2017's Hospitality Technology Trends

By Michael Schubach Strategic Deployments / Program Management Director, Infor Hospitality | October 30, 2016

Asking what the next big thing in hospitality automation will be is always something of a trick question. Industry watchers generally follow product announcements with a wait-and-see demeanor; contrary to conventional wisdom, the appearance of a better mousetrap does not guarantee a well-beaten path to the door. Industry consultants, on the other hand, tend to stay knee-deep in the needs and aspirations associated with current clients' current projects. Taken as a whole, it means that there is generally a substantial gap between innovation and adoption.

We sometimes forget that we are afloat in an ocean of technology, and that change arrives in an unending series of waves. We are all perennially at different points in the constant shift in the depth beneath us. It can take a long time – years, perhaps – for the rising tide to lift all boats; one technologist's new trend is another's been-there-done-that adventure story. The most important factor in technology adoption is not what is suddenly available, but what is next on the list of established priorities. The competition for investment funds is keen, the projects endless, and the operational ability to assimilate change finite; the pace of change is not the pace of innovation but the but ability to fund and deploy something new in environments struggling to keep up.

Nonetheless, there are definite trends afoot, and they do bear some consideration by those making system and transition decisions in the coming year. First, let's consider some of the must-haves: the technology demands that require immediate responses, typically owing to regulatory, security or ownership imperatives. These are the high priority changes that typically combine massive effort with minimal gratification or interest. One of the changes-du-jour that has falls squarely into that category is EMV compliance. This was supposed to be on last year's list, but we're still sorting though a lot of the details on a processor-by-processor basis.

As you will note from not only your hotel experiences, but also from your trips to – oh, any business that accepts card payments – that the conversion to chip-card technology has been highly disorganized. The card approval process used to be predictable enough that the general public could participate without appearing completely buffoonish. Now, it's a jigsaw puzzle of hit-and-miss implementations; regardless of whether we slip, slide, swipe, tap or slap, the hokey-pokey steps can differ at each location. Perhaps it's worth mentioning in passing that the rush to do something, despite the lack of industry, card-processor and hardware readiness, was because issuing banks are staunchly committed to shifting the liability for card fraud down to the merchants (you, at work), who, in turn, are committed to the price increases that shift that burden down to the consumers (you, at home). Our life / learning lesson here: technology changes can be swiftly implemented, provided there are no other options available and you don't care how the project turns out.

Another infrastructure issue still looms large as one of 2017's trends – an orderly transition to the cloud. This might feel like yet another trend from a previous year but for many hotels it is still very much in transition, still a part of that shifting ocean beneath us.

Why has the pace of adoption been so slow in the hospitality industry? Cloud apps – true cloud applications – are specifically designed to function in, and make the most effective use of, distributed networks where business logic, application data, on-line redundancy and the users themselves can span multiple data centers in multiple time zones. Lifting a traditional legacy application into a remote data center is not cloud computing – it's hosting.

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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.