On the road with ICT

During a recent trip overseas, I marvelled at how technology has radically altered the way we travel

I recently returned from a trip to Europe, during which I followed the Wallabies on their World Cup quest through France. During my time away, I marvelled at how technology has radically altered the way we travel.

Of course, we all think of the obvious things -- booking flights and accommodation online, researching the best places to go, checking out exhibition opening times and the like. But that's only the beginning.

While planning my trip, I knew I wanted to travel through southern France, particularly around Carcassonne, and a recommendation for a bed and breakfast had come via my sons, who travelled in the same area in 2006. They had an e-mail address and I carefully composed a note in perfect English and then ran it through Babel Fish to turn it into perfect French. Madam and I confirmed the reservations, meals and directions as I translated each message back and forth. But she was certainly surprised when a less than fluent visitor arrived at her door!

Our GPS was invaluable -- not just for telling us where we were and where we wanted to be, but how to get there. Updated maps can be downloaded on the fly using a BlackBerry -- which ensured we didn't drive up any recently changed one-way streets.

iPods, with audio books, language lessons and videos, and BlackBerries, with "always on" access, meant fewer books and maps were lugged around in hand luggage. However, we still have a way to go before we can enjoy one single universal connection for devices. I was carrying cables for cameras, BlackBerries, iPods and a GPS. They are all USB connected at one end, but with varying connections at the device end.

Thanks goodness for global roaming, which is seamless! It moved mobile connections between carriers, allowing my mum and children to keep track of me. And also for Facebook, which was a place for me to upload photos and commentary and enable continuous social networking with family and friends.

Wi-Fi is ubiquitous in France, so access to the Internet through my laptop was easy. But I wonder if Wi-Fi and the availability of tiny PCs and BlackBerries will spell the end of Internet cafes in larger cities in Europe?