3 March 2015
3 min read
Being able to stay in touch
Whether your trip is taking you to the next town or the next continent, SME travellers need to stay connected.
Unified communications as a service (UCaaS – one example is Microsoft Lync) brings together your email, VoIP phone, video conferencing, messaging and presence (such as online or offline and diary scheduling) into one address book and interface, and makes it available anywhere. "UCaaS is Cloud-based, so can be accessed from anywhere," says Tim Stone, vice president Europe, Middle East and Africa of video and voice conferencing providers Polycom, "but it's especially suitable for SMEs because technology as a service is scalable and flexible with no upfront hardware costs."
According to research commissioned by telecoms provider iPass, 75 per cent of business people find that a lack of simple access to Wi-Fi holds them back from being productive when travelling. Complaints range from price and cumbersome registration to the need to enter credit card details, security and intrusive advertising.>
Global services such as iPass can amalgamate local providers and allow SME travellers to connect to one of millions of Wi-Fi hotspots around the world using a single consistent log-in.
That means easy, secure Wi-Fi in airports, on planes, in conference centres and so on.
"Modern business travellers are fully equipped with all the necessary devices, but connectivity is essential to them being able to use these tools effectively when on the road," June Bower, chief marketing officer at iPass
The single account system also means that, on an employee's return, SMEs aren't going to be hit by hefty unexpected roaming charges.
Until recently, start-ups, seasonal traders, tradesmen and mobile businesses weren't able to take card payments on the road, leading to the extra costs involved in chasing payments and cash flow bottlenecks.
Now services such as Barclaycard Anywhere, which launched in spring, allow SMEs to take secure on-the-spot payments anywhere in the UK via a card reader that connects to a smartphone.
"Being able to take payments on-the-spot makes it so much easier and more convenient for my clients," says Christine Stemp, who owns a foot clinic and uses Barclaycard Anywhere.
Good hotels are realising that business travellers want more than free Wi-Fi. A recent survey for hotel solutions provider HRS found that 44 per cent of business guests wanted a tablet in their rooms, and 23 per cent a laptop. Boutique hotel Eccleston Square in London is one hotel that gives each guest a personal tablet for the duration of their stay.
On top of that, Crowne Plaza rooms (part of InterContinental Hotels Group) come not just with Wi-Fi but with secure wireless printing.
Business spaces in Marriott hotels include the Barco ClickShare system, allowing multiple laptops to connect to screens, along with interactive spaces to write on walls and mobile check-in and check-out. According to HRS, SME travellers should check that their hotel offers all the technology they need before they travel.
Reduction in airport downtime
Regular SME travellers can spend long and frustrating hours at airports, but innovations like printable luggage tags, self-service check-in and bag drop and online check-in can speed and smooth the airport experience.
Other innovations also help to limit the time SME travellers spend on airport red tape, giving them more time to work. JetBlue and Virgin Atlantic, for instance, in association with transport technology company SITA, now accept boarding passes on mobiles and smartwatches.
Devices can also display real-time flight status information, allowing passengers to reduce personal paperwork and board flights with a swipe and scan. Biometrics (fingerprints and iris scanning), meanwhile, is increasingly being used to create a totally automated passport control.