Friday, October 8, 2010
Photograph: Courtesy of TSA (left); courtesy of Tickets.com (right)Log in to your airline's Web site. Check in. Print out your boarding pass. Hope you don't lose it. Hand the crumpled pass to a TSA security agent and pray you don't get pulled aside for a pat-down search. When you're ready to fly home, wait in line at the airport because you lacked access to a printer in your hotel room. Can't we come up with a better way?
About this? The idea of the paperless office has been with us since Bill Gates was in short pants, but no matter how sophisticated your OS or your use of digital files in lieu of printouts might be, they're of no help once you leave your desk. People need printouts of maps, receipts, and instructions when a computer just isn't convenient. PDAs failed to fill that need, so coming to the rescue are their replacements: cell phones.
Applications to eliminate the need for a printout in nearly any situation are flooding the market. Cellfire offers mobile coupons you can pull up on your phone and show to a clerk; Tickets.com now makes digital concert passes available via cell phone through its Tickets@Phone service. The final frontier, though, remains the airline boarding pass, which has resisted this next paperless step since the advent of Web-based check-in.
When it will arrive? Some cell-phone apps that replace paper are here now (just look at the ones for the iPhone), and even paperless boarding passes are creeping forward. Continental has been experimenting with a cell-phone check-in system that lets you show an encrypted, 2D bar code on your phone to a TSA agent in lieu of a paper boarding pass. The agent scans the bar code with an ordinary scanner, and you're on your way. Introduced at the Houston Intercontinental Airport, the pilot project became permanent earlier this year, and Continental rolled it out in three other airports in 2008. The company promises more airports to come.
Posted by RAJA NARAYANAN at 7:20 AM