Quantum have been able to create a space where spectacular technical strides create a smooth cruise, rather than demand the focus of attention.

Take the online digital check-in. It needs a bit of time (you must create your own photo ID), but if you complete it, there is virtually nothing to do at embarkation — just collect a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) wristband that functions as your ID/room key. You can also track your own bag to your stateroom via RIFD tags, and new guests of all ages quickly mastered the Royal IQ app, clustering around the kiosks or downloading it to set up their appointments, reservations and plans.

New onboard experiences are, of course, technology-driven and incredible feats, but they seem perfectly normal within the world that is Quantum. People simply accepted technological magic and got on with enjoying features such as the North Star gondola that looks enough like the London Eye to seem familiar. And the guests trying out the skydiving simulator merely remarked that it took a lot more effort than it appeared, instead of marveling at the technology that produced the experience.

One of the life-changing features is RCI’s new onboard Wi-Fi access, satisfyingly fast and priced at moderate rates, which is expected to attract many who would otherwise not cruise, such as the huge millennial market.

“For millennials, it’s not a real vacation experience unless they can share it,” said Bill Martin, chief information officer for Royal Caribbean Cruises.

Another popular smartship feature is the Robotic Bartenders at the Bionic Bar, but even those seemed eerily familiar (I couldn’t watch them without looking around to see the alien patrons from Star Wars’ famous cantina scene). The Robotic Bartenders B1-0 and N1-C are programmed to the movements of American Ballet Theater’s principal dancer, but their shapes somewhat resemble aquatic creatures. Drinks are ordered tableside with a tablet, mixed briskly by the robots and brought to the customers by a live waiter.

Two70, the performance space, is backed by six RoboScreens that add an extra troupe of performers or coalesce into one impressive image. The room’s Vistarama transforms floor-to-ceiling glass walls into very real backdrops, shown off in the performance of the Cirque-like spectacle “StarWater.” Although the effects are dramatic, the space somehow is very friendly, and several groups remained chatting and sipping drinks for an hour afterward the show.

When you hear about the 80-inch “virtual balcony” LED screens in the inside cabins, it sounds like a gimmick. But in fact, it opens up the whole space and gives occupants a true vision of the weather and surroundings. The smartship elements also have increased efficiency and environmental responsibility; computer modeling is used to reduce Quantum’s energy consumption, including efficient hull configuration, engine design and energy saving devices.

Even the crew’s superb service has been given a boost with tablets carrying custom apps that help them track guest preferences. And those same personal tablets enable the crew to Skype their families. They can now be a part of key occasions and see for themselves how their relatives are doing. The rest of the RCI crews will also be given these tablets without charge as the technology is installed across the fleet — 40,000 personal tablets in total.

“This isn’t about technology for its own sake,” one guest said, mirroring my own thoughts. “This is technology for making things better.”


The tech that will make travel easier, more interactive and personal

Samsung Futurescape: The tech that will make travel easier, more interactive and personal

By Travolution
By Travolution

This week Samsung ran its second Futurescape technology showcase in London promoting how the travel and transportation industry will increasingly use modern devices and software.

Some of what was on show was aimed at the retail side of travel, others the more functional side. Lee Hayhurst picks out some highlights.


This virtual showroom technology has been built by Gateshead-based ZeroLight. It is already in use in car showrooms by the likes of Jaguar and Audi.

The latter has got rid of all vehicles in its store opposite the Ritz in central London. The virtual product is built electronically from the manufacturer’s design specifications and the result is something that looks and appears to be just like the real thing.

It means the product is bespokable within the limits of what the manufacturer offers so, in terms of vehicles, different colours, wheels and set ups can be instantly added.

ZeroLights says this has seen a marked increase in uptake of premium features such as sports wheels on vehicles, because the customer sees how they actually look compared to entry level options.

The firm has worked with British Airways on the design of new premium-class cabins because it allows the user to take a virtual tour before anything is decided in reality.

It says it has also had interest from cruise companies because it allows people to take a tour of a ship before committing to a holiday.

Offering virtual tours of hotels is another obvious potential use of this in travel, although it does require a certain consistency of decor and design to keep complexity to a manageable level.

More excitingly the technology has been developed to work with Oculus Rift 3D virtual reality gaming headgear.

Oculus Rift was recently bought by Facebook, and the technology opens up the prospect of a customer being able to almost touch and feel the product in-store as they make their decision about what to buy.


Big Touch Screen Retailing

This interactive touchscreen sales wall, using Worldline technology, is in use in Adidas sports stores, and offers customers the chance to interact and research different product options before they buy.

Graphics, video, celebrity endorsements – you name it – all are available at the touch of a screen, enabling a store to offer limitless options without having to physcially hold all the stock.

For travel the opportunties for using such responsive large screen touch responisive technology is not new – Microsoft surface has been trialled in a number of travel agencies.

But the technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated and modern retail outlets are looking to offer customers use of such gadgets to drive footfall and improve the retail experience.


