The future looks bright for travelers with smartphones wanting a smoother travel experience at the airport. Airlines recognize that one of the major pain points for travelers is the check-in process, which often involves a long wait time. Theyre making strides to ameliorate the inefficient and annoying process using mobile technology.

According to SITAs 2011 Airline IT Trends survey of the top 200 passenger carriers, over 90% are planning to invest in passenger mobile services this year, with the focus on check-in, flight status notifications, and electronic boarding passes.

Heres a look at the current state of mobile check-in technology - and why its about to get even better.

Current: Emailed Mobile Barcodes

Travelers with smartphones are quickly adopting mobile boarding pass technology - airlines surveyed by SITA say that 15% of all air travelers will use a mobile phone to check-in at the airport and obtain an electronic mobile boarding pass by 2014. Self-service check-in at kiosks already offers some convenience, but using a mobile device to do so without the burden of printing and keeping track of a paper boarding pass with make the process even faster and easier. The time-saving benefit for travelers is indisputable - Quantas says frequent flyers using its Next Generation Check-In Program (which incorporates a mobile boarding pass) can complete the process in 5 seconds. Great news - but what happens at the check-in scanner when the travelers mobile device isnt getting a great wireless signal, and retrieving the barcode pass from email is impossible? Enter Near Field Communication...

Future: e-Travel Documents via Near Field Communication (NFC)

Near Field Communication technology enables secure data sharing between a travelers mobile device and a reader at the airport. That means not only boarding passes but all travel documents - e-Passports, e-Visas, baggage receipts, itineraries, immigration forms and more - can be stored electronically and retrieved without an Internet connection. SAS Scandinavian Airlines is an early adopter of this technology, allowing their frequent flyers to use an NFC-based Smart Pass sticker at check-in, security, lounges, and gates throughout the airport. Newer smartphones already on the market have an embedded NFC chip that will send encrypted data, ensuring the privacy of sensitive traveler information.

As new passenger-centric technology like NFC is introduced and adopted, the airport experience will evolve from streamlined to seamless - all travelers will need to remember is a smartphone.