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Saturday, December 16 News

Living with Technology / Travel technology marches on

I’ve written in the past about travel technology, especially flying.

Over the Thanksgiving holidays, I traveled by plane and saw two items that were interesting.

First, for those who fly, we’re familiar with the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) security checkpoints. You know the drill. Put your luggage on the belt, remove your laptop computer, shoes and belt. Put your loose change in a bowl and send everything through the scanner.

Much of this is a manual process, including putting the trays on the belt, moving the trays forward through the scanner and moving the empty trays from the end of the belt back to front of the belt where passengers can use the trays again.

Well, much to my pleasant surprise, at LaGuardia’s Delta terminal last week, I found that much of this has been automated.

Instead of having to push the trays into the scanner, once the trays are filled, the traveler simply pushes the trays forward onto a conveyor belt that moves them into the scanner. This is a nominal change, but does seem to move items and people along.

Of a bigger note was that as the trays come out of the scanner and passengers retrieve their possessions, the trays drop off the end of the conveyer belt onto a stack that is lowered under the belt and automatically moved back to the front of the line.

This frees up TSA staff to focus on inspecting carry-on baggage rather than moving empty trays.

Moving empty trays is a simple task and it’s good to see it automated.

Second, as in flight entertainment continues to evolve, I’ve noticed that most airplanes do not have screens in the seats in front of you.

Instead, the airlines rely on passengers to bring their own smartphones, tablets or laptop computers instead of using the airplane equipment. Entertainment is delivered via WiFi on the plane.

On tablets and smartphones, the entertainment is delivered by an app for the airline. For laptop computers, this is delivered through a Web browser.

The obvious benefits to the airlines is the lower costs, from not having to install or maintain the in-seat screens, but also the lowered weight that they don’t have to fly around the country or world.

For passengers who don’t have the requisite computer for the entertainment, the airlines have a box of tablet computers that they can provide to the passengers.

While neither of these will relieve the stress of modern day travel, they are welcome improvements that continue at a rapid pace.

Mark Mathias is a 35-plus year information technology executive and a resident of Westport, Connecticut. His columns can be read on the Internet at http://blog.mathias.org. He can be contacted at livingwithtechnology@

mathias.org.

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