Interactive Digital Promotional Screen

In the foreground in this picture is a simpler version of the above designed by Worldline to be used to drive people into your store.

Product offers and QR codes are displayed on the screen giving shoppers attracted by what it is displaying a special offer if they visit a store.

They could be placed in airports to capture travellers’ attention as they arrive or check-in to promote retail outlets in the departure lounge.

They could also be used in shopping centres, or even in large stores to direct attention to particular outlets or concessions.


Reviews At Your Fingertips

Here is the Duty Free shop of the future – or it could be any type of store.

Shoppers are using technology on mounted Samsung tablets developed by Uberated, a company which is only two months old.

It allows in-store shoppers to quickly and easily access all professional product reviews for the item they are interested in, all in one place.

This way, the consumer gets the same ‘at home’ research capability they expect when researching a product but without having to go back and forth via Google to find the relevant reviews.

Being in store, they can then order the product there and then, having had their decision endorsed by the product review they’ve read in store.

To date Uberated has been developing their technology for the selling of electrical goods like cameras and has not exploited its application in travel retail.

However, a similar use could be envisaged for travel, with retailers using the tablets to offer more information than they currently do in brochures, including independent reviews and travel articles.


Touchscreen Tour Guide

Zafire is a software firm developing solutions for the aviation industry and this touchscreen interface has been developed with airports in mind.

Travellers can access general information about their destination at the touch of a button using the graphical display.

When not being actively used by a customer, the screen can be used to promote a particular retailer or attraction.

Zafire sees these sorts of screens proliferating in places like airports with the cost of having the hardware mitigated by various ‘advertising as a service’ commercial deals.

The firm has also developed the departure board of the future, which unlike conventional departure boards do not need lots of hardware attached to them to operate.

Cloud-based, they are basically plug-in-and-go digital devices working via Wi-Fi networks, so maintenance costs for airport operators are reduced.

Because there’s never a departure board where you need one, customers can use a mobile QR code app which downloads the relevant information onto their device and updates them on their phone.

These departure boards are currently in use at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.


Biometric secure access

More of a functional application of technology this one, but Samsung technology is being used to develop the customs gates of the future.

This gate uses biometric data to recognise the passenger and allow them through based on a scan of their face.

The technology will cut down on fraud associated with paper access or any other type of physical passes.

It could be used to control access to any office or building or at any point on the journey through an airport where security checks are required.


Real-time travel advice

Turning to the world of trains now, and Worldline again, which has developed technology to allow information from the control centre to be accessed throughout the network.

The concept is that the same source of data that the central control station uses is made available to all staff so they can pass this on to customers.

As many regular train users today know, getting reliable information from on-train and station staff about delays can be incredibly difficult.

Often customers or other members of the public on the scene are able to find out what’s going on and communicate this to travellers before staff.

The Worldline software allows this information to be accessed by the relevant people on handheld touchscreen devices.

In time these will also replace the old clunky portable ticket machines guards carry by being able to scan tickets for validity and retail upgrades or replacements there and then.

Technically there’s no reason why this sort of data can’t be made available to third parties so travel agents and tour operators can give customers up-to-date advice about delays getting to and from airports.


Travel business leaders warned not to fall behind on technology

By Travolution
By Travolution

Travel and tourism business leaders must embrace the challenge of constantly changing technology or fail, according to a leading technology consultant.

Jerry Noonan, global consumer practice leader at Spencer Stuart, told the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit:

“The change in strategic importance of technology to business is a challenge for business leaders.

“It is a rapidly changing dynamic and there are countless examples of businesses that have been slow to change.”

He said: “It requires business leaders to remain curious and continuously learning.”

Noonan insisted: “It is something everyone who leads in travel needs to think about.”

“The primary purchase pattern that defined the travel industry has fundamentally changed. This is not a static moment. This is an accelerating set of forces.”

Value Retail chief executive Desiree Bollier said: “Technology is disruptive but if we don’t make it part of our business we will fall behind.”

However, Henrik Kjellberg, president of travel website Hotwire and chairman of Chinese online travel agent eLong, argued: “The consumer is just in a much better position than 15 years ago and who would want to go back?”

He added: “I sit on the board at eLong. At the start we were saying ‘This is what you should think about.’ Now I just steal everything and take it back to the US. In China they are just way ahead of everyone.”

Kjellberg also suggested: “The sharing economy will have a profound impact on the industry. It is a bandwagon and will grow. It is something technology does really well.”

Jami Timmons, president of nSight, argued: “There needs to be ongoing investment. It is no good to invest in technology and then never look at it again.”

She argued: “There is a ton of ways to use the massive amount of data in hospitality.”

Kjellberg was less impressed, arguing: “Big data does not necessarily give you big insight. It can be very costly from a time perspective. It is easy to get distracted by Big Data.”

– See more at: http://www.travolution.com/articles/2014/04/29/7752/travel-business-leaders-warned-not-to-fall-behind-on-technology.html#sthash.u27DZCJS.dpuf