When the British computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web at the beginning of the last decade of the 20th Century, he may not have envisaged quite how all encompassing the Internet would become. As early dial-up technology, where web pages could take minutes to download and larger files hours, was superseded by broadband with ever-increasing speeds, the growth of cell phone technology was forging ahead in leaps and bounds.
The first cell phones were introduced in the 1980s and were generally very expensive and large and heavy. It did not take long for new technology to cut the size and expense of cell phones, adding capabilities all the time, until the development of smartphones all but made ordinary cell phones redundant.
The ability of smartphones to access the Internet has brought a generation used to mobility an enormously powerful piece of technology that opens up many different ways of doing things almost instantaneously instead of physically going to a shop or ticket office to buy items.
The rise of paperless ticketing
Getting tickets for hugely popular events has never been easy. Once upon a time the only real option was to queue, sometimes for hours to try to get the dream ticket for a concert or a major sporting event. Then it became normal to try to telephone the box office and, once again, wait in a long electronic queue before often being told that the event was sold out. Quite a waste of time and money.
The advent of the Internet and the development of online ticketing has certainly made it easier to buy practically anything, and tickets to events are no exception. It is seen as quite normal to search online for a music or theatre event or a game of football, baseball or ice hockey, to choose a seat depending on what is still available and what is affordable to the buyer, and purchasing the ticket.
However, the ticket itself would usually have to be picked at the box office of the event by showing a proof of purchase, such as an acknowledgement slip that would have to be printed out, together with the credit card used to make the purchase.
In the United Kingdom, the budget airlines developed a way of cutting their costs further by making passengers print out their own boarding cards for flights to be presented at the gate. The cards have a 2D barcode, enabling them to be scanned to ensure the correct person is getting on the flight. Woe betide those who forget their boarding card – airlines charge a heavy financial penalty for printing one out at check-in.
Electronic boarding cards, or passes, are now common with airlines, and they can be sent to a smartphone via a text message or email, or by way of an airline app for check in, with the boarding pass appearing within the app. Without the need for printing, the concept of paperless ticketing arrived in the marketplace.
Buying by smartphone
The constant technological innovations for smartphones means that the rise of the virtual mall is taking hold of consumers both in the US and around the globe. There has been much talk of the rise in use of mobile technology, including tablets and cell phones, and that the ordinary desktop computers and even laptops will be overtaken by the use of mobile devices.
Some research suggests that by 2016 smartphones will account for nearly two thirds of all mobile phones in the US. With major banks and credit card firms teaming up with wireless carriers and makers of handsets as well as innovative software developers, the potential for being able to buy via smartphone appears limitless.
The smartphone effectively becomes a digital wallet, able to carry out transactions at high speed and just about anywhere. Online purchases are familiar to many people through their computers – this is effectively a miniaturized version of that. They can also be used at a register in a mall or other shop. This electronic money is arguably the biggest shake up in the way buying and paying for products since the rise of credit cards in the 1950s. Smartphone payments take away the requirement to remember to bring credit or charge cards or fill the pockets with cash.
The mobile generation
The smartphone is such a ubiquitous machine full of enormous capabilities that it is not surprising that has it fast become the technological tool of choice of the generation. However, it is not just the younger generation who use it. Smartphones have been embraced by older generations too as the ability to buy products at any time from anywhere has taken hold.
The use of smartphones for buying tickets for events or shows is one of the most useful methods of buying from a distance. Consider a sports fan from California planning to take a trip to the East Coast for a vacation. The fan discovers that during the vacation his favorite team will be playing in Philadelphia. All that needs to be done is to check on the smartphone for tickets for events in Philadelphia, find the sporting event, order the ticket and pay for it.
Or take the case of a music fan in Illinois who wants to head to a major festival in New Orleans. The smartphone will call up all the necessary information so the ticket can be sourced and paid for within minutes.
With retailers and sports and music promoters constantly looking for ways to attract new customers and retain previous ones, there are often great opportunities to pick up bargains on tickets or merchandise via the smartphone. Once again it doesn't matter where in the country the potential buyer is. Merchandise can be purchased and sent to the buyer's address thanks to only a few taps on the smartphone screen, and tickets for events downloaded to be scanned at the sports venue or concert hall.
Fast and secure, the ultimate mobility the smartphone gives is the next staging point in the electronic future.