Rio de Janeiro embeds QR codes in sidewalks to put tourism info literally at visitors’ feet. KLM puts your friends’ travel tips in your hands. And a Russian online travel agency sets its crosshairs on Priceline.
I don’t know how you say “slick” in Portuguese, but trust me, this is slick.
Rio de Janeiro has some of the world’s greatest sights — Sugarloaf Mountain, the Christ the Redeemer statue, the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches and their thong-clad beachgoers, male and female.
But if you want to see some real genius in Rio, just look down — and have your smartphone handy.
The city is turning QR codes into mosaics and embedding them into sidewalks around Rio’s tourist attractions.
You can read all about this visitor-friendly urban innovation in this Associated Press story here.
For those of you who have yet to join Smartphone Nation, a QR code is a two-dimensional variation of the standard bar code, but can store a lot more information.
When you scan a QR code with the camera built into your smartphone, it can take your device directly to a Web site. A scan of the Rio sidewalk QR code takes you to a tourist information site — in English, Spanish or Portuguese, as well as a city map.
It works with any smartphone that has a camera and a QR-scanning app, the latter of which you can download off the Web for pennies or even free.
Rio plans install 30 of these at various tourist sites around the city.
The brilliance is as artistic as it is practical, since the QR design was worked into a mosaic sidewalk. The very design of the QR code lends itself perfectly to mosaics.
Like i said…slick.
You don’t even have to be in Rio to use it. I’ve scanned the Ipanema mosaic QR code right off my computer screen here in San Diego, more than 6,000 miles away. It worked as fine — and as fast — as if I were standing directly over it.
IBIT says: Within five years, you’ll be seeing QR codes embedded into sidewalks in major destination cities around the world. Bet on it.
Meanwhile, next time you find yourself in Rio, don’t forget to look down.
YOUR OWN LIVING TRAVEL MAP
Royal Dutch Airlines, better known around the world as KLM, is trotting out a computer app that lets you turn your friends into a travel information asset that you can put in your pocket.
Basically, it lets you incorporate tips from your social media connections into your own personalized travel map, which the airline prints and send to you, free of charge.
The airline calls it Must See Map. Here’s how it works:
- Go to the Must See Map site. Pick one of the 100 preloaded destinations, all of which happen to be part of KLM’s route system.
- Name — and SAVE! — your map.
- Invite your friends via Facebook, Twitter or email to look at your destination map and mark their own suggestions for must-do’s and must-see’s on it.
- When you feel you’ve got enough tips, order your map.
That’s it. About three weeks later, your personalized destination map will arrive via conventional “snail mail” from KLM. That’s right, an old-school, foldable, jam-it-in-a-pack-or-a-pocket paper map.
Again, it’s free. No charge for “shipping and handling.” No charge for anything. Gratis.
And yes, you will be able to access your customized map online, also.
If there’s a weakness in this idea, it’s that KLM forces you to create this map on a desktop, laptop or tablet computer. You can’t create your Must See Map on a smartphone.
Once you create the map, however, your invitees can add their destination tips via smartphone.
Also, this application evidently doesn’t cover all of KLM’s vast list of destinations. Perhaps the airline is waiting to see how travelers respond to Must See Map before expanding the destination list.
IBIT says: This could make a pretty cool trip souvenir, even if you end up not going — not to mention a good prop at a pre-trip or post-trip party. Also, I’ve flown KLM and they do a good job.
FROM RUSSIA WITH BARGAINS(?)
William Shatner may soon be hearing footsteps, and they’re coming all the way from Moscow.
Apparently, the Russian-owned online agency OneTwoTrip is looking to take on both Expedia and Priceline.
According to the Russian business news site BSR Russia, OneTwoTrip already is selling airline tickets and is looking to move into booking hotels. And while initially targeting the expanding Russian middle-class market, the company has no intention of stopping there.
That by itself is interesting enough, but really raised my eyebrows was how OneTwoTrip plans to elbow its way into the Expedia-Priceline orbit — by providing what you might call value-added online information.
In addition to airline bookings, for instance, the site already rates airlines on seat pitch, the likelihood of flight delays and even the age of their airplanes.
Having recently flown on a Boeing 747 that may have been at least as old as the flight crew, with an in-flight entertainment system that your parents first flew with, I can tell you that aircraft age matters.
OneTwoTrip already is planning to do something similar with hotels, even telling you which ones — in their opinion, anyway — are overpriced.
You can read the entire BSR Russia story here.
Intrigued? I sure am. As a consumer, I’m also hesitant. Given the amount of cybercrime that originates in Russia, I would have to think long and hard before knowingly booking anything online over a Russian commercial site.
Still, if this enhanced online travel service shows signs of catching on, expect Priceline and its US contemporaries to upgrade their own offerings in response.
IBIT says: The folks behind OneTwoTrip sound smart and innovative. If they can get past Russia’s reputation as one of the world’s hacker capitals, they just might give William Shatner reason to sweat.