Newsbit

'Smart cards': The hassle-free future of travel?

March 16, 1999
Web posted at: 1:43 p.m. EDT (1343 GMT)

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Frequent travelers dread waiting in lines. But new technologies, including "smart" credit cards that know your travel arrangements, could make getting where you're going a lot easier in the very near future.

Some airlines and hotel chains are experimenting with special cards that are embedded with microchips carrying all your travel preferences. The hope is that these new cards may soon make checking your bags, obtaining a boarding pass and checking into your hotel hassle-free.

Brian Hamel of IBM said the new technology means "every facet of the travel experience will change in the future."

The smart cards work in combination with powerful kiosks connected to the Internet. British Airways is experimenting with check-in kiosks that allow ticketed passengers, with no luggage, to select their own seats.

Singapore Airlines says its experimental kiosks can process passengers in as little as 30 seconds, as opposed to three to five minutes for a counter agent. Again, travelers who have checked baggage cannot use the ATM-like check-in process.

Automated teller machines at banks have taught consumers that machines don't always eliminate lines, but smart card proponents say 70 percent of travelers would prefer to deal with machines over people, given the choice.

Air Canada's kiosks let travelers take an inside-and-out virtual tour of the type of aircraft they will be flying.

Hilton Hotels is trying out a smart card kiosk that can issue guests keys to their rooms and maps to help them get there.

"Clearly over the next two, three, four years you are going to see some of these technologies implemented within the travel industry," Hamel said.

CNN Correspondent Rick Lockridge contributed to this report.





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