Business Travel 2010: A Day In The Life

Technology not moving fast enough for you? Travel to the not-so-distant future with our walkthrough of a day in the life of a business traveler in the year 2010.

April 19, 2005

11 Min Read
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Technology not moving fast enough for you? Travel to the not-so-distant future with our walkthrough of a day in the life of a business traveler in the year 2010.

6:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST)
NPR wakes you up. On the wall in your bedroom, your flat-screen monitor displays your daily schedule, the e-mails and video-mails waiting for you, and the weather. Uh-oh, there's an urgent message -- the v-mail screen is flashing red.

No bad news today, please. Today's the day you're traveling from New York to San Francisco for a face-to-face meeting with the new Chinese investors in your company. You'll shake hands and sign the deal that puts serious money in your coffers and ups your ante in the international marketplace.

Get it over with. "Display urgent voicemail," you say. The divided display screen disappears and is replaced by the face of John F. Kennedy. Through computer animation, the former U.S. President confirms that your flight is on time. Oh, that's lucky: a new aisle seat is available due to a last-minute cancellation. As a preferred JFK traveler on the waiting list for aisle seats, you can give up your middle-row seat and take the better seat. You jump at the chance. This service, offered through the relatively new ITD (Integrated Travel Department) at JFK International Airport, is a one-stop-shop for the business traveler. Having a Kennedy as your customer service rep never fails to give you a giggle.

The Ojo videophone. Courtesy of Motorola.

Jump in the shower, where there's more good news. You've gained two pounds of muscle, according to your health-monitor shower readout. Celebrate by dancing along with Salt-N-Pepa's Greatest Hits, Volume III.Dried and in your robe, video-call the office. Your assistant Terry expects your call. She's been working on a holographic model of your trade-show booth that will be the highlight of today's presentation to the investors.

"Don't ask me anything right now," she says. She looks tired. "The booth looks flat and the Chinese characters look like a collection of pick-up sticks. Do we have to have the spinning globe at the entrance? A football I can do. An 85% accurate topographical map of the world is asking too much. And don't tell me I look tired."

You stare at the screen with a look of hopeful expectation.

"Ving me back in a hour," she says. "I should have something for you to look at then." The screen darkens and then is replaced with your standard information screen.

Change, grab your tablet and luggage, and you're out the door.8:05 a.m. EST
Snubbing the streamlined hybrid Cadillac other executives ride to the airport (the car service hasn't gotten hip to hydrogen fuel-cell cars yet), you're one of the urbanites who takes pride in taking public transportation each and every time. It never hurts to save a $250 car fare, either. You beat the traffic, still hellish even with 40% of all workers telecommuting, and know you're safe even in the press of people on the subway. Like every New Yorker, you can repeat the recorded message word-for-word:

"Thank you for using New York Public Transportation. For your safety, and the safety of others, your trip is being recorded. Do not leave your belongings unattended. If you need assistance, please contact our Safe Travel Bureau at 800-"

You can even repeat it in Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin, Arabic, and Russian -- the order the recording always uses.

8:47 a.m. EST

A ThinkPad with integrated fingerprint scanner. Courtesy of IBM Corp. Unauthorized use not permitted.

Streamlined arrival at JFK Airport. Use the Ticketed Departing Passengers turnstile, press your thumb to the reader, and your RFID boarding band spits out. Luckily you've only got carry-on luggage or you would have to go check your bags. Even now they haven't figured out a way to make that process smoother. An air breather (the latest slang for travel-related employees who actually talk to passengers) still must take the bags, attach RFID tags, and time-stamp them, and passengers must still acknowledge responsibility for the contents of their luggage.

Wrap your identifying band around your wrist, and you're cleared for everyplace you want to go within the airport. Face-recognition software works hand-in-hand with the wristband as you make your way. No sneaky trying to change bands, either. There was a flurry of activity when this system was first introduced -- mostly flyers with nonrefundable fares trying the switcheroo with the bands after selling their tickets to someone else. Not a good idea. A highly publicized and hotly debated trial in 2008 ended with a mother of two small children being sentenced to eighteen months of home confinement.It's been two hours since you checked in with the office. Head through the calm airport, where the loudest noise is conversation between travelers and an occasional crying child. Gone are the paging systems for passengers. Who needs them when anyone can be found using the RFID wristband system? JFK's been redesigned in the style of the New Urbanist movement. The airport is like a small town, complete with sidewalks, open-air cafés, trees, and lighting controlled to reflect the passing of time.

An elderly woman is walking toward you wearing some kind of exoskeleton. Oh, that must be one of those bionic suits that help infirm and disabled people get around. You've seen them on the news but never up close. The woman is smiling and moving with apparent ease. Cool.

