It is All the Fault of Dick Tracy and George Jetson!

By Bonnie Knutson Professor, The School of Hospitality Business/MSU | September 30, 2018

Okay, for those of you who are too young to know who Dick Tracy was, let me give you the facts. The legend began on October 14, 1931.  The place was the Detroit Mirror(1).  The event was Dick Tracy's debut as a comic strip hero.    He was the predecessor of those television law enforcement icons such as Colombo, Monk, Magnum, PI, and even The Sinner. Fifteen years after his humble beginning, this tough, smart detective, created by Chester Gould, first used the iconic 2-way wrist radio.  And in 1964, the radio was "upgraded" to a 2-way TV.  Today, ol' Dick's wrist radio has morphed into the Apple Watch, Fitbit, and even Body Cameras.  Welcome to the world of wearables.

Of course, if you really want to get technical about it, you could say that wearables came into our lives with the invention of eyeglasses in the 13th century.  Fast forward to 2002 when the Bluetooth headset achieved mainstream popularity.  In fact, the term The Year of Wearable Technology was coined by the popular media in 2014.  Now it seems to be everywhere and growing.   Euromonitor has projected that WT will be a $27 billion industry this year.

Before going into how this exploding technology might be used in your hotel, it helps to understand exactly what wearable technology (WT) is.  Simply put, WT is a term that encompasses all electronics that can be worn on the body.  It can be an accessory, such as a smartwatch, or it can be a sensor embedded into clothing that can tract motion, time, and even location.  

The key benefit of wearable technology is that it connects to the Internet so that the information collected can be sent to a network, stored, exchanged, analyzed and acted upon.  This capability is what is pushing wearable technology to the forefront of what is being called the Internet of Things (IoT). In fact, it is estimated that by 2020, there will be more than 28 billion IoT devices in operational use.  While this trend may sound scary to some, especially in light of recent Cambridge Analytica issues, businesses are finding that IoT is offering them new insights into how to increase efficiency, how to better engage employees and customers, and how to develop new revenue stream opportunities.  Can the hotel industry be far behind?

While WT is less of a novelty today and is becoming increasingly integrated into our daily lives, it is still in the early adopter stage for many – both personally and professionally.  Like any new development, there are always pros and cons for adoption.   So first, a look at what could be some pros for your property. 

  • Biometric data can help design work environments for better employee wellbeing.  For example, a company in Britain used armbands, automatically tracking employees' movements during several tasks to identify completion time, process, and fatigue.  From the data, they were able to recognize when employees were most alert and productive, allowing them to design new procedures and processes as well as more flexible work schedules.   In fact, one study found that WT can boost employee productivity 8.5% and job satisfaction 3.5%.  Many in the IoT field believe that the initial drivers for adopting WT will be health and wellbeing both on and off property.  Given longevity trends and the skyrocketing cost of health insurance, they are probably right.  Sounds like a win-win, to me.
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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.