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From what I’ve been reading lately, it looks like the hotel industry is stepping up to the plate when it comes to implementing some of the emerging technologies into their business. Now I know my way around a computer quite well, but I’m not the most tech savvy person when it comes to all of these devices out there. However, even a novice techie will be able to benefit from some of these new technological enhancements being implemented by various hotels. As a Federal traveler, I recognize some of these hotel brands as participants in the FedRooms program so I know we will have the chance to experience some of these advancements in the near future. Travelers may have already encountered some of these.
One example of this new technology is a new door lock system that uses Bluetooth connectivity to allow guests with smartphones to bypass check-in and unlock their door simply by touching the handle. The traveler downloads the company’s app to their smartphone, enters a username and password, and the app links the reservation to their mobile device. The first day of the reservation the traveler receives a notification when their room is ready, then they enter a personal pin and gain access to their room number. The system checks you in automatically upon your presence in the lobby space. After the automatic check-in, you just touch your door handle and it recognizes you and allows you access to the room. This company is looking at other ways to use this proximity-awareness technology to enhance the guest’s stay. This is just one example of near field communication (NFC).
Contactless payment technology is a type of near field communication with a contactless, wireless means of transferring data between two objects. It is activated when two antennae communicate with each other through a magnetic field such as an NFC-enabled smartphone and an NFC-enabled point of sale payment terminal. Many stores already use this technology, but now hotels are rolling it out or testing it with trials. Some hotels are offering this type of payment in their lounges, restaurants, and gift shops. They say it takes half the time to process versus paying with cash or another type of credit or debit card. It sure makes grabbing a newspaper or a snack more convenient.
Contactless payment technology sounds great, right? Well, there is a new type of “contact” payment technology that you might see some time in the future. The technology, biometric authentication, isn’t that new, but using it for payment is. There is a Spanish hotel that is pioneering this biometric technology to allow guests to make payments with their fingertips to ensure that their guests have a secure, cash-free stay with them. With the system this hotel is using, the user sets up their account to recognize two fingerprints and links them to one or more debit and/or credit cards on their account. When the user makes a purchase, he or she just places their two fingers on the fingerprint scanner and verification and authorization is complete—no need to enter a pin code or to sign a bank receipt. This technology will make purchasing items within your hotel a snap.
In this discussion, let’s not leave out the devices themselves. Tablet computers are revolutionizing the travel industry around the world. Airlines are using tablets many ways—to log flight information, allow business-class passengers to watch movies or listen to music, conduct customer satisfaction surveys, and identify travelers that are VIPs or require special meals or other services. Now hotels worldwide are getting in on the action. Tablets are given to guests to view their bill, alter the air conditioning, switch on the lights, order room service, and even see who’s at the door via a camera. These tablets are also being used to track guest behavior so hotels can customize traveler’s preferences so they can be offered every time the guest checks in. Guests can also use translation programs offered on some tablets to help bridge communication gaps. These are just a few of the ways the hotel industry could use these devices. As the cost of these devices decreases, we are sure to see more hotels utilize these devices to enhance travelers’ experiences.
Consequently, with all of this great new technology come issues. One issue that hotels are facing when it comes to technology is that almost everyone brings with them a smart device that they want to use for many reasons—both business and personal. Of course this causes issues surrounding security, bandwidth, risk, and cost. Guests are also bringing their own movies, music, and other items that they want to utilize and playback on their devices in the room. They want to be able to stream wirelessly to the playback unit of choice (usually room TV). There are devices to cope with this, but many hotels haven’t incorporated them yet. It might be because of cost or maybe they are just trying to determine which technologies will give them the biggest bang for their buck. Hotel brands are trying to differentiate their brand from others by selecting the technology that will help them stay ahead of the curve with customer service by creating a customer experience.
Speaking as a Federal traveler trying to maximize our decreasing travel budget, I’m all for technological advances that will enhance my travel experience as long as the hotels don’t pass along the cost of these tools to the customer. Hopefully, these advancements will reduce operational costs of the hotels so they will pay for themselves and then it will be a win-win for both the travelers and the hotels.
By Angela Miller
“The contents of this message are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the Government or my agency.”