The introduction of Apple’s Passbook application has created waves throughout the travel industry. A highly touted feature in the iOS 6 keynote speech, Passbook is, quite simply, poised to change the way airlines and passengers interact.
However, I recently had an experience with another mobile application while travelling, and I strongly believe it’s worth highlighting.
Google Now is a new feature in the Android platform, and was introduced in Android 4.0. Google Now goes beyond the capabilities of Passbook, which simply aggregates data and information from existing applications on a user’s smart phone.
Google Now is able to gather information such as itineraries from email accounts, flight statuses, and location information, all without any interaction from the user. The information is displayed in the notification bar, and can be fully accessed by opening the application.
Beyond traditional schedule and flight status information, Google Now provides valuable local information when travelling abroad. On a recent trip to Dubai, the full capabilities of the application activated. Immediately upon locking in on my location, Google Now prompted me with pertinent location information. This consisted of language translation, currency conversion, time back home, nearby attractions, local weather, and directions to my hotel.
Even without a data signal, Google Now is still able to access most of this information, which is extremely important considering the price of international data roaming.
Voice parsing for verbal search is also done locally on the phone, and does not rely upon a server side solution like Siri, which further saves data charges.
While in Dubai, I relied on Google Now on a constant basis. It became my tour guide, translator, accountant, and travel agent, all without me having to set up a single thing.
In my opinion, the services offered to travellers by Google Now are invaluable, and go far beyond the more simplistic uses of Passbook. Give it a try the next time you find yourself in an unfamiliar place. You might be surprised at just how helpful Google Now can be.