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Serving: United States

Crisis shows value of the smartphone

I don't complain about travel too much - well at least I don't think I do. But this week on a trip heading East for a meeting, I had to go through Atlanta. That meant arriving into the maelstrom that was an airport where employees couldn't get to work, flights couldn't land or take off and a host of other issues.

I've been doing this for some time and I've earned my fair share of status levels on frequent flyer programs - thank heavens. But as I'm sitting in the airport some interesting things happened that made this 'mess' easier to handle in some ways (other than the uncertainty of getting where I wanted to go).

First, when I landed the airline informed me that my connecting flight had been canceled and I was already booked on a later flight. How did they tell me? By phone and email - but I also confirmed key details by using that airline's app. Very handy for keeping up.

So I just headed somewhere to grab lunch and set up my laptop to do some work. I carry a cellular card for Web access when I travel so I just logged in and worked just like I was in my own office (although in a much noisier environment). I caught up on email, made some key contacts to finalize speakers for our upcoming series of seminars at National Farm Machinery Show and more. Fun times.

All the while I was tracking that scheduled flight on that app. I admit when I first landed I did try to call the airline hotline and all circuits were busy, but the Web was working.

Second, I found that it is much easier to keep up these days using these tools. When my rescheduled flight got pushed back 3 hours (and this was 7 hours before flight time) I just logged into the airline app and looked for alternative flights and booked a different one. I was able to snag a seat, confirm it and have the boarding pass on my phone.

I know dear reader that you're not the road warrior that those of us covering agriculture for you have to be, but even a casual traveler who uses one or two airlines and has a smart phone may at least want to consider setting up an account and using the app.

Then I thought about how I would have done this in the past. Payphone anyone? I don't even know if there are pay phones in airports anymore. I've had a cellphone so long that the last time I had some kind of travel disruption - and this was years ago when I attended DuPont's 200th anniversary celebration - I had a cellphone (not a smart phone) and was able to make calls to the airline and get a hotel while standing in line in hopes of talking to a ticket agent.

Our reliance on technology is everywhere. This week's Atlanta "adventure" and for me that's what it was since I had built in time to travel - not the nightmare for others just trying to get home - showed that smart phones have taken over. And I know you could even be reading this on your smart phone.

And even in crisis on the farm this tech could be helpful. Tracking weather as it nears your operation, keeping up with where equipment is on your farm and keeping in touch with key employees and family members when events happen are all valuable tools. I was able to keep my wife informed of my changing schedule (peace of mind for her, diversion for me) as I sat in the airport using simple texts - easier than calling every few minutes.

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I'd love to know how adding a smart phone to your pocket (or belt) has helped on your farm. Share a story or comment below. The rise of apps (and we've featured a few on this site) is making a difference. Accessing key farm information over the Web will be easier in the future too - so even if you're away you'll be able to know what's happening.

And finally, I ended up with a longer wait on the plane than I expected - no worries - I just checked out Facebook and Twitter, shared some images with my seatmate for a few laughs and it made the time go a little faster. Oh, and my daughter texted me a fresh picture of our new grandson - which was a day brightener too.

So the entertainment and connectivity value of the tech isn't lost either; and yes, if you follow me on twitter - - you would have known I was in Atlanta. Even had a nice Twitter conversation with a Southern farmer who was pretty upset about how that "2 in." of snow was being covered - it wasn't just a little snow. The stuff melted then refroze into glare ice. Our livestock-producer friends across the country had plenty to deal with I'm sure.

Just glad I had my smartphone along.

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