Technology

the future of hospitality - Manet Mobile Blog

Every time you think about or plan your next trip, do you ever wonder what the future of travel and hospitality looks like? Digitization has brought massive changes to the travel industry delivering highly personalized experiences to travelers. So if you really want to get an idea of what’s next in the hospitality industry, you better watch out for these 5 major trends for the upcoming year.

1. Blockchain technology

Blockchain - Manet Mobile SolutionsBlockchain technology is about to take hold and radically change the global economy including the hospitality industry. Originally devised for the Bitcoin digital currency, the blockchain is starting to be used in new applications every day aiming at eliminating middlemen and intermediaries from provider-to-consumer transactions, allowing people to execute contracts (bookings for example) without the need for a “trusted” third parties (online travel agencies for example). Within the hotel industry horizon, numerous brand new companies are already showing up, offering platforms on which customers and rental providers can directly contact each other for free, without paying any commission. Winding Tree, Lockchain, Trippki, Fujinto, Emphy, Abab and Pally are some examples of companies using the blockchain to disrupt industries in the belief that travelers shouldn’t have to pay high rates to OTAs to get a good room, and hotels shouldn’t have to raise their rates to account for the cut the agencies take. Their claim is to ”make travel cheaper for the end user while making it more profitable for suppliers”, moreover “allowing small companies to compete with big players”, quoting Winding Tree.

2. Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Chatbots - Manet Mobile SolutionsAt present, the most widely recognized AI application in the hospitality business is chat-bots. Due to their ability to provide answers in many languages, 24/7 and by means of familiar online services like direct messaging apps, they have become extra-useful tools for hoteliers, freeing up precious time for the staff and providing fast and tailored responses to customers. Accor Hotels designed it’s bot to be able to collect stories and experiences related to places and therefore to guide guests throughout them by means of geolocation. The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas equipped its bot, named “Rose”, with an unprecedented flirty and funny personality she uses to recommend amenities and make reservations for clients in a totally new way.

3. Robots

Robots - Manet Mobile SolutionsThe Frankfurt-based, International Federation of Robotics, predicts a 20 to 25 % increase in sales of professional service robots (defense robots, cleaning robots, medical robots and logistics systems robots) per year through 2020, from around 79,000 last year. Robby Pepper, developed by Japan’s Softbank Robotics, is the first robot concierge deployed in an Italian hotel on Lake Garda; he can speak Italian, English and German, answering guests’ questions regarding topics like the spa, restaurants and opening hours. This summer’s tourist season will provide Robby with the crash course in unanticipated questions, not to mention accents, that will help him improve his knowledge, vocabulary, and his ability to answer. In 2016, 7200 public relations robots, providing mobile info and assistance like Softbank’s Pepper, were sold — a full 135 percent increase over the previous year. German hotel chain, Motel One, uses a lederhosen-clad concierge named Sepp to greet guests arriving in its newest location in Munich. Sepp can answer a wide range of guests’ questions, from personal to general. Meanwhile, Singapore offers two cutting-edge examples of this fast-growing technology. The first can be found at the M Social hotel, “employing” Aura, a front-of-the-house robot, used to deliver small room amenities like water, towels, and toiletries to its guests. Elsewhere in the city, the Jen Hotel uses a pair of colorful butler robots named Jeno and Jena for guest-oriented services like the delivery of in-room meals. LG gave us a glimpse at the next generation of hospitality robots with CLOi during this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. CLOi represents the next development in hospitality robotics, with even more engaging robots that can clean up, serve food and drinks with a built-in sliding tray, handle baggage and payments during check-in and check-out, and provide directions.

4. Internet of Things (IoT)

Internet of things - Manet Mobile SolutionsThe Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the network of interconnected internet-abled devices and physical things. IoT means that cars, kitchen appliances, hotel rooms can all be connected and exchange data. Today’s hotel rooms are packed with devices that give customers access to now indispensable services. Hilton has even built a room to beta test technologies including voice-control and the management of room settings like temperature, and lighting. By combining interconnected devices, sensors and machine learning, with virtual assistants, hotels can leverage the existing IoT to further enhance the customer experience.
With the amount of guest data being already available, hotels can generate predictions about customer preferences, and thanks to recent advances in artificial intelligence, hotels have begun to equip their rooms with smart devices that use voice recognition. Wynn Las Vegas equipped as many as 5000 hotel rooms with Amazon’s Echo speaker, allowing its guests to control many features in the room with Amazon’s voice-controlled virtual assistant, Alexa.

