When I first thought about creating my personal web site, what I had in mind was to create a meeting point for researchers, academics and practitioners, both from the ICT and tourism fields to discuss and share ideas about mobile solutions in general and more in particular about mobile solutions for the travel and tourism industries. Following other (existing) examples, I think we can generate good project and cooperation ideas by creating (online) discussion groups combining the vision of researchers and practitioners with the real-world knowledge of the industry. Sometimes, we researchers go too far, for we can do almost anything with technology. We need more contact with the real world, we need to get to know more and better what the real needs of the travel and tourism industries are, as well as what tourists themselves need. We need a multidisciplinary interaction of professionals. This way, we can leverage good products if we unite and share thoughts openly. This blog is an experiment in this direction.
Let me then start this first post by bringing up some trends both in the ICT and travel industries. On the one hand, the evolution of mobile devices and their proliferation in society, the advancement of communication technologies and the trend towards creating hybrid spaces (a physical environment augmented with digital information) are triggering a radical change in the way we consume information by the use of mobile devices while we are on the go. According to Cysco Systems the number of smartphones represents about 10% of the market. This figure is foreseen to rise up to 40-50% over the next 5 years. In addition, following some information from the Google Mobile Ads Blog, more than 165 million tablets are expected to be sold over the next two years. Regarding connectivity and (mobile) data traffic, by 2013 3G and high speed broadband mobile device access will generate around 80% of mobile data.
On the other hand, according to some reports by SITA, in 2015 there will be more than 1.5 billion people moving around the world. 90% of these people will be carrying a mobile device with them at all times, 60% of which will be of the smartphone type. These people will require to be connected to sources of information in an anytime anywhere manner.
Thus, the following questions arise: Can mobile devices help us detect behaviour patterns? How can we understand what travellers need? What is their decision making process? How can we help them find what they need? How can we get to better know and understand how, why and what they use their mobile devices for? Can we make their smartphone work for them? How?
We could use (there are plenty of examples) their location to provide location-based services and/or to enhance their search. We could even take into account more variables other than location such as profile, preferences, weather conditions and so on, in what it is called context-aware services, or as I like to call it contextual computing. Contextual computing has been an intensive field of research over the last 20 years. However, these kinds of systems still do not exist for the general public. Why? Is there something we can do? Are we missing something? What is it that we are missing?