9:00 a.m. E.S.T.
As a preferred JFK traveler, flash your wristband at the Office Zone entrance and enter into its more raucous atmosphere. Here, cell phones are allowed to ring, fingers are flying across computing pads, even printers are working. Oh, look. There's someone with a pair of those ridiculous LCD glasses that were all the rage two years ago. Of course, the fact that the user's eyes are moving back and forth apparently at random while he mumbles to himself are the main reasons they fell out of favor so quickly.

As you make your way to an empty cubicle, a nine-by-five-foot baby's head appears before you, gurgling and cooing. Whoa!

"Sorry about that," says the shame-faced grandfather who apparently lost control of his 3-D photo gallery."Not a problem."

Take a seat, pull out the scrolling screen from your computing tablet and unfold the keypad. Using your thumbprint and a password, you log on to the JFK wireless network. Touch base with Terry. She's in a better mood now, and so is your in-house counsel. The last changes to the contracts are in, approved by Beijing, and waiting at the hotel. The presentation is finished and is waiting on your company's intranet. You've been e-mailed the password.

When you're not typing on it, the KeyCase foldable fabric keyboard doubles as a protective cover for your mobile device. Courtesy of Logitech.

There are still a few minutes left before your flight boards, so you wander over to the concession kiosk, grab a bottle of water and a bag of trail mix, and swipe your thumb across the scanner at checkout. The $12 you owe is automatically debited from your bank account.

10:20 a.m. EST
Board the plane. As a trusted passenger, you're among the first called and avoid the longer lines. However, this time you are picked for a random iris scan.

Holographic images in your hand. Courtesy of IO2 Technology.

Take off. Wait the obligatory ten minutes for the airline's network to become available. Slide your credit card through the device in the seat back in front of you, and you've got wireless Internet access. Run the presentation in a one foot = .5-inch scale. There's your booth, in miniature, on your lap. Terry's outdone herself.

You want to call and congratulate her, but an e-mail will have to do. After allowing in-flight cell-phone use in 2006, airlines did a quick about-face, banning cell-phone usage again in 2007. The overall reception was only slightly less enthusiastic than the ban on smoking. There's talk of re-instituting cell phones on planes when sub-vocalization technology (in which sensors detect soundless speech through nerve and muscle activity in the speaker's neck) becomes widespread, but for now you enjoy the opportunity to chat with your neighbor.

12:30 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (PST)
After you land, take Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) from the airport to the hotel. Your itinerary shows you in room 814. Bypass the check-in desk and go straight to your room. Your thumbprint gets you in. As you enter, the lights and the wall-hanging monitor activate. A general welcome message from your concierge team plays. The screen then changes to a live view of the Golden Gate Bridge. You notice you have one message waiting. Touch the screen to play it.

"Good afternoon. The restaurant you requested had no tables at 8:00. I made a reservation for five at 7:30 p.m. If this time does not work, I have selected three similar restaurants nearby that do have openings at 8:00. You can view video-presentations of these restaurants by selecting Play Videos Now from this screen. A listing of your hotel services itinerary follows."

The concierge is replaced by your listing. Good. Taxi arriving at 2:30 to take you to your business meeting. Back at the hotel by 4:30. Exercise class from 5:00 to 5:45, time for a steam, a change of clothes, and at the restaurant by 7:30. Since you have no changes, click OK to approve all. Freshen up and relax.2:25 p.m. PST
A recorded courtesy message informs you your taxi will be at the door of your hotel in five minutes.

In the taxi, you review the video mail you've sent yourself on your tablet. Names and faces of everyone you'll be meeting, plus a brief refresher course of the projects you've worked together on for the past three years. Children's names, pastimes enjoyed, and concerns you've gleaned from your conversations with each. You're armed and ready.

The Polymer Vision PV-QML5 scrolling phone screen from Philips Polymer Vision. Courtesy of Personal Tech Pipeline.

4:40 p.m. PST
You've dazzled them. Your preparations made doing business a snap. Contracts signed, you even had time to delve into the personal. You've got a date three months from now to see a Yankees game with your new partners. You bought the tickets right from your rented boardroom at the Fairmont Hotel, thanks to San Francisco's outstanding WiMAX network.

7:30 p.m. PST
Dinner.10:00 p.m. PST

3-D karaoke in Japantown. Together with your new partners, you raise a glass, then tear into a widely applauded rendition of "Octopus' Garden." You even get to play the air-drums.

1:30 a.m. PST
Back at the hotel. Call Terry at home. Tell her it's 4:30 a.m., yes you know it, and that's she's getting a 25% raise.

6:30 a.m. PST
Your breakfast arrives. Shower (the readout notes that you're dehydrated), dress, and review your bill on the monitor. Agree to standard billing procedure (American Express, bill e-mailed to Accounting and your personal e-mail account, airline and hotel miles updated), and you're homeward bound.

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