5. Mobile devices

Mobile devices - Manet Mobile SolutionsMobile phones have unveiled a whole new world to travelers: mobile innovation is key to the future of the hospitality business, and guests can’t fail to enjoy a holiday without a mobile phone. This is the reason why more and more hotels are providing mobile phones in their rooms. A single small device can enclose an entire and amazing world of services: payment gateways, sales and catering systems, wi-fi connectivity, mobile check-in/check-out programs, smart door lock management etc. Smartphones have already become essential not only to booking and paying a room but also to ordering room benefits as well as discovering activities and restaurants in a new city. For instance The Buddha Bar Hotel in Paris has enhanced its mobility services making its staff contactable anywhere on-site and therefore endowing it with extensive awareness of the guests’ demands. Moreover an app enables its employees to instantly report any room availability through a code on their mobile devices. The Winery Hotel, in Sweden, has opted for a fully mobile guest approach and completely refused the idea of in-room fixed telephones. By implementing a mobile eConcierge app the Winery Hotel now provides hotel services and enterprise-grade telephony entirely through their smart devices. This allows the hotel to be active 24/7.

The above mentioned trends are just a short list of all the trends that are shaping and revolutionizing the hospitality industry whose future seems full of exciting possibilities! Stay tuned to our blog to discover how technology is changing the way people travel.

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Smart locks

At the dawn of history, keys and locks were made of wood and until the ‘70s the only big change in key and lock manufacturing involved the introduction of new materials and the substitution of wood with iron, then with bronze and subsequently with stronger metals like titanium.

From the Egyptians to the Tor Sørnes turning point

The Egyptians were the first to invent keys and locks. This advanced civilization developed the first security systems for houses and coffers and they also were the first to give a symbolic andsacred meaning to keys. The ankh is an ancient Egyptian symbol also known as crux ansata (the Latin word for “cross with a handle”) symbolizing “the key of life” a mystic sign connected to sex (intended as sexual act but also as m/f gender identification), tothe sun (god Ra bring ankh in his hand) and to other esoteric concepts. The gesture of inserting a key in a patch certainly conveys a highly erotic meaning therefore it is no coincidence that it has often been used in movies to increase their sexual load. Keys have always been powerful signifiers either they give access to an alcove, to a drawer full of secrets, to an apartment or to a hotel room.
Focusing on hotel rooms,, until 1975 they were equipped with conventional iron keys and locks.
The same year, Norwegian inventor Tor Sørnes created the holecard-based recodable keycard lock. With this new system each hotel guest could have his/her own unique key formed by a pattern of 32 holes on a plastic card. This invention is still used worldwide in hotel security under the brand VingCard. The 32 holes on the key generate 4.2 billion key combinations, the same number as the population of the earth at that time.
The first hotel to install the keycard lock in 1978 was the Peachtree Plaza Hotel in Atlanta (USA). Since then, this invention spread like wildfire all over the world until it became obsolete because of the introduction of new technologies.

