Hotel Online  Special Report



Emerging Technologies Redefining the Hospitality and
Tourism Business; HSMAI Executive THINK Sees
Technology Helping to Spur Travel
“The age of computing hasn’t really begun. All we’ve done so far is play
with little toys and get some ideas of what we might do”
– R. Stanley Williams.

MCLEAN, VA (Dec. 3, 2003) – When the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) held its second Executive THINK at MIT in Boston, top executives got an inside look at emerging technologies that will redefine life, the way we do business, and what it means for hospitality and tourism, resulting in the expectation that technology will help spur more travel by making it easier and more fun to experience. 

From voice recognition and global positioning to wearable computers, the HSMAI Executive THINK: “Test Drive the Future: Technologies That Are Changing Our World” provided a rare opportunity for participants to hear from some of the industry’s most forward-thinking experts and visionaries from MIT, IBM, Segway and ScanSoft.

“It was an exciting, information-packed day of learning about new technology trends, analyzing applications, considering its implications, and really exploring how technology can excite your mind,” said Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHA, president and CEO of HSMAI.

Moderated by Dr. Lalia Rach, associate dean and director, New York University Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management, the strategy session included a keynote address and three Technology Showcases.

Participants were asked to keep an open mind, wildly imagining the possibilities and consider the applications and importance of new technologies.

In “A View of the Future,” Dr. Sandy Pentland, director, Human Design Group, MIT Media Lab, whose work encompasses wearable computing, communications technology for developing countries, human-machine interfaces, artificial intelligence and machine perception, talked about human design and building computation around human networks. 

“A house is a computer and so are you,” states Pentland.  He notes: “A generator in the shoe transmits power to memory chips in shirts, someone’s image is stored in your body computer.  From fingerprint to face recognition technology, it’s a world where the exchange of information occurs by the shake of a hand.”

Pentland says: “Technology is leaking all over the world, driven by the developed world for the developing world.”  He suggests it will make people experience more and travel to new places as communications devices break down barriers and allow movement beyond walls.

In the interest of using technology “to get things into people’s brains”:

  • Personal video mining: A specially designed camera worn as a backpack records 360 degree video 16 hours a day to record one’s life.  With a permanent record of your life, you can fast forward, rewind and index memories, go back in time to capture moments and playback and study reactions and behavior.
  • Audio mining: The base of a social network, it takes into consideration the sounds around you, breaks them apart and dissects speech.
  • Socially aware telephony: A hands-free phone that knows who is talking to who and won’t interrupt a conversation.  It can detect when you’re near a conversation, but not into it.
  • Meeting Miner: With a headphone and PDA, you can analyze what people are thinking during a meeting. How someone speaks and reacts will determine social relationships, and who is interesting in a group. Conversations are more than words – how you say things matter as much as the words: energy, pitch, speed, positive vs. negative – which can significantly change group dynamics.
At the IBM showcase, Dr. Jane Snowden, manager of the Embedded Applications Department at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center and Carolyn M. Veins, global segments executive for IBM Global Travel, addressed the concept of “computing woven into the social fabric.”

Snowden noted that with modular systems on the move, the size of a web server is decreasing – once the size of a match box, then a match head, it’s now just the size of a speck of dust. “It’s about connecting anything to anything to anything without being noticed,” she says. 

Snowden addressed the emergence of embedded systems, which “will be pervasive, and by 2010 will be three embeddable programmable devices per person worldwide – for home, car and office.”

Other observations from Snowden: Customers will demand data retrieval that behaves like a “searchable web,” and that “vulnerabilities overwhelm us, with nearly half of the 5,000 security vulnerabilities reported since 1995 came in 2001 and the trend continues.”

IBM’s Veins states that within hospitality, an on demand, component-based architecture utilizes a single image of inventory, guest data and content, and provides access to services wherever they are located.  She says we will have migrated to an on demand environment in hospitality when:

  • Your key guests know their guest history and value from your perspective.
  • The event sales manager can access meeting and guest room inventory in all major hotels to determine availability.
  • You can measure the results of target marketing in days, not weeks.
  • You can see the performance on property in real time.
  • Sales data is in the accounting and purchase systems when the guest has just checked in
  • Supplies and property inventory meet needs driven by occupancy.
  • The front desk is aware of a previous request for special services…at another property/location.
  • Housekeeping can be wirelessly contacted to attend to a guest room while present in the hotel wing.
  • Training levels have risen while training budgets are down.
  • The CEO has instant visibility into performance indicators for all aspects of the business from anywhere in the world.
Veins adds: “In an on demand work computing capacity, if you miss a flight the airline can transparently notify all travel suppliers and related parties of your late arrival and then confirm back with updates to your handheld device.”

