Augmenting the Hotel of the Future with Augmented Reality

Why the New Virtual World is Much Closer than You Think

By Vanessa Horwell Founder & Chief Visibility Officer, ThinkInk & TravelInk'd | November 10, 2013

Everyone knows predicting the future is difficult. No matter how hard we try, we're bound to misfire. In 1967 the BBC boldly forecast that by 1987 every home – presumably in the UK – would be fitted with computer terminals and bedside teletype machines printing out the days' news.

Misfire? Yes. Total misfire? Not exactly. While

">video footage of the BBC prediction feels a bit silly today, (the typewriter is what kills it) the voiceover narration is accurate in recognizing the eventual home computing and mobile revolutions. People do read news off their smartphones in bed while numerous laptops, screens and tablets populate our homes and businesses, including hotels.

Instead of Predicting the Future, the BBC Perceived What Would Be

For the hotel industry, wearable computers are poised to become the next great electronic transformer. And products like Google Glass, due out in 2014, are helping re-invigorate a subset of that upheaval: augmented reality (AR), which combines computer-generated images and information with physical environments in real time.

Like the BBC, we too can perceive likely advances – even if foreseeing specifics is difficult. At both the 2012 and 2013 Consumer Electronic Shows, malleable and foldable gadgets captured significant attention. Products are getting smaller, lighter, faster and less expensive. Streamlined products – à la Apple – are all the rage and "seamless" has become a watchword of our tech-savvy times. We may not be wearing our smartphones like appendages just yet. But already 90% of older teens and 20-somethings admit to sleeping with their phones and millions more of us walk around with Bluetooth-enabled ear buds.

Based on these trends, AR looks like the dominant outgrowth of the coming wearable computer revolution. The technology has had a few false starts. But, for hoteliers, the latest advances suggest unmatched monetization and customer experience potential. The question is: Are hotel brands ready for this change and are they investing in the staff training, IT and creative talent necessary to capitalize on AR's capabilities and guest engagement reach?

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Coming up in January 2019...

Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.