I love finding new ways to use the technology around me, especially when it makes my life easier. There might be no better place for this to happen than at the airport, which can be a mire of frustration for many travelers. While traveling this past weekend I discovered a great new way in which the airline industry is making it easier for us to get to our destinations, and I’m not talking about the signs promising new scanners that allow us to keep our shoes on (although I am looking forward to that as well).

I’m talking about the new paperless boarding passes that the TSA and many airlines are now offering. Hoping to pass through Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International as quickly as possible this past weekend, I found myself with no printer to print my boarding pass from before going to the airport. That’s when I saw the option online to have my ticket sent to my smart phone via text message or email. With my Droid in hand I cruised through security and boarded my flight, feeling like the most tech savvy passenger in the place.

This wasn’t the only experience on my trip where I used my phone to get me from point A to point B though. The prior day I had successfully navigated the web, found a taxi service, and scheduled a ride, all from my handheld device. Even more impressive was that I was notified the moment the cab was on its way and when it would get there through text messages. Through chatting with the taxi driver I learned that the number of people hailing taxis this way is steadily increasing.

While the convenience of mobile business transactions and documents are apparent to consumers, I still wonder what kinds of benefits (if any) there are for businesses and the environment. Of course this technology allows companies to scale back the amount of paper they use, which cuts costs instead of trees, but I’m interested in knowing if they are saving substantial money and reducing their carbon footprint in the long run. Firms are spending an increasing amount of money to keep up with advances in business technology, but the industry is advancing so quickly it can be difficult to tell where it’s headed. In addition, new consumer electronics seem to come out every other month (how many iPhone versions are there now?), which makes me ask: are we really benefitting the environment by upgrading our smart phones every year instead of printing our boarding passes?

To learn more about the new e-boarding passes visit the TSA website.

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