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2010 Reflections...And a glimpse into 2011
Guest Room Technology Focus


 
 
by Terence Ronson, ISHC 
December 13, 2010

Typically, in the world of tech we take a forward-looking approach, but just for now - let's turn our heads around, and look back along the road from whence we came.

 

As the old cliché goes, you can't know where you are going until you know where you have been.

 

In many respects - 2010 (Y2K10) has been a blast!

 

Economy wise - we've gone from boom to bust to boom. And as for tech - we've traversed galaxies evolving from a 2D world to one that's all about Avatar's (as suitably portrayed by the now defunct TV series Caprica) and 3D. And when we speak of mobile comms, we are immersed in the 4G era.

 

In this newfound augmented reality existence, everything we now touch appears to be App driven and controlled via new forms of human gesticulation - pinching-to-expand, and then through the action of flicking your index finger, you now effortlessly scroll a screen full of data either up or down, or left and right. More importantly, and with any luck, these Apps cost no more than ninety-nine US cents to legally download. For the most part, these small and inexpensively priced software chunks (as part of everyday speak "there must be an App for that"...) operate on a device that ideally fits into the palm of your hand. Honestly speaking - what did we ever do before?

 

Deciding which Tablet (often in slang terms referred to as "a TAB") is best for you, has, for for all intent and purposes, become a size matters issue. Are you satisfied with 4" or should you upsize to a whopping 9.7"? You may also be concerned (on a fashion label level) as to whether you prefer something named after a piece of fruit, or an OS (Operating System) akin to an Alien Robot classification.

 

Security continues to be the 8-letter word most humans are afraid of, with justifiably heightened concerns across all sectors of life over data breaches and (Wiki)leaks. The viral nature of the web has recently been fully manipulated to graphically show us how information once believed secure on the credit card in our pocket can be fairly easily read and exploited by a passer-by equipped with a minimal amount of OTC (over the counter) tech. I really wonder how this technology became PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant?

   

In the space we know and love so dearly - Hotels, we've pretty much seen the demise of PPV/VOD, (Pay Per View / Video on Demand) and are nearing an anniversary of some sort for its popular successor - IPTV.

 

IDD revenue has all but gone, and IP Telephony has become commonplace in many up-scale properties - some even offering free unlimited planet-wide calling made possible through integration with a VoIN (Voice over Internet) service like Skype.

 

There is a hung Jury - one that cannot reach a conclusive verdict, as to whether HSIA (High Speed Internet Access) should be a Free or Fee based service (personally, I prefer to classify it as an amenity). But one thing is for sure, there is unparalleled demand for bandwidth - and it will get worse! Surveys show this is now the #1 requested (tech) amenity in Hotels. Watch out for scalable bandwidth (and associated charging) coming to a Hotel near you, as will omnipresent Wi-Fi and the cessation of wired connections at the Desk. Also, it's important to be mindful of the younger generation who, these days, do a lot more UPloading (thanks to YouTube), than DOWNloading.

 

Some Guests (exact % unknown) have found comfort and relief in their room being equipped with an RJP (Remote Jack Pack) or AUX panel or a dock of some sort to re-charge and playback their iThingy through a far more pleasing sound system than their tiny and shiny colorful ear buds provide. They have also astutely learned to BYOC - Bring Your Own Content. Next to be commonplace, are USB power sockets especially when the European Union enforces a single power adapter standard for all mobile phones in 2011 and we can safely forget our chargers @home.

 

The industry has a few new fads - like iPads - SaaS, mobile phones that can open doors and free mini bars. Truth be told, I worked on a project in 2001 when we provided free mini-bars at Rosedale Hong Kong - these included 4 cans of soda pop and drinking water, plus a couple of beers. Perhaps not as elaborate a selection as those you see today - but nevertheless customer acceptance was very high - much the same as with the free HSIA we also provided. Well I guess it takes the rest of the industry a while to catch up - just like the first Hotel App I created on a PALM Pilot and HP iPAQ (in 2001) - called HOTELINMYHAND® (as featured on CNN) - hmm.

 

Getting our heads and biz into the Cloud (aka SaaS - Software as a Service) is quite likely apart from iPad the most commonly spoken 4-letter word in a Hotel today - Who am I kidding? Many are still unsure as to how this service works, and much more importantly, how they will benefit. Educating the common man, providing him with re-assurances about data security, cost savings and guaranteed uptime are IMHO key areas that need to be addressed for this to succeed. This may, however, get some added traction in 2011 when Google finally releases into the expectant world their Chrome based computer complete with built-in Cloud Apps. I feel this is somewhat akin in concept to the Client/Server architecture some of us may have painfully grown up with. Anyone agree with me here?

 

And, as for opening your Room door with a mobile phone that plays a series of beeps, I'm really not sure about that one!

 

Another dinosaur slowly disappearing from Hotels is the Front Desk, thankfully due to great advances in mobile technology and the desire to physically Room-guests. Overcome a few remaining obstacles and we'll get there. Hey - Who likes to queue up anyway?

 

The use of Social Media is becoming commonplace in Hospitality, with technology like geo-tagging and the App FourSquare contributing to this. Trending is an everyday occurrence as people Tweet all over the place, make lots of BFF's, and using their FaceBook pages to crowdsource and share their 'Likes' and 'comments'. And just in case you've dropped in from another planet, Linkedin has without doubt, developed into the de facto place not just for Hoteliers but for everyone, to post ones resume and explore networking opportunities.

 

Slowly appearing on the horizon is the acceptance of vending machines and kiosks with high-profile Hotels in New York, London, Abu Dhabi and Las Vegas installing them. Some even dispense real Gold Bars. As appealing as that may sound, I think the type, which dispenses pyramid shaped chocolate covered honey and nut bars; have more of a chance to succeed across the board and thereby boost the Swiss chocolate industry - Don't you?

 

Thin is IN - and as our Guests become increasingly smarter and ever more demanding - so must the TV's in the Guest Room.  Models are thinner, show high definition pictures, are compatible with Blu-Ray, reproduce sound with enhanced quality, while at the same time 'are connected' and often supplied with embedded Apps like Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Google, Skype and also Room Service ordering. Some include Wi-Fi streaming from suitably enabled devices - like AirPlay. Short time now until everything will be done via the TV including smart room controls and Video Conferencing. Apple calls this FaceTime, and Cisco plus a few other companies (like HP) refer to it as TelePresence. Actually, Face Time is a very common phrase used here in Asia where we like to say, "We need to get some Face Time with that client" - meaning be physically there in the same place and time zone - unlike the place and time-shifting this technology promotes. I wonder if this will cause an evolutionary change in certain cultures?

 

B2B or Back to Basics will feature heavily in 2011, with Hotels re-imagining what their Guestrooms are really being used for - Are they a Home Away From Home, or an Office Away From Office - perhaps, in reality, a mashup of the two.

 

So, what's next? Maybe we'll see...

 

Sorry gotta stop there - can't let the cat out of the bag!

(c) Terence Ronson ISHC

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Contact: 

Terence Ronson 
terence@pertlink.net
 

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Also See: The Front Desk Is Dead. Long Live the [New] Front Desk / Terence Ronson / August 2010

Fairmont Hotels Installing Self-service Kiosks in All North America Hotels; Includes Guestroom Mapping and Airline Check-In Features / June 2005

Hilton Tests New Check-In/Check-Out Self Service Kiosks at Two Flagship Properties / Sept 2003
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