Just Tap Here: Technology and Travel
2013-06-07 0:00

By Stephanie Rosenbloom | NYTimes

Goodbye, plastic hotel room key. So long, wallet. Farewell, camera.

These days you don’t need any of the above to unlock a hotel room, buy a mojito or snap a vacation photo. All you need is, well — you. At hotels like Alma Barcelona in Spain, a scan of your fingertips opens the door to your room. At Ushuaďa Ibiza Beach Hotel in the Mediterranean, you can buy suntan lotion and a sarong with a tap of two fingers. On some Disney Cruise Line ships, facial recognition technology enables onboard photographers to easily group every candid picture they take of you so that you can later browse (read: buy) them.

Like it or not, we are living in an age of human holograms that welcome us to airport security checkpoints and luggage tags capable of texting us when our bags are lost. Technology and travel are becoming ever more fused, even at hotels where for centuries the basic demand has remained unchanged: a safe place to lay one’s head. Today, your head could spin from some of the amenities. At Hotel 1000 in Seattle the rooms have infrared signals that scan and detect body heat to ensure that the housekeeping staff doesn’t knock or barge in, while at Starwood’s Aloft Hotel chain, radio frequency identification allows you to skip the front desk and check in with your smartphone instead (the chain said that more than 10,000 guests have already tried it).

Arguably, the most compelling and unnerving of these technologies is biometrics — the measurement of physical or behavioral traits to verify identity. Once strictly in the realm of spy novels and science fiction flicks, biometrics are increasingly being used by real-world hotels, resorts and cruise ships. For some travelers, it signals a new era of convenience: no more inadvertently demagnetizing your room key or hiding your wallet in your shoe at the pool. For others, it’s yet another zone that Big Brother is penetrating [...]

[...]Hotels, too, are embracing technology, and not simply by placing iPads in their rooms and lobbies. One of the most eager to adopt biometrics is the Ushuaďa Ibiza Beach Hotel. If you think an island vacation ought to consist of a quiet afternoon sprawled on a beach towel and unplugged from the world, don’t bother making a reservation there. Last year, the hotel was using wristbands with radio frequency identification technology, or RFID, which relies on electromagnetic waves, to allow guests to instantly update their Facebook status by swiping the bands against sensors around the property. New this year: biometrics status updates. Guests input their fingerprints at kiosks and from then on, sensors in the “Facebook pillars” around the property allow them to tap two fingers to update their status with messages like, “Hanging out at the Ushuaďa Ibiza Beach Hotel ... Jealous?”

Read the full article at: nytimes.com

READ: A Whole New World (Order): Disney’s RFID Tracking Bracelets

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