Smartphones for smart lock management

Smart door locks: a big new trend

Today, smart door lock use seems to be one of the biggest trends in the hospitality industry as Brian Shedd, VP of sales and marketing at OpenKey, said. His words were “I believe all new hotels at this point will be installing BLE – buetooth low energy – locks for the next five or 10 years based on trends in the hospitality industry”.
Nicolas Aznar, president of Assa Abloy Hospitality Americas Group thinks the same way: “It’s about utilizing the most advanced technologies available to accomplish the aforementioned objectives, the next technology for door locks will be solutions that streamline the check-in process to benefit both hoteliers and guests, and as door lock technology continues to advance they will incorporate more user-friendly and robust technologies”. This revolution will simplify the life of both hotel guests and managers, and comes from multiple channels as it is not only through mobile apps that the hotel industry is trying to outdo conventional keys.
Companies like the italian “Sofia” are trasforming smartphones in keys that can be used by their respective owners only. This unlocking solution offers many new possibilities as access can be restricted to specific time slots and days, within a given timeframe, can be extended to multiple individuals and it can also be used to study which rooms are the mostly accessed ones. This high tech key innovation allows managing access of multiple users or user groups and multiple keys with a single clickat a low price and with ease.
“Vikey”, another italian hi-tech company focused on the B&B market, offers new interesting opportunities to hosts and allow homeowners or house managers to handle guest check-ins remotely at any time of the day.
Apple is instead working on implementing hotel check-in and room door management functionalities in its latest smartwatch with the intent to make it complementary to the iphone and launch it commercially. This is whatKevin Lynch, Apple’s VP of Technology, explained in a recent interview: “When I arrive at my hotel room, I get a notification and also when I get near hotels like SPG’s W Hotel, you can see it’s got all the information I need to check-in, my confirmation number, my room number. These are really rich notifications; they have images, they have great typography and rich layout and it not only looks great and reflects the brand and the company, but it also makes it easier for you to understand very quickly and you can act on these. In this case I can use this to unlock my door right from the notification from my watch. So I press ‘unlock your door’, I can bypass the front desk entirely, go to my room and then my watch is my room key. I just wave it in front of the door and I go into my room.
Big hotel brands like Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt and Starwood are also working on the adoption of keyless access systems so the whole market seems to be going towards the smart-lock directions even if problems like device loss, battery capacity limits and lock hacking have to be dealt with to make new lock technologies easilly usable and reasonably safe.

the future of hotel smart locks

Innovation has its downsides: what will the future of locks look like?

We certainly see more keyless innovation in the future of the hospitality industry. However, the recent cases of an Austrian luxury hotel that was hacked by an angry guest, who paralized the hotel’s entire electronic system and demanded a substantial bitcoin ransom, or of the hacker group named “DarkHotel” that attempted malware attacks towards luxury hotel guests, stimulate some important reflections on the actual safety of smart locks. Nevertheless, it seems that the power of innovation is taking the smart lock industry towards a very clear goal consisting in freeing hotel guests from all key-related hassle and making their check-in and door opening experiences as fast, carefree and natural as possible. After all, today more than ever and thanks to technology, Pablo Picasso’s saying “Everything we can imagine in real” is true and the future of locks seems full of surprises!

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Futuristic Hotels

We are not yet travelling on spaceships, we are not yet living on Mars, but our “travelling space” has changed dramatically in the last years and as tourists sometimes we may feel like aliens in strange places called “hi-tech hotels”. A rapid digital revolution and incredible technological innovations have transformed the hospitality landscape. However this wasn’t an unpredictable change as the digital revolution has steadily been pervading all aspects of everyday life – public administration, culture, education, industry etc. – affecting travelling habits as well. Technology and digitalization are changing the way travelers of all kinds travel both in the luxury and in the budget travel segments.

Facts and trends:

According to Europe’s Digital Progress Report 2017, drawn up by the European Commission, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands have the most advanced digital economies in the European Union, followed by Luxembourg, Belgium, the UK – before Brexit – and Ireland. On the other side Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Italy have the lowest scores on the index.

The world-wide-web, social media, apps and digital maps have given travelers of the world the opportunity to explore any place without moving away from their sofa. This is a huge change compared to the way people used to travel just 20 years ago and things keep changing and evolving fast! So what’s next now? Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence applications are bringing new experiences in the hospitality sector. Expedia is introducing the possibility for its users to experience a room by means of virtual reality applications before booking it.

Imagine if you could search for flights, walk to the plane to select your seat, book and pay for your trip using Virtual Reality. We live in a 3D world, why shouldn’t we shop for travel that way?” That’s the question Navitaire, the travel technology company asks. The company, which is a subsidiary of Amadeus, created a Virtual Reality simulation in which people can search for global destinations and view airplane’s seats and places where they could travel. For now it’s still in a development phase with a patent pending, but Navitaire’s project could change the whole idea of travel.

Thaks to Virtual Reality, tourists can use their iOS or Android phones to visit places normally closed to the public, destinations that are off-limits, dangerous places or protected heritage sites. Talking about Artificial Intelligence, online players are exploring the possibility of introducing chatbots to aid in trip planning, providing real time and user-tailored information. Furthermore Artificial Intelligence is not only experienced through software anymore but it’s also delivered through smart devices and real robots providing lots of services and assistance to their users.

