Technology in the hospitality industry – exploring the very latest trends

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Evolving in a manner that can’t be accurately measured by ordinary standards, technology is a whirling dervish that is changing the face of consumer expectations and the hospitality industry that looks to satisfy these customers.

What exactly is changing in the hotel industry? The hospitality industry has had to change the way it conducts its business, which can and often has lead to great improvements and savings for hotels. For some, technological changes have been easy to develop into the day-to-day running of the business.

But for others, changes have run much deeper into the actual infrastructure of the business with some changing how hotel developers create their buildings and management structures. Some in the industry have even used digital technology reforms to develop and change their staffing requirements.

As we said, technology is incredibly fast-moving, there’s no denying it, but there are some trends around at the moment that are worth exploring.

Wi-Fi as far as the eye can see

For some of us – those of us who can remember the crushing noise of a dial-up internet connection – Wi-Fi can still feel like a blessing. This is particularly true if you’re travelling to a hotel for leisure, rather than for business because you’re less likely to be desperate for a connection to the internet, if your goal for being in a hotel is to ‘get away from it all’.

When you’re more likely to be looking for a Wi-Fi signal is if you’re on a business trip because we all know that emails don’t answer themselves!

The reality is however that Wi-Fi isn’t a luxury anymore, it’s an assumed necessity, if you check into a hotel without a wireless internet connection, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were in the past.

Wifi Accessibility

Hotel guests expect to connect to the internet practically seamlessly, which has lead hotels to invest in better, faster Wi-Fi infrastructure to meet with this consumer demand.

Hotels have also almost completely eradicated the user pay model of Wi-Fi connectivity, which can make for a large expense for businesses themselves. For this reason it might not be financially viable for all hotels to completely abandon the user pay model, but it’s definitely a technological trend that’s becoming more important as time goes on.

Skype conferencing

Thanks to things like Skype and Google Hangout, a conference can happen on just about anything, just about anywhere. For example, if people need or want to, they can conduct an entire conference on their smartphone or tablet when they’re on a train journey.

With this in mind, it seems reasonable enough that hotels should have top notch audio-visual (AV) and digital facilities to enable these types of conferences. Although this type of equipment sounds cumbersome, in reality there is actually very little physical equipment to contend with as most of the work that is needed is digital. It isn’t tangible and therefore it doesn’t take up much room.

Skype Conferencing

It’s important to design conference rooms in mind of the digital components that they will need to feature and they will also need to leave space for anticipated technological advances. A key thing to remember though is to create a space that is easily accessible and for the wires and cables to connect everything together to be easily concealed. This is not just for aesthetics, as loose cables and wires can also present a health and safety issue, so hotels need to make sure that facilities are safely and adequately stored.

A more specific necessity for digitally ready conference rooms is that, if a hotel has extensive conference facilities then the network design needs to be well thought out. A good network design will ensure that indoor mobile phone coverage runs at optimum performance. This is also true for the performance of the Wi-Fi connection, VoIP, real time locations services (RTLS) and internet protocol television (IPTV).

Automation

Automation, or automatic control as it’s also known, is basically the use of various control systems that can work with very little (or sometimes absolutely no) human interaction or intervention. Airlines and airports have taken a step forward in the automation process by giving their customers the option to check in to their flight and luggage through a mobile application.

Living in a world where digital communications means that we can find the answer to literally any question within a few seconds is a wonderful thing. It does however mean that people en masse have very little patience for waiting in queues, which is why airlines like easyJet have enabled automated check-ins, leaving their customers to get one step closer to enjoying their holiday. If someone could invent a similar process for bypassing security, I think we would all be extremely grateful.

Some higher end hotels are now offering this service to their guests, meaning that they can check in before they arrive at the hotel and even request specialist items to be placed in their room to increase the comfort of their stay. What this means for hotels is that by anticipating customers’ needs for more digital connectivity, they don’t have to guess which personal extras that each customer will need. By allowing a customer to dictate what they would like, it eliminates the guesswork, which makes for an enjoyable stay, even before the guest arrives in the hotel.

Automation

Of course, by being able to check in to their rooms remotely, customers won’t have to queue up at the reception desk, which is more enjoyable for them, but it also discourages a traffic jam of customers and therefore makes things more efficient for front of house staff.

We couldn’t talk about automation and features on mobile devices without mentioning social media. Thanks to social media, guests expect digital interactions with the hotel to be personalised and personal, by spending money on apps that allow guests to check in or order room service a customer’s experience is already personalised. But a fast-growing mobile concept is the ‘concierge in your pocket’, which allows operators to give information to customers, such as places to visit that are near to the hotel and similar services.

Similarly, guests appreciate this because they can have responses to questions they might have in real time and they don’t have to walk around the hotel looking for someone to help them.

What else… The possibilities are limitless

Some hotels are now offering futuristic experiences like using robots to deliver room service to a guest’s door. A particularly forward-looking hotel is located near Apple’s headquarters in the United States and it features a robot butler called Botlr, who can move between different areas of the hotel to bring guests sundries and amenities.

Although this isn’t a widespread technological feature in hotels, we can’t help but wonder how far away that day really is?

Endless Possibilities

A feature that you will be able to find in most places now are connected rooms, by which we mean that you should be able to connect with all of the technology in the hotel room and connect them with each other. Much in the way that most people do in their own homes.

But, something that is fast becoming one of the most popular technological features is keyless entry: that’s right, hotels will provide you with an app that lets you swipe your phone across a pad on your door to let you in. It’s an incredibly quirky and handy technological advancement, but although you won’t need to scrabble around to find your key, you’ll still need to remember to keep your phone charged.