The world suffered a virus pandemic and everyday life changed. Planes were grounded, borders were closed, new measures made it mandatory to buy your food at supermarkets, schools hosting lessons online, restaurants only doing takeaway, the list goes on. The online world has also seen a shift in focus as the majority of the world’s workforce has been obliged to work from home. From day one, we have watched companies like Zoom skyrocket in popularity and Google making more and more updates to keep up with the needs of those working remotely.
Companies have also been forced to change their policies due to the pandemic. Airlines especially have been making a conscious effort to demonstrate to future travellers that it will be safe to travel once again, but what else has changed? We take a look at some of the new technology that has been introduced due to COVID-19 and how it could affect the tourism industry.
1. Is coronavirus changing the cleaning world?
Short answer, yes. New measures have been brought in by hotels, airlines, and the tourism industry itself to ensure hygiene standards are raised. There were always sanctuary measures in place but it was never a top priority – now it is. Travellers biggest concern will be catching the virus, and some may want extra assurance that more measures are being taken. Plastic screens, temperature guns, anti-bacterial gels etc have all been rolled out but what can we expect to see that is slightly out of the ‘new norm’?
Self-cleaning surfaces. Some firms, including Danish company ACT.Global, are using a transparent coating called ACT CleanCoat™ which gives surfaces an active defence against organic materials, in turn, killing viruses and bacterias.
Other companies believe that ultraviolet (UV) radiation will prove to be an effective virus killing route. The Solaris Lytbot uses far-UVC, an even shorter wavelength that is less harmful to humans and combines that with UVB and UVA rays that heat and cool to confuse pathogens.
But larger venues, like stadiums, prove to be a bigger issue. Lucid Drone Technologies have designed and adapted drones to spray disinfectant that can cover up to 23,000 sq ft (2,140 sq m) an hour. An interesting solution for all those sports fans itching to get back in the stadium!
2. Google Maps coronavirus update
Moving around has become increasingly more complicated these days. The idea behind the new Google Maps update is to show users in real-time whether a train station is overcrowded, whether buses have updated their timetable, and even COVID-19 checkpoints when driving in your car. When you look up public transit directions for a trip that is likely to be affected by COVID-19 restrictions, Google will show relevant alerts from local transit agencies. These alerts can help you prepare accordingly if government mandates impact transit services or require you to wear a mask on public transportation. The countries expected to roll out the update are Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, France, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Thailand, United Kingdom, and the U.S; with more coming soon!
3. Sahra, the sightseeing robot
Tour businesses have been pondering what can be done when tourism can safely return. With the focus turning to domestic customers and luxury VIP travel and private tours being the frontrunners, are there other options? Step up the sightseeing robot.
Although a robot tour guide is not on the market yet, companies like FAIR (Facebook AI Research), Google developing Meena, and Amazon working on adapting Alexa, it is no secret that robots are coming more and more into our lives in the near future.
But Sahra (Sightseeing Autonomous Hospitality Robot by Autoura) has been created as an AI guide and is available on the App Store now (with Android on the way). She is described on their website as “our digital human. She acts as an assistant, concierge, & tour guide while travelling at home or abroad. Sahra can take you on a sightseeing tour, suggest places to eat, and book a tour, an attraction, & event tickets for you.”
Could we see a shift in the tour guiding world? I guess we’ll have to wait and see…
4. Voice control and how it can be beneficial
This isn’t exactly ‘new technology’ with the likes of Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant more popular than ever but the existing tech can be applied to the tourism world as travel restrictions begin to ease. Before COVID-19 ground everything to a halt, it was being tipped as a big influence within the travel industry, and still is – more than ever before.
Perhaps the most important change will be how payments are taken online with the latest technology converting speech to text. With the near future seeing less human-to-human interaction, online and phone reservations are becoming more important.
The use of voice recognition technology will also help reduce the number of surfaces and screens that need to be touched, thus reducing the spread of the virus in that respect. In hotel rooms, for example, one could also use the voice-controlled smart hubs to adjust various room features; television, heating, air-conditioning, lighting etc.
Another benefit is the ability to have all your travel needs quickly and efficiently organised and without any personal contact. Amazon’s Alexa has teamed up with Expedia and you can now keep track of everything from flight information, through to hotel reservations, and you can even reserve a car from a nearby car rental store, all through voice interactions. KLM has also teamed up with Google on a slightly lighter note and the voice technology can even help you pack your bags!
5. Vibrating social-distancing necklaces
Italy has led the way on introducing this innovative way to enforce social distancing rules as the country begins to ease its stay-at-home measures. With the sounds of tourism’s doors beginning to creak open after being one of the worst-hit European countries by the virus, the new device is one way of combating further spread.
Italy’s museums and cultural sites of interest have opened again in May 2020 in a bid to recoup the euros lost during the country’s two-month lockdown. Florence’s Duomo has introduced the gadgets worn around the neck that will allow people to enter the cathedral while respecting safe distances. The Duomo has said that the devices will be handed out free of charge at the start of each visit, and will beep, vibrate, and flash if people come within a range of two metres.
Technology has quickly become a huge part of our everyday lives. With everything so easily available at our fingertips; from transferring money, booking flights, reserving cars, planning accommodation etc it can all be done from a single mobile device. Your whole trip can be planned and paid for via your phone and with the virus forcing less human interaction, technology is only going to expand and improve.
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