By SriHari Thotapalli
The hospitality industry has long been seen as a laggard in adopting modern technology. Whether right or wrong, this perception is widespread and may be poised to grow as we see incredible innovation happening in other verticals, especially with the most recent excitement in the field of Artificial Intelligence.
Consider ChatGPT and Google Bard, revolutionary large language models that have exploded in attention over the past six months. Another example is Amazon’s Go self-service stores, which operate mainly on computer vision, where shoppers open their Amazon app and scan a QR code at the store’s entrance before going shopping, add whatever they want to their basket, then simply walk out of the store, knowing that the technology will charge them accurately for their purchases.
It’s important to realize that all of this exciting innovation happening today is powered by data. These massive projects are centered on collecting, normalizing, labeling and modeling incredibly large sets of data – a function known as “data wrangling.”
ChatGPT’s algorithms, for example, have been trained on millions of hours of human output and data labeling. Artificial intelligence language simulators have been in operation for years, and popularity skyrocketed only when a user-friendly public interface was introduced earlier this year. At Amazon Go, while the public only sees their shopping cart and the front-end user interface, millions of data points on the backend – prices, inventory, checkout sensors, payment data – are being shared among systems, much of which was manually labeled by a human.
A common adage among data scientists is that they spend about 80% of their work hours wrangling data – collecting and labeling the data before they can experiment with it to train and populate an accurate data model.
While there’s still plenty of room to innovate across the hospitality industry, significant advancements have been made around data – namely, more open integrations among tech providers and better partnerships through large scale cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Salesforce. These advancements have led to improved data strategies within some hospitality organizations.
But there’s much progress to be made, and the next steps may require rethinking some long-held beliefs from hotel stakeholders regarding their approach to building in-house data structures versus partnering with experienced data platforms.
Data Streaming as a Utility
To truly catch up with the innovation happening in other industries, hotel brands and operators should prioritize data and invest in the right partnerships with companies experienced in building platforms that unlock hospitality data.
One way to look at building the right data framework for your hospitality business is to consider data streaming a utility, like the electric, water, internet or gas company. Even global companies that could afford to build their own utility company don’t choose to do that – instead they rely on trusted partners with deep knowledge and expertise in the area. You don’t want to reinvent the wheel.
Hotel brands building their own data models are engaging in what is called “undifferentiated work.” This is work – such as gathering PMS data, building a singular view of a guest or a reservation, validating the data – that other companies have already spent time and money perfecting. This is truly “reinventing the wheel.”
Instead of spending limited time and resources on such undifferentiated work, hotel companies should use off-the-shelf data connectors along with an integration platform that will consolidate and normalize data into a state where it can be actioned to deliver on the company’s core value – providing an exceptional experience to guests. The industry can take advantage of normalized data models to unlock first party data, power Customer Data Platforms, enable Customer Relationship Management tools, and more.
Building and testing proprietary data connectors, streams and models requires years of work, to the point where by the time companies bring products to market, there is little business value in the product. At this point, new innovations are taking place, and the industry is perpetually behind. By treating data streaming as a utility, hotel companies can refocus their time, budget, and in-house development resources on true differentiation. Streaming normalized data and business events in realtime unlocks the potential for true guest personalization at scale and automated operational analytics – both programs that are key to differentiate brands in an increasingly crowded lodging market.
Finding the right data platform to act as your utility will allow hotel companies, and even new third-party tech providers, to get started quickly and take advantage of investments the platform provider has already made, accelerating innovation and de-risking data initiatives.
A Modern Approach to Data
Until recently, a fragmented industry with a challenging technology landscape has kept the hospitality industry from true innovation. However, today, brands and operators have access to proven data platforms that have solved for integrations and data streaming at scale.
There is a path toward modernizing hospitality technology, and it starts with a new approach to unlocking, sharing and storing data. To capitalize on exciting new innovations like automation, connect to a platform that will bring agility, speed, and ultimately that semantic layer that a data scientist or brand or technology company can start taking advantage of immediately.
Together, we can bring modern technology to hotels.
For more information about HAPI (Data Travel, LLC), visit hapicloud.io