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Ideal travelling companions make the magic happen

Range of hi-tech wearables help to ensure the most out of visits to foreign destinations

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 May, 2017, 9:51am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 May, 2017, 9:51am

They say that planning is half the fun of a holiday but, let’s be honest, who has the time to devote to more than the basics? After stepping on board that plane, train or ship for some rest and recreation, most are happy to hand over the logistical details to some preferably unseen other, who can make the magic happen while they sip the first cocktail.

The world’s largest cruise company gets this. Carnival Corporation has developed a hi-tech wearable which acts like a personal digital concierge, using the internet of things (IoT) and a network of intelligent sensors to attend to the minutiae of vacation life.

Introduced by Carnival CEO Arnold Donald at CES 2017 in Las Vegas in January, the Ocean Medallion and companion Ocean Compass will debut this November on board the company’s Princess brand liner, Regal Princess, followed by Royal Princess and Caribbean Princess in early 2018.

The device gets to work the moment passengers book an Ocean Medallion Class cruise, conveying their wants, needs and preferences prior to embarkation, and throughout the voyage. So if you fancy a particular beverage being served to your seat at a chosen time during an on-board show, the wearable arranges it without you having to lift a finger.

Embarkation is quicker – as your passport details are already logged – and the device also does away with the need for stateroom keys. Point to point wayfinding helps guests navigate the ship, meet friends or track their food order. The list of functionality goes on and on, keeping the traveller connected throughout their voyage, including providing insights to their ports of call.

Here’s where the magic really happens: Ocean Medallion has no discernible technology – no on-off switch, no charging, no menu to navigate. Worn as a pendant or wristband, or placed in a pocket, the device can “reveal enhanced services and personalised experiences without guests having to push a button or take any action”. So pass the martini, and read my mind.

For the stylish man about town, luxury watchmaker Montblanc has come up with the perfect travelling companion. The Summit, the brand’s first smartwatch, was developed in co-operation with Google. Among its hands-free functions, airplane boarding pass barcodes can be scanned directly from the screen. Exploring a new city is made easy with turn-by-turn navigation, and should you fancy a lift, a collaboration with Uber offers access to cars. The preloaded Foursquare City Guide app has a search function for discovering the best restaurants and experiences in any city, immediately locating the user's position.

Perhaps the most useful of this luxury timepiece’s tools is its voice-activated translator. It can tell the wearer things like how to order coffee in Italian, or how to buy train tickets in Japan. The Montblanc Summit gives direct translations from many languages directly to the watch’s display.

Not to be outdone, fashion doyenne Iris Apfel has a connected bracelet for the connected woman traveller. At 95 years young, the “new face” of hybrid fashion-tech company WiseWear has designed an item of fashion jewellery that is an activity tracker – to help counter holiday overindulgence – and emergency beacon, to keep wearers safe in unfamiliar places. 

It does this by sending distress signals to pre-programmed loved ones in times of potential danger. The safety feature is one that Iris values most, stating that, “something like this can alert those who care about me if I take a flop because falling can be very dangerous, particularly when you get old in age”.

Available now in a choice of shiny finishes - palladium, rose gold and gold - it has the style and substance to warrant a place in any vacation kit.

Then, pack everything up in one of the world’s smartest suitcases, and you’re good to go.

The Bluesmart Black Edition from Britain has embedded technologies aiming to ease luggage anxiety. Its app-connected GPS ensures you can know where your bag is at all times, via your smartphone. For security, a Bluetooth-enabled smart lock activates whenever you’re a certain distance apart.

A built-in electronic scale keeps tabs on the contents’ weight – and can advise you, via the app, if it’s within the airline’s limits.

Perhaps best of all is this suitcase’s solution to the bane of every traveller’s life: a built-in USB charger with enough power to charge a smartphone up to six times.

Another luggage innovation, Travelmate, is a robotic suitcase which follows you around on your travels – you don’t have to hold or carry it. Paired to your smartphone, the suitcase has GPS tracking technology to dynamically adjust to your walking, and sensors to safely navigate around obstacles. It will respond to your voice command, or hand gestures.

Travelmate also includes a scale to weigh its contents, and two USB ports to charge your smart mobile devices. Additionally, the handle design transforms into a portable desk for using your laptop on the run.

Embedded LED flashing lights make it easy to find on the baggage carousel.  Back at home, your personal travel robot remains on duty, helping to carry your groceries and monitor your home.

Successfully crowd-funded last year, Travelmate is available in three sizes and is due to begin shipping to Indiegogo backers in July, the California company’s website says.