Have Phone, Will Travel

While traveling on a pleasure/business trip to San Antonio and Austin, I’ve discovered we are starting to reach an inflection point with regards to smartphone technology. Thanks to some great technical advances, I’ve been able to use my smartphone for many of the transactions throughout the trip, something I’ve been watching for a while. While not everything is mobile ready, some of the big ones are. We are close to becoming a mainly mobile society.

I’ve already been using mobile for payments because it’s more secure than cards or cash. Using Apple Pay, the account number presented is a token number that can only be used with my iPhone and with my fingerprint. Even if the primary account numbers (PANs) are compromised in a breach, they are worthless to the hacker. Even though I use it primarily for the security, I also love the convenience. It’s a lot easier to dig out my iPhone that pull out my wallet and card. One tap and you’re done.

It’s funny to watch the cashier’s reaction when I ask if the terminal is Apple Pay enable. Some don’t even know if it is or have never seen a mobile payment, mostly high school workers. I always take that opportunity to educate them on the security of the transaction to help belay any fears of mobile payments.

But this weekend offered some new opportunities to go mobile. Starting with my boarding pass through American Airlines, I bypassed a lot of the hassle at the check-in counter. The app kept me updated on flight status and gate changes. Even with all the agony of DFW, it made the transfer a lot easier. Landing in Bergstrom, I called an Uber and we were on our way to pick up the rental car for the trip to San Antonio.

In San Antonio, I purchased both admission and food/beverage tickets using their website and added them to my Apple wallet. When I needed to buy some more food tickets, it was extremely simple and fast to use. When it came time to head home, my friends who had Ubered to the Fair wanted to ride back to the Crossroads Park and Ride with me. The problem was that they didn’t have tokens to ride. No problem. Signed up with VIA’s mobile app and bought 3 tokens for them to show to the driver. That saved them a lot of money and time.

In Austin, I checked in using Hilton’s app and got a digital room key. When my room was ready, the app alerted me and I went straight to my room and opened the door with the app. Inside, I used another app to control the TV with my phone, a much better experience than the remotes that typically have sluggish response. When I went to work out, pull out the phone and open the door to the gym at the hotel. I think you see where this is going. Coffee and bagels after are purchased with the Starbucks app.

Several years ago. Jeff Dennes and I were looking at the potential of mobile in the life of the member. He had returned from a conference where he learned about some of the mobile techniques used in Asia. From mobile payments to mobile transit passes to mobile apartment keys, life was a much different experience there.

Mobile technology in the US has been slow to catch up, but seems to be making strides as more companies are understanding what a mobile experience should be. For the longest, companies tried to take the web to the phone, disregarding all the features available on the phone such as geolocation, Bluetooth, or NFC. The Hilton Digital Key uses Bluetooth technology to unlock the doors, requiring biometric authentication.

But, for all the convenience the technology offers there is the downside of a dead phone. Once that battery goes, you’re locked out of your room until you go to the front desk to get a traditional key card. Is that a big risk? So far, it hasn’t posed a problem for me and it’s a lot easier for me to fish my phone out than dig out the key card from my wallet. I stand more risk leaving that in the room than my phone which is almost attached at my hip.

After this weekend, I’m going to look back over the experience to see what was good and what might have been better. If anything, it’s giving me more ideas for mobile functionality.

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