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The traveler's touch.
Monday, 30th June 2014
Source : Leilani Latimer
 

It's Sunday afternoon, I’ve finished checking in for my Monday morning flight, my seat is assigned based upon my loyalty preferences and my boarding pass is on my mobile phone;

I’ve also checked into my hotel and my room is assigned based upon my loyalty preferences, and the details for my room assignment are on my mobile phone.

On Monday, following a long day of flying and customer meetings, I show up at my hotel, take the elevator to my floor, am greeted by my floor concierge (live or robotic), pull out my mobile phone, place my finger on the biometric reader, open up the door and settle in to a room where my preferences (temperature, bed type and entertainment) are all exactly as I’ve specified, and I order food and drinks with my personal wallet on my phone.
 
Fantasy? 2020? Actually, all of this is closer to reality than you might think. Many hotels now offer online check in services so that guests can simply pick up their room key upon arrival, having completed all of the checking in from their mobile device.

Similarly, hotels and amusement parks are using wearable devices to replace high friction passages in the guest experience, be it for entry, auxiliary entertainment or food and beverage. And, a few hotels have already launched an app that allows you to use your phone as your room key once it has been assigned to you, while others are starting to investigate the role of biometrics beyond employee security systems, and as a part of the guest experience.
 
Today we are already familiar with a fluid check-in at the gym thanks to a fingerprint recognition machine coupled with a telephone number. Global Entry has revolutionized the country re-entry process in the US and you can zoom past long lines at immigration with fingerprint biometrics coupled with a passport scan.

It seems that the basic technology – biometrics plus another form of recognition such as a document scan or keyed in number – is available, so when will biometrics start to play a bigger part of the total travel system? When will these systems be integrated and how will that change the traveler’s experience?
 
To learn more about the evolution of biometrics and how an integrated use of them in travel might change in the future, I went to speak with Pierluigi Zappacosta, one of the founders of Logitech and founding Board Member of Digital Persona, Inc., a company dedicated to mass market solutions for identification based on biometrics.

Zappacosta has been exploring biometric technology for over 20 years; “while I was at Logitech we thought that fingerprint identification was a natural extension of our technology because it is something you can easily visualize on a mouse, keyboard or joystick. But consumer perceptions about biometrics have been centered on security, defensive identification, rather than seeing it as a way to improve experience, until now.”
 
With the release of the Iphone 5 and Samsung Galaxy 5, both with fingerprint management, consumers can now quickly authenticate their mobile devices and unlock access to applications and payments with a quick swipe of their finger.

“Surely this broad consumerization of biometrics as a way to improve user acceptance will open up other industries such as travel to similar experiences”, says Zappacosta. And, Samsung has opened this technology up to developers, so it will be easier to see an increase in applications using the fingerprint unlock functionality.
 
Zappacosta believes that with biometrics becoming more mainstream, people will no longer question the technology, but that the real change will be beyond the technology itself.  “Think about the logistical and structural changes the manufacturing industry underwent when they moved from hydro-power to electrical power, and the way they re-designed the factory around this change”, says Zappacosta. “Try to imagine the total impact of biometric technology on the industry and what kind of re-design can happen in a hotel when you no longer need a check-in desk”.
 
Airports have certainly led the way with automated kiosks and check-in points, but the actual check-in has not completely gone away, and the check-in counter space has barely been re-designed at all. With the hospitality industry, check-in is not necessarily a painful experience; hence the real opportunity is for improved use of the real-estate space.

Imagine a hotel without a check in at all; there would be more space for common areas, meeting rooms, food, beverage and entertainment which translates into a better ROI on square footage and increased opportunities for revenue generation and guest engagement.
 
So, I settle into my no-so-far off travel experience with power, information, security and personalization in my hands. 

No doubt, those who will be the first to re-design the total traveler experience around our mobile device, incorporating biometrics for authentication and security, will win the game with consumers.
 
Leilani Latimer is Head of Product Marketing for leilani.latimer@sabre.com or follow her on Twitter: @leilanilatime / www.sabre.com

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