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In a survey, the majority of business travellers to 'high-risk destinations' said they were comfortable with having their locations tracked.
In a survey, the majority of business travellers to 'high-risk destinations' said they were comfortable with having their locations tracked.

Somebody's watching me on my mobile

The Life: Business trips frequently involve stays in cultural capitals, but sometimes the location can be a little edgier. What's the best way to stay safe? Track travellers' location via their mobile phones.

Business trips frequently involve stays in cultural capitals, but sometimes the location can be a little edgier.

So what is the best way to keep travellers safe when they visit hot spots? One answer is to track their location via an app on their mobile phones.

And a recent survey of 4,700 international business travellers by the security assistance firm International SOS (ISOS) suggests that the vast majority would not mind.

More than 80 per cent of those who visit "high-risk destinations" said that they were comfortable having their location tracked.

But 73 per cent of business travellers who have smartphones said that they did not use travel applications.

"Most business travellers are BlackBerry-based at the moment; a lot of its users have no idea you can put a travel app on it. The iPhone has a higher [app] adoption rate," Tim Daniel, an ISOS executive vice president, told Reuters.

But even travelling to "safe" destinations involves a degree of risk, as there could be a natural disaster or accident.

And if an aeroplane goes down, the first thing an organisation wants to know is whether any of its people were on it, Nigel Turner, a programme director for the travel management company Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT), told Reuters.

"CWT Guardian [a travel tracking service] has been in play for a number of years, and with that a travel manager can go online to our portal and narrow down who was on a certain flight or in a certain part of the world. The second part is potentially being able to contact them," he says.

The first step in the midst of a crisis should be to try to reach someone in the local office, if the company has one. "(Try) to narrow down who's in a location, who's OK, who may need assistance. At some point they reach a number of people they can't find The biggest challenge is getting the list from 100 down to three," says Mr Daniel.

Travel managers and security experts need to show travellers how they can use their mobiles more effectively, he says.

There are a number of travel apps available in the market for smartphones.

CWT's free new app for clients, To Go, sends alerts if anything changes in the traveller's itinerary, and provides a contact facility, while American Express's Mobilextend app sends travellers tips and relevant information, such as maps, on the basis of their destination.

And the credit card company has just launched an SMS service called Mobile Communications Management, which offers travellers assistance in times of travel disruption.

"People are taking a parochial view, developing a tool with a very travel-management-centric view of the world.

"That breaks down when you start to use it in a crisis situation simple things like the privacy issues around the phone; battery life; being able to report back on your location," says Mr Daniel.

"The technology is there allowing us to track and communicate with these devices pretty readily," he adds.

His company's app has been on the BlackBerry for more than a year, being tested by a dozen clients. Next month, ISOS will release versions for Android and iOS, as well as an upgraded BlackBerry version.

Mr Turner says travellers should share their complete itinerary.

"With all security issues, the most important thing is to have their mobile phone numbers and email on their online profiles, and update them if they change.

"This was one of our main problems during the Japan earthquake and ash cloud eruptions," he says.

* with Reuters

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