Travel Tech Q&A: AirWatch's Rob Roe

You wouldn't want to weigh his travel backpack.

In this week's ZDNet Travel Tech Q&A, we speak to AirWatch's managing director for Australia and New Zealand, Rob Roe, about the slew of mobile devices he travels with, complaints about Australia's "antiquated" public transport system, and the time his wife thought he was in a plane crash.

AirWatch's Rob Roe Image: AirWatch

What tech do you travel with and why?

I'm not your normal technology traveller, because the business we are in is all about managing mobile devices. Therefore, you will often see me with a range of devices to demonstrate to customers and try out for my own use. Usually, this includes a MacBook Pro Retina, iPhone 4, Samsung Galaxy Note II, Nokia Lumia 920, and a Sierra Wireless 4G Personal WiFi.

What tech do you miss from home?

Apple TV! I am building out a portable "presentation" kit of an Apple TV, JawBox speakers, HDMI, VGA, and audio cables. The ability to do presentations from mobile devices, complete with multimedia functionality, demonstrates the paradigm shift we are experiencing with smart devices. With preparation, this works seamlessly, and shows customers what is possible in this brave new world.

What tech do you love abroad, where and why?

In Japan, you can use your mobile phone to pay for your coffee, a train ticket, and more.

In Australia, I have my Myki Card for trains in Victoria, but have to use cash or queue up for tickets when I land in Sydney. If the ticket vendor machine is out of change, I can't buy a ticket unless I have the correct amount of money — how antiquated is that?

There was one time when the train was leaving in 1 minute, and I couldn't buy a ticket because the vendor machine couldn't give me 10 cents change. Which do you think I really care about; the 10 cents change or waiting another 14 minutes for the next train, assuming I can get through the queue at the ticket window in time?

What's your most memorable travel story or experience?

On my first trip to Russia, I made sure I filled out my immigration paperwork carefully as we were about to land. As I walked off the air bridge, I saw my local work colleague standing there with a large Russian lady in uniform. She pointed at me and told me to wait with her.

After we collected a few other passengers, we were led into room with a bar and couches. Our travel documentation disappeared through a window in the wall. I was offered a drink, and after waiting a few minutes, my completed paperwork was returned and we were shown through a door that led immediately outside the terminal.

I didn't get the same service during my next trip to Russia, and had to join the mass of people surging their way through immigration and customs. Queues seemed optional, as everyone just pushed forward, so give me the VIP treatment any day.

How do you deal with jet lag?

Mainly through sheer determination. I immediately try to operate in the time zone that I am travelling to. That can mean staying awake on the flight at the right times, or trying to sleep as soon as possible.

The cabin crews are great at telling you what the experienced passengers do. Once I arrive, I try to operate in that time zone by staying awake or sleeping. Getting outside in the sun is a good way to acclimatise.

My hardest flight was coming back from LA on a daytime flight and having to stay awake for the 13-hour trip. It was painful, but meant I suffered less jet lag when I returned. Travelling west is better than travelling east for jet lag.

What tech is in your briefcase?

Everything I mentioned above. I have the heaviest backpack going around. Don't tell the airlines; they weigh my suitcase and sometimes my roll-on [bag], but never my backpack. It is by far the heaviest.

What is your one must-have piece of tech when travelling?

My mobile phone. It has my travel apps, email, web browser, and I can even demonstrate our solution on it. Oh yeah, you can even make phone calls from it — who would have thought!

What do you never leave home without?

My passport and my credit card. Everything else you can buy.

What was your biggest travel disaster?

I flew out of JFK bound for Milan an hour before flight TWA 800 left, which crashed in New York.

My wife at home in Connecticut saw a news flash that a plane from JFK bound for Europe had crashed. It took an hour before she could find out it wasn't my flight, since I hadn't given her the details as it was a last-minute trip. Therefore, not really a disaster, but I now always give her my flight details and she often tracks my flights on FlightAware.

What was your last tech purchase?

I am waiting for the red Jawbone Up wristband to come out. It tracks body vital signs, including sleep patterns. With this, I will know how much sleep I actually did get on the flight!

What tech do you expect in hotels when you are travelling?

Free wi-fi with unlimited downloads. In New Zealand, in one hotel, I could only buy 100MB of wi-fi at a time. I can't do my emails with only 100MB data limit wi-fi, let's get real.

Favourite destination city to work or visit and why?

It is hard to have just one favourite destination city. I enjoy meeting new people and learning about new cultures. Therefore, if my work takes me to these places, I consider it a bonus. It is very interesting to see what people are doing with technology around the world.

For example, New Zealand seems to be one of the fastest adopters of new technology into the corporate world that I have seen.

Name one thing you wish your iPod/phone/laptop could do that it doesn't do now?

It would be great to be able to screen share. Like what you can do with a webinar, but an instant sharing of what is on your screen to a group of people around you onto their devices. You can share an app, a presentation, an email, or a product demonstration. We use an app to do this to a laptop, but it would be great to be able to do this to a group of people on to their devices.

Which airport would you prefer to be stranded at and why?

With my One World emerald status, I can access the first-class lounge at Sydney International, where there is great food, wine, and service and free wi-fi!