Srinivas Reddy’s Weblog

My Tech Rants

Mobile user notes of a Tourist

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Having recently come back from a short vacation in London (UK) I would like to share some of my thoughts on Mobile usage status and needs as a Tourist in this blog.

– Before our trip we were doing some research on places to visit in London so as to optimize time and cost. Having consulted with some London resident friends, visitors and online travel sites we had come up with a initial short list on paper. I wanted a digital version of this list (kind of Tour itinerary)  with map integration to show location details. Basically during research stage I was navigating different websites (travel sites + Google maps) to arrive at a list of places to see. Ideally I would have liked to consolidate this list, get it pushed to my mobile device and provide offline access. Kind of briefing book interface of this content would be great. In reality it was a pretty inefficient process (add stress factor) to actually visit planned places and my expensive mobile was under utilized due to the expensive roaming charges. Considering the number of people who have a similar need there may be some business opportunity for a techie here …

-  I understand Google Maps offers some way to mark (star) locations that you can reuse, I was trying to star locations on the map (based on where I am) from Mobile device but looks this feature is not enable. I know they have some feature to help you track your movements remotely but that is not what I wanted (think of the roaming costs!)

– I tried to use the Google Maps street view but found it as a good idea but still practically useless, at least the current implementation on the mobile device (am using Android HTC Desire).  I found the need a few times that I need some visual assistance (kind of augmented reality support) to go a place from where I am.  I know there is a app for that but possible trying to startup a different app for each need is something even a techie like me had not done naturally

– I was trying to use Foursquare to check-in at some locations and get some tips. The data quality and interaction speed was so poor that I gave up after a few tries.  I was actually looking for some kind of location history (details for a tourist spot I am currently at) and info on other interesting sites nearby. Yes my travel guide provides this information but my “smart phone” can make this process more enriching and fun

– We found out it can be difficult to locate and meet people even knowing they are pretty close by. There should be easy way to share location information and guide the user to the shared location. I know given the accuracy of our GPS systems this is asking for too much but the mobile networks know enough to provide a good enough approximation.

– The biggest hurdle to mobile data usage is the roaming charges. This is still far too expensive currently for tourists. Given the promotion budgets of Governments’ & local businesses to attract tourists, its amazing that the only innovative business model for free Mobile internet usage is to go to Starbucks. At some locations open Mobile Wi-Fi networks were available but did not work at least for me.

– There were lot of promotional offers  with complex pricing models (be it for using the public transport, visiting tourist spots, hotel stay,..). It would be interesting to have a Groupon like service which not only makes last minute offers but also helps optimize standard tourist needs

– It was helpful to use Mobile to locate nearest food joints (the user interface can be better). Use of mobile search and usage of user reviews has arrived

– SMS based messaging is still the killer app for mobile. Given the noise level in London subways it was the best way to communicate. Expect this will be the case for most big city tourists but can imagine instant messaging may also be helpful (if only we can get most users to one system, Facebook?)

– I was impressed by the wealth on knowledge at the Natural History Museum. It is a bit sad that you have to be physically present there to experience this. Given the current E-Learning technologies creating virtual tours for the remotest of schools in the world should be feasible. Actually it was notable how understaffed the museum was, considering the looming British budget cuts this can only get worse. Mobile technologies may help to augment visitor experience in a efficient way. Every object in the museum had a great story to tell (be it the Dinosaur skeletons or the many rock samples…) if only we can make them smart enough to tell their own story and enable the visitors to engage with them in a whole new way…

– Last but not least I had to visit the Apple store to experience it first hand. It was amazing to see people still waiting in queues for hours to buy the iPad. I am convinced mobile internet is here and hopefully we will see mass market data charges sooner than later. The apps to make Tourist experience more rewarding will come Smile

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Written by srinivasreddy

April 16, 2011 at 4:47 am

Posted in Mobile, Technology

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