Saturday Oct 18, 2008

Observations from a trip to Europe

I had the opportunity to travel to Munich for our EMEA Horizons event last week and had a fabulous set of meetings with our customers and partners sharing with them information, plans, and roadmaps around our products while hearing how they are using our products and what features and capabilities they are most interested in. All in all, a very worthwhile trip.

What the trip also allowed me to do was to experience travel and other behaviors in other countries and how they differ or compare to the United States, and perhaps see what we can learn from them.

The first thing one will notice of course is that passengers are treated differently (well?) on international flights and given a real meal (or several) for no extra charge. I even requested a special meal and found it quite tasty and satisfying (for airplane food) and would recommend that one look at what special meals are available and request one when flying internationally.

I had a connection in Amsterdam on my way to Munich, and something that is done at Schiphol airport is that escalators have motion sensors and turn off when not needed. This is a great idea, particularly for escalators that aren't in high traffic areas (this one was at a gate), but would seem like a very simple addition to any escalator that would help save energy costs. As you will read below, I found other cases where Europe seems to be more energy conscious than we are.

When going through security at European airports, they seem to be much more lax about making sure you remove liquids, shoes, coats, coins, etc. before going through the metal detector. I recall a trip a couple years ago where at London City Airport I was allowed to keep my heavy coat on with cell phone in pocket and nothing was triggered! On this trip I still followed US procedure out of habit, although the last time I went through security coming back at Schiphol I elected to leave my running shoes on (which have always been fine back in the day when I was allowed to keep them on in the states) and was just fine. To be fair this did vary someone from airport to airport (and even different sections of security at the same airport) but in general it was not surprising to see someone go through the detector and set it off. What was surprising is that when this happened, rather than sending the person back to remove things and go through again, they just elected to wand them down right there. It slowed the line down a bit but perhaps less than making everyone follow a strict procedure?

As I had time when I arrived, I took the opportunity to take public transportation rather than taking a taxi, both to save money (€9.20 vs €56!) and to experience a bit more of the culture. I couldn't figure out the automated ticket machine so did queue up to buy the ticket, but once I had it it was a nice and painless trip with one train change to a stop right in front of the Sun office. If you do have the time, I highly recommend using public transportation when visiting Europe rather than just hoping in a taxi.

At the Sun office in Munich, as is the case at many other Sun offices, motion sensors are used in rooms to turn lights off when not needed. What I hadn't seen at other Sun offices is that this was applied to halls too, taking the energy consciousness a step further. Another cool thing at the Sun office is that when there is a door in the hallway, there is a sticker on the door with both an arrow indicating the direction the door opens (away or towards you) but they are also color coded with red for towards you (warning, it can open towards you) or green for away from you. Very nifty idea that address those situations when you approach a door and don't know which way it opens so you can avoid the push or pull that is met with resistance.

At the hotel, the eco-friendliness was continued with the hallways having motion sensors, again saving what would otherwise be wasted energy. I have to wonder why this isn't done more widely in the US. Of course, the hotel also had a doorway to the stairwell that was 1.85 meters tall, and at 6'2" I am 1.88 meters and alas I did hit my head once. Ouch.

Some other observations were lots and lots of Audi's, Mercedes, Volkswagen's, and other interesting cars in Germany (the taxi's are very nice cars!), feeling safe on the autobahn while driving 150 kph (very nice, perhaps that is why the taxi's are high end cars), friendly people, and too much more to try to detail here.

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