Archive for September, 2008

Interesting Eurostar error

September 30, 2008

Again booking one of my many Eurostar trips back to the UK I had this very intersting error show up.

Selecting Brussels to London using the actual drop down lists provided on the website, I attempted to book a trip, imagine my surpirse when the following website error was displayed after pressing search.

Brussles to London is no longer an option

Brussles to London is no longer an option

The error suggests that the Brussels to London route is not valid, where did it go? I’m sure that the fire in the tunnel last week wasn’t really that bad! :-)

This was not only experienced by me but also others that were trying to book as well, top tip for companies offering online booking services.

Make sure your site isn’t broken!

Lastminute Labs offer location aware restaurant booking

September 30, 2008

Lastminute labs are a small team working with Lastminute.com to develop travel applications.

Users will be able to soon receive nearby tips for food and theaters through their fonefood service which uses google gears as a platform on windows mobile devices.

Each listing shows details such as a description of the restaurant, distance from your current location, Google Map with directions, approximate cost of dining, special offers, phone number & complete address of the restaurant. You can then proceed to booking where you need to fill in details such as date of reservation, type of session whether breakfast, lunch or dinner, party size and finally details about yourself and your mobile number. A detailed confirmation SMS text message is then sent to your cellphone.

The application comes in two flavors: one for Windows Mobile browser IE Mobile with the latest Geolocation enabled Google Gears plug-in and the other one for all types of mobile browsers. The Geolocation API allows web applications to get an approximate region-level estimate of a user’s location based on their IP address as well as a more precise location based on GSM cell-ID of nearby cellular towers or on-board GPS. For other browsers, a user need to manually select and enter their location.

Visit FoneFood at m.lastminute.com, then click the “Find your location” link on the home page if you are using IE Mobile with the latest version of Google Gears for Windows Mobile. Otherwise, you can enter your location manually to get a list of nearby restaurants. To see the list of devices that support the Location feature of Google Gears, click here.

FoneFood is available in 12 European countries and gives users access to over 6,000 restaurants. If you are looking for US restaurant reservations, you may want to look at OpenTable at mobile.opentable.com which provides a mobile web interface to book tables but without any automatic location detection feature.

User generated travel content (UGC)

September 30, 2008

Many Travel 2.0 web sites allow users to feedback their own comments about hotels, arilines and holiday destinations.

But how trustworhy is this feedback. the issue with user generated content is that it is generated by people with different viewpoints and expectations.

A UGC for example could say that “the trip between the airport is long and bumpy” for perhaps a couple in their 70′s this could be true for a younger traveller in their 20′s the trip could be acceptable or even enjoyable. One person’s impression as to what is acceptable is not another’s, any system that provides feedback to users will need to ensure that the content generated is reliable and qualified.

Very easily feedback can unfairly put users off from going to a destination rather than support thier travel in any way or form.

A conversation with Worldmate

September 30, 2008

i-Travel partner Oracle and coordinator ERTICO recently spoke with Worldmate, an Israeli company that has produced the closest real world hardware that operates similar of an implementation of i-Travel would be.

Their hardware running on a mobile device acts as an assistant to business travellers, and is an impressive implementation of mobile technology and travel applications. Currently their application supports the following functionality on a blackberry device.

  • Hotel booking
  • Weather forecasts
  • Currency converter
  • World daylight map
  • Itinerary manager
  • World clocks

A subscription allows the user to access a premium service which offers real time flight status, flight schedules, travel directory, and flight alerts.

Their CEO Nadav Gur is confident that travel services and mobile devices will increasingly get closer; users will want to access travel services on their mobile device and expect that the mobile becomes a travel guardian. Despite the success of their product and the continuing uptake of their services, so far over 100,000 people have subscribed to the Worldmate application; there is still a lack of standardisation across the travel industry.

It is difficult for a company like Worldmate to connect to customers by supporting ever version of output from a hotel booking chain a standardised interface while opening up a certain amount of competition for Worlmate will also allow them to support their current user base better and offer more services to new users.

The challenge for members of i-Travel and for companies such as Worldmate is to engage the travel sector to get them to realise the i-Travel concept potential and to recognise the need of such a system.

Other challenges are the collecting and finding of information such as bus and rail information to disseminate to mobile users, there are a multitude of companies operating public transport services sometimes even in a single city. The issue is to get the multitude of transport operators to publish their information in such a way that a service such as i-Travel can be implemented fully.

More information about Worldmate can be found here and some very funny videos which even explain the i-Travel concept very well.

Realising seamless travel

September 25, 2008

i-Travel is all about trying to realise seamless travel.

Everyday we are faced with travel choices and journeys that require us to seek out many pieces of information from different sources to book our travel.

Lets take a look at a normal trip, in fact a trip that I do every few weeks or so, based on real life events. I need to go to London from Brussels on a Friday evening a family birthday party is the ultimate destination on Saturday. Thursday night I pack and go to bed, Friday loaded with luggage I’m on the train to work when I find out that there has been a fire in the channel tunnel.

I then use my mobile to surf to the Eurostar website to check the details finding out that there has been major disruption.

Getting into work I use the internet to check flights while also having Eurostar on the phone waiting for an operator to pick up, checking flights I find most are booked and the ones that aren’t are over 600 Euros, I already have my Eurostar return booked in little under a weeks time so I only need a single ticket.

I’m checking ferries as well, but all get me there either too late to get to the birthday party and while waiting for Eurostar to answer to see if there is any hope of getting to the UK by Saturday lunch time.

In this internet age we are often the masters of our travel arrangement, and thus when something unexpected happens the onus falls on us to sort out and work around solution or we are left at the mercy of an organisation that is trying to deal with 1000 of people all with exactly the same issue as you and all wanting their issues to take priority.

i-Travel aims to remove this by providing a travel assistant that is notified about the travel delay and then looks for options for rebooking your journey, and in fact is able to receive the refund from cancelled trips automatically.

An assistant that can also notify you when the next bus is arriving at the bus stop 100 metres away enabling you to keep the car in the garage that day.

Connecting all traffic services and information with travel booking and aggregators is not an easy task, like other technologies the easiest and mst obvious method is to provide a standard API or wrapper that communicates between the intelligent agent on your mobile device and a range of travel service providers.

The companies offering this service would operate under a travel eMarketplace offering services through standardised architecture to millions of uses owning a mobile device, accessing them all the time to give travel information.

There are a lot of roadblocks to overcome to achieve this vision, getting companies to sign up to a scandalised interface and use it,  designing an intelligent context aware agent, handling the multitude of exceptions that will result in the i-Travel universe.

The i-Travel project is just the first step in trying to solve these issues.


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