It's that time of the year again when I gaze deeply into my virtual crystal ball and speculate what the technology trends for the next 12 months in the hotel industry will be - so here goes.
Firstly, I believe there will be a tectonic shift at the heart of the industry – Property Management Systems (PMS). For far too long, many have been fixated on the importance of this tool, beholden to less than a handful of players (whom some people allege operate monopolistic practices), locking both corporate and individuals into platforms they do not enjoy using, but are paying highly inflated fees for.
Advances in technology - both hardware and software as well as use of Cloud services and the emergence of a plethora of start-ups to replace PMS, will make a significant dent into this space. In fact, the ground is already shifting, exacerbated by the often-bureaucratic policies these major players employ to protect their service contracts.
Another area of contention is Point of Sale (POS). For far too long servers have been tethered to fixed terminals for order entry. That will inevitably change when benefits of tableside ordering outweigh this long-held practice. With prices for Android tablets becoming more competitive, everyone can be given their own to use on shift which would greatly enhance the efficiency and service levels of these often-low paid employees. Enhanced service by the server, could lead to better customer satisfaction and can result in a higher tip.
Since eWallets have become main stream (they are easily identifiable as they all have "pay" at the end of their branding), cash and credit cards as we know and love will slowly fade away. As use of eWallets increase, QR codes for payments will become more popular.
The printing of folios must disappear from the checkout process, and will simply be emailed to the appropriate department for processing. If a guest needs a receipt, then a POS type receipt could be issued similar to those issued in supermarkets or Apple store. One innovative hotel group - Aryaduta Hotels already practice this in Indonesia, and so if they can do it, WHY CAN'T THE REST FOLLOW?
Robots are rapidly finding their ways in hotels, not just as fun things behind the Reception counter like we've seen in Japan where a Tyrannosaurus Rex greets you. They are now becoming functional like the Savioke's Relay which delivers housekeeping amenities and I suspect very soon, food. Some hotels already use these for replenishing housekeeping trolleys and supplies overnight when service elevators are used less.
Voice activated rooms are still in their infancy, but given the advances of so many platforms developing their own voice and back-end AI systems, these will grow in popularity and usefulness. Concerns will remain about open mics, privacy and language handling, but the commercial opportunities will drive the suppliers to overcome these hurdles. If you have not seen the funny spoof video called "Eleven" whereby two Scotsman try and use a voice-activated elevator, it will make you chuckle. Jokes aside, voice has a place whether for people with disabilities (PWD), or for my favourite – for integration with phone functions to replace the remaining dinosaur in hotel rooms - the telephone.
I know I always talk about Wearables, and hope this year will be the year they finally make it. I continue to be bullish on their usefulness. The next Apple Watch version 3 is rumoured to have a SIM inside, so this will enhance its attractiveness. And once developers step up to the challenge of recognizing this new revenue stream, more apps will be generated. So, it will come… in time.
Security is a major concern with threats both externally and internally. I cannot stress enough the importance of focusing on this critical area and making sure the network which every aspect of your business runs over, is nuke-proof. There are a lot of malicious groups out there intent on adding hotels to their Hit list (including the Russians!), so please recruit an ethical hacker to test and certify your defences. Whilst it won't be 100%, your CSR (Client Social Responsibility) will be met.
See you in 2018!
1st appeared in HOTEL TECH Conference program 7 SEP 2017