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05/21/2018

6 Technologies Shaping the Hospitality Sector

In this thought leadership article from Off Piste, an online marketing company, explains how the top 6 technologies are shaping the hospitality sector.

 

Technological advancement is helping to bring huge improvements for both customers and companies in the hospitality sector. It’s providing better services, financial savings, and smarter ways for businesses to operate. In this post, we’ll look at the main ways technology is having an impact and at some of the surprising innovations now being used.

Wi-Fi on tap
Today’s hospitality patrons need access to Wi-Fi. Private guests want it to search the internet, go on social media, and watch Netflix, while business guests require it for conferencing or connecting with their organizations. For this reason, a venue which offers good quality Wi-Fi is more likely to attract visitors than one which does not.

This demand has led to a significant investment in Wi-Fi infrastructure in many venues. Gone are the weak signals that never reach beyond the lobby and the slow, stuttering connections that customers found so annoying. Instead, we see high-speed, basement to penthouse connectivity that can cope with the growing demands of customers. Hand in hand with this has been a move to offer Wi-Fi as a free service rather than one which is paid for. Customers think of it as a utility such as heating and lighting, not as an additional provision.

Hotel automation
By adopting automation technology similar to that used at airports, many hospitality venues are now making it easier for guests to check in and carry out other tasks without needing to go to the reception. Automated kiosks enable people to order room service, book spa services, reserve a table at dinner and do many other things without the need for human interaction.

Not only is this technology convenient, it’s also personalized. Voice operated machines can speak to the user with the same courtesy as a member of staff and, with the use of AI and machine learning, these systems can use previous interactions and past purchasing habits to tailor offers of food, drink, and other services. By linking digital kiosks with mobile apps, it is also possible to offer a 24/7 automated, digital concierge service.

NFC smart solutions
Near field communication (NFC) technology is fast becoming ubiquitous across many sectors. NFC tags enable data to be securely transferred between devices just by touching: it’s the technology that enables us to tap and pay with cards and smartphones. In hospitality, NFC has many useful applications that most venues are finally waking up to.  

One such application is the ability to use smart cards, such as those available from Universal Smart Cards, as smart keys. Besides opening hotel room doors, smart cards enable guests to check in automatically, pay for items at the venue’s shops and eateries and give them access to specific facilities within the building, such as the gym or conference center.

In addition, the placing of smart tags on advertising around the venue means that customers who tap them with a smartphone can be sent further information or even discretionary discounts, increasing the likelihood of those services being used.

The rise of the robots
As a sector which relies heavily on human resources, it was only a matter of time before we would begin to see robots being used in hotels. It’s not just robotic vacuum cleaners we are seeing either, the Aloft hotel in Cupertino, Calif., ‘employs’ a robot called Botlr (short for robot butler) who will bring towels to customers at the swimming pool or even traverse the stairs to drop off snacks. 

Recent stories in Hospitality Technology have covered the robot craze, including the robot-only kitchen at Spyce, a new fast casual concept in Boston and Caliburger's burger-flipping robot Flippy.

These trailblazers aside, perhaps the most advanced robotic technology being used is in Japan. The Hotel Ginza in Tokyo uses robots as receptionists. Unlike Botlr, who’s more akin to R2-D2, the Japanese robots look distinctly human and even look and smile at guests while they talk to them. What’s more, they are multilingual, able to speak in Japanese, Chinese, Korean and English. It won’t be long before we see robots everywhere in the hospitality business. It will mean huge savings for hotels and the end of tipping for customers.

Infrared discretion
Discretion is important in the hospitality business. No-one wants a cleaner wheeling a trolley into the bathroom just as they are getting out of the shower, nor do they want other interruptions taking place whilst they are enjoying the facilities.

To prevent these unwanted intrusions, hotels are now turning to infrared technology. The solution is a simple infrared scanner that staff can use to detect someone’s body heat in a hotel room. If it senses someone is present, staff will leave the room alone and return later.

Getting the most from social media
Social media has a powerful influence in hospitality. Guests check-in on Facebook, post photos of their visits on Instagram, tweet about their experiences and give ratings on sites like TripAdvisor. And these days, every visitor has a smartphone that enables them to do this.

Guests who engage on social media can boost the fortunes of a venue or, indeed, do the opposite. As a result, hospitality companies are having to invest significantly in social media management and the necessary technology for ensuring the right messages get seen. This means promoting the business, encouraging customers onsite to post positively and, increasingly, dealing with complaints made on social media platforms. Some hotels have now moved their customer services to social media so that every public complaint can be addressed and result in positive outcomes.  

Summing up
Technology is having a big impact on the hospitality sector. It’s helping make services more convenient and enjoyable for visitors, it’s building better connections between the online and real world, and it’s enabling venues to manage their services in a streamlined and more cost-efficient way.  Will the hotels and restaurants of the future become soulless, automated buildings run entirely by androids? Probably not, it’s a people business, but expect to see technology playing a bigger role in future.