Traveling can be a stressful affair for even the most seasoned remote worker, but tracking your dispersed workers when they’re on a trip is no less complicated for the head office administrator.
The TripIt travel organizer, a Web-based service with mobile device capability and hook-ups to social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Maps has been easing itinerary problems both for frequent flyers and their colleagues back in the home office for several years now.
The service has a free version as a well as a Pro version that offers instant alert messages for $49/year/traveler. Also available is a Business edition priced which combines flight monitoring, alert messages and other features starting at $89/year/traveler for a group of 50 people.
TripIt gathers the online information a traveler’s trip from airline schedules, travel agency confirmation emails, hotel reservations, car rental bookings and office emails among other data and turns them into an updatable travel plan, according to Thomas Marks, product marketing director for the company.
“TripIt gathers all this unstructured data and its parsing engine turns it into structured and interactive data that can be accessed through the Web via desktop, laptop, smartphone sor other mobile devices,” he said.
For the traveler, Marks said, this means instant access to information such as connecting flight schedules or flight changes, directions to exit gates, and access to rental car booking. Users of TripIt can also update their friends and colleagues about their travel schedules and plans via links to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
The Business version of the service offers administrators in the head office immediate visibility via computer dashboard, of all the travel arrangements and schedules of the company’s employees on the road.
“In many instances, this can be critical if a worker’s location needs to pinpointed and contacted,” said Marks. “If there’s an urgent company issue or a family emergency, the administrator can make changes to the itinerary right there on the dashboard.”
How it works
Subscribers to TripIt gather their travel information and send it via email to their TripIt account. The service automatically shapes the data into an itinerary for a trip. The user can access the travel information anytime from a computer of mobile device.
The free version includes:
- Automatic creation of trip itinerary
- Maps, directions, photos, recommendations, travel notes
- Free 24/7 access to the travel plan
- Ability to share TripIt itinerary with friends, family and colleagues
The $49/year TripIt Pro includes:
- Instant alert messages regarding trio info, from flight delays to gate changes and gate directions right on your phone or mobile device via SMS messages
- Search for alternate flights, seats and other travel info and accommodation
- Search for flight refunds
- Sharing of travel info with relatives, friends or colleagues
- Travel privileges including complimentary one-year membership to Hertz/1 Gold Club and access to more than 1,100 business lounges worldwide
- Free tracking of loyalty points from various providers
With the TripIt for Business version, users get many of the same services as the TripIt pro but the service is geared towards managing a fleet of travelers. This version includes a Business Dashboard that can be controlled by an administrator.
Prices range from:
- $29/month/10 users
- $49/month/25 users
- $89/month/50 users
- $159/month/100 user
“This version helps the corporate traveler get answers to questions such as: Will I make it to the business dinner? Can head office make the hotel reservation right before I board my plane?” said Marks.
Mobile and social net connections a nice touch
Making the API of transportation management apps available across various mobile platforms is essential, according to technology watchers.
While Canadians have been typically slow to use all the features of their smartphones, the trend is leading towards greater adoption of the device, according to Steve Mast, president of Delvinia, a digital strategy firm based in Toronto.
Related story – WAP or App? Planning mobile strategy
“There were notable changes in the usage of more advance and social networking smartphone features,” he said citing results of Delvinia’s recent report on the local mobile market entitled: The reality of Mobile in Canada.
The top four findings in the study appear to address some of the features related to Web-based and mobile device enabled services such as TripIt.
The report found that:
- Web browsing rose to 40 per cent
- GPS and mapping usage rose to 26 per cent
- Facebook mobile (26 per cent)
- Subscription and mobile alerts made an appearance (18 per cent)
Many companies want to jump on the social media and mobile bandwagons even if they hardly have a clue of how to use the technologies, according to Chuck Martin, director of research for MediaPost CEO and adjunct professor in marketing research at the Whittemore School of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire.
He said companies seeking a mobile presence can use either mobile applications or wireless application protocols (WAP). A WAP is essentially a Web site designed to function on mobile phones. Mobile apps are software tools typically downloaded to a mobile phone from an app store such as the Apple App Store, Android Market, BlackBerry App World or Microsoft’s Windows Marketplace.
Martin, who is the author of the book The Third Screen: Marketing to your customers in a world gone Mobile, said over the years consumers have shifted their attention from one screen to the next: TV screens, later on computer screen and today mobile device screens. “We are seeing today a growing number of consumers whose eyeballs are glued to their mobile screens.”
“Organizations that can provide a user-centered service that enabled will thrive in this new environment,” he said.