Also presented by IBM:

  • Dynamic signature verification: a technology that not only looks at the shape of letters but also at the tilt you hold the pen.  At a resort it can be used for multiple signatures charged to one account for families on vacation for fast and convenient authorization at point of sale.
  • From financial applications to health care and travel, smartcards embedded with smart chip store information like biometrics, retinal scan, fingerprint, birthday, secure identity credentials, etc.  With the ability to store and access time critical information, it could elevate customer satisfaction and reduce wait time. 
Participants also got to experience first-hand dynamic stabilization technology – the driving force behind the Segway Human Transporter.  In an interactive session of demonstrations and actual test driving, Segway HT’s Neil Costa showed the principles self-balancing and how the machine replicates what it takes to walk.

Since its inception a year ago, Segway has influenced travel, from operational practicality to enhancing the guest experience.

At Disneyland and Disney World, it reiterates Disney’s futuristic positioning and is primarily used for executive navigation, security and as a response vehicle.  On the other side of the equation, Segways are integrated into the travel experience as Sea Dream Yachts offer their luxury travelers rides in exotic destinations, as do guests staying at Ko Olina Resort in Hawaii and sightseers on city tours in Paris. 

Summarizing other new technologies, Dr. Rach noted:

  • Data key chain and mobile communicator: With voice technology and wireless technology, the ability to instant messenger to devices as opposed to humans, such as telling a car that it’s cold outside and please warm up my seat.
  • An interactive badge that reports where an attendee stops on a trade show floor and when information is taken from a vendor.
  • Biofeed and entertainment technology embedded on the bathroom mirror from Philips Home Lab, which are already being used in some hotels. 
  • A personalized packaging personal concierge that will know all your wants in advance of arrival to deliver the anticipated experience once in a destination. Automatically provide suggestions of places to visit, eat, shop, etc. based on the profile you have of the person.
  • Flexible plastic newspapers from IBM Research which have an OLED display with a wireless connection that continually downloads news. It rolls up to fit easily in a briefcase or pocket.
  • An LED projects the image of a keyboard onto a flat surface and infrared motion detectors sense the movements of fingers on the virtual keyboard for data entry.
Rach says: “We’re in an uneven time and the next decade seemingly will make last 30 years look sophomoric in how the advance we will make in such rapid fashion,” concluding that “wireless will be a huge influence, with the hospitality and tourism industry significantly impacted by the wonders of nanotechnology, on-demand and speech recognition.”

Partners in the HSMAI Executive THINK on Technology were American Express and ISM, Boston, MA, a leading marketing, advertising and consultant firm specializing in the travel industry. 

HSMAI Executive THINK  (Travel & Hospitality Innovation, Network, Knowledge) sessions are held as one-day senior-level executive forums that discuss and debate the most interesting and impactful issues facing the hospitality, travel and tourism industry.

HSMAI is an organization of sales and marketing professionals representing all segments of the hospitality and travel industry.  With a strong focus on education, HSMAI has become the industry champion in identifying and communicating trends in the hospitality industry, while operating as a leading voice for both hospitality and sales and marketing management disciplines.  Founded in 1927, HSMAI is an individual membership organization comprised of nearly 7,000 members from 35 countries and 60 chapters worldwide.

Hospitality Sales & Marketing 
Association International 
8201 Greensboro Drive, Suite 300 
McLean, VA 22102 
phone (703) 610-9024
Also See: Discounting, Declining RevPAR at Center of Issue Discussed by Hospitality Executives at HSMAI Executive THINK / Oct  2002
Details of the HSMAI / NYU Strategy Session in New York; Solutions to Move the Industry Forward Include Back to Fundamentals, Value-added Promotions, Unified Voice to Combat Downturn in Travel / October 2001

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