So let’s see now what some of the most high-tech hotels of the world look like:

Yotel in New York, aims at solving the problem of luggage storage once and for all. No more mess in the room thanks to a hi-tech storage space for luggage: a robot takes care of your suitcase placing it into a glass-walled storage area assigned to guests by typing a pin number. This is just one of the many computerized services offered by the Hotel, services like motorised beds, kiosk check-ins and motion-activated air conditioning.

Aloft Cupertino, in Silicon Valley, United States, in 2014 inaugurated its first hi-tech humanoid Sanbot Hotel Robot Butlercalled Botlr. Thanks to multiple sensors, 3D cameras and Wi-Fi, this robot is able to move up and down across the hotel floors performing room deliveries. Since then several other hotels started introducing robots used to handle repetitive tasks. Las Vegas luxury hotel Mandarin Oriental, has a humanoid robot that’s called Pepper. It is very similar to a human: thanks to facial recognition technology it can guess guests’ gender, age and even mood! With its lifelike gestures it can also entertain guests by providing directions, telling jokes and posing for selfies. The Sheraton Los Angeles San Gabriel, which opened recently, is a 288-room hotel with eight robots that can deliver luggage and towels, offering also directions to guests.

In the japanese hotel Henn na, Tokyo, guests are welcomed by robots. The real oddity is that they are dinosaur-shaped ones. The Henn na has been the first hotel entirely staffed by robots speaking all the languages needed to satisfy even the most demanding foreigner. These robots greet you at the reception and they carry your luggage to your room where thanks to face recognition capabilities the room keys are not necessary anymore. In Japan again, the Weird Hotel, in the southwestern city of Sasebo, went one step further intruducing humanoid staff members waiting at the front desk to check you in. These robots speak English, Chinese Korean and Japanese.

The hotels mentioned above are mostly high end hotels. However technology goes beyond luxury and is also present in budget hotels! The City Hub, in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, is a valid and new alternative to old-school hostels and an excellent solution for low-cost travel. This innovative hotel has 50 minimalist private cabins, called Hubs, with a double bed, wifi, app-controlled lighting and a personal audio streaming system. You can’t loose your room’s key because you’re given a wristband that electronically unlocks your door. Thanks to the hotel’s custom app, it is also possible to change the lighting color of the rooms according to mood.

Robot Butler

Another technology worth mentioning is Virtual Reality that never ceases to amaze its users. If you order “The Origin”, a whisky cocktail, at the Lobby Bar of the One Aldwych Hotel in London, you will also get an immersive virtual reality experience. “When someone orders it, we give the guest virtual reality goggles and a headset and explain we are taking you to the origin of the drink. You fly to the distillery where the whisky is aged, and then to the fields of barley and to the water source”, said the drink’s creator, bar manager Pedro Paulo. Last but not least, we want to mention a very peculiar technology application in the hospitality business: thanks to Nissan, the ProPILOT Park Ryokan, located in Hakone, Japan, is equipped with self-parking slippers, tables and floor cushions! Yes you read it right! This hotel looks like any other traditional Japanese inn, but these accessories are equipped with a special version of Nissan’s ProPILOT Park autonomous parking technology meaning that when not in use, they automatically return to their designated spots, with the push of a button.

Despite all the hi tech “whistles and bells” and exciting futuristic services described so far in this article, more conventional technologies like social media and phone apps are still strong players on the battlefield of innovation and are always pushing forward.

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Once upon a time, on hotel reception desks, there was the bell and behind it the bellhop that jumped up at the customer’s call. After the bell came intercoms and the first phones. Since then things kept evolving rapidly and today the fate of the hospitality industry seems to be inextricably linked to the advent of smartphones.

According to analysts, 2017 has been the year of these “mobile allies” and now as technology moves the world and firms of all market sectors cannot survive without it, the hospitality industry is riding the digital revolution wave with a particular focus towards digital mobility as the use of smartphones seems to affect all businesses including hotels. Smartphone diffusion indexes, that had already been impressive in 2016, grew from 2.1 billion users to 2.31 in 2017 and will be around 2.5 billion in 2019 (just over 36 percent of the world’s population is projected to use a smartphone by 2018).

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