Technology is a wonderful thing, isn't it? The possibilities are endless for what we'll be able to achieve in the future, and what we can achieve right now. Thanks to the boffins who work tirelessly round the clock to bring us the latest gadgets and gizmos. And while new apps, software, and hardware are constantly evolving and helping to grow businesses and target their desired audiences, there is one sector of the market we're particularly interested in: the use of geolocation and travel.
As long-term globetrotters, we're constantly on the lookout for developments that will make our lives a little easier. We're not Luddites either, as working as professional travel bloggers, we keep our fingers on the pulse and noses to the grindstone in the hunt for new tech which will enable us to spend more time doing what we really love to do – traveling itself. And since it became available to the public back in 1989 with the advent of the first handheld GPS device, the sky is literally the limit for how geolocation can benefit travelers.
Finding Your Way
Perhaps the most obvious (and easiest) advantage when it comes to using geolocation is for finding out where you actually are. Gone are the days of getting hopelessly lost in a big city, as simply opening any post-2010 smartphone will have that little blue dot flashing within moments. That's if the sky is clear of course. Pinpointing your exact location in a building or underground still has some way to go but it's getting markedly better with A-GPS, LBS and global WiFi database improvements.
Google Maps is pretty much the market leader when it comes to assisting travelers to get their bearings around the world, and it certainly doesn't look like losing that monopoly anytime soon. However, the likes of Maps.Me and Apple Maps are two up and coming examples offering interesting features. Particularly useful if you're traveling in China – where Google is banned.
It’s one thing to have a smartphone pinpointing your location in a city, but if you’re climbing Everest you might want something with a little more clout. GPS trackers specialized for different sports have been essential in saving the lives of travelers, deep-sea fishermen, climbers, hikers, heli-skiers and everyone in between. The ability to check in with loved ones at the touch of a button gives you and your family peace of mind and will save you getting an earful for not letting them know where you are.
The added advantage of having angels on your shoulders is priceless, however– especially if you’re going off-piste. With a subscription service, should you ever get into difficulty you simply press the SOS button and a team of specialists will converge on your location. Invaluable if undertaking any remote adventures or wandering into insalubrious locations – as travelers are often want to do.
Ten or more years ago, if someone swiped your expensive digital camera it was gone for good, and nothing dampens your travel experience more than getting stuff stolen. Or getting injured – but we’ll come to that in a moment. Now, services like Prey can cover your electrical devices, while more and more digital cameras come with built-in GPS to help you locate them should they go walkabout. And thieves can more or less forget about stealing your car – those days are seriously numbered.
Tours and Guides
If you don’t fancy paying for a tour in a new city, why don’t you just go on one yourself? Utilizing geolocation technology, apps like Detour and Field Trip will assist you with a tailor-made guide to your current location, providing you with loads of information and tips for visiting the sights and attractions – without having a really annoying voice or being stuck with someone asking too many questions.
Special Offers and Discounts
Hotel Tonight is a geolocation service for finding last minute hotel deals wherever you happen to be wandering, but the market is almost saturated with apps when it comes to finding deals and discounts on anything from a free drink to a free stay. Foursquare was the poster boy for telling your friends where you were and making some cheeky savings in the process, but now it’s also a great resource for finding the best places to eat, drink and be merry. And there are loads of apps for telling you what's going on around you at that very second - we've barely scratched the surface here.
Not the most exciting thing when it comes to travel but a necessary one nonetheless. You might opt to pick up travel insurance the regular way, or you might even consider using a new service to pinpoint where you are in the world and pay for cover accordingly. It’s done on a day-to-day basis, so while it's not great for long-term travelers like us, it's a nice option for short trips and holidaymakers. Still, what a great idea!
Traveling solo? Worry not. Geolocation apps make it even easier to meet new people than it was already! Tinder might be one that springs to mind but it has the obvious reputation as a hookup site. If you're looking to meet like-minded travelers, locals or even to find somewhere to stay, try apps like Couchsurfing, Meetup or Showaround to put you in touch with people wherever your blue dot is flashing.
Avoiding the Crowds
Waze has got everybody talking when it comes to avoiding traffic jams in real time – great if you're in a city you're unfamiliar with – or so you can direct your taxi driver to a faster route and stop the chances of you getting ripped off.
The struggle is real.
Documenting Your Adventure
Geolocation is great for keeping a record of where you've actually been, and there are some awesome apps out there for doing just that. Find Penguins takes the effort out of documenting everything while easily picking up where you're currently wandering. Set waypoints around the world and update family and friends on your travels, as well as committing your experiences to a journal that will help your failing memory when you're old and gray.
It's expected that the demand for geolocation services are going to skyrocket, so much so that it's predicted come 2022 the industry is going to be worth $94 billion. We can't wait to see what new traveler-friendly tech is released over the next few years, but one thing's for sure – this is just the beginning, the proverbial tip of the iceberg. We’re boldly going where we’ve never been before.