For Technology, The Future Is Now

In my editor’s note, I often focus on the entire contents of that particular issue— especially if a theme is involved—or take the opportunity to go over some “housekeeping” matters (submitting upcoming surveys, sharing your opinions, etc.). But, every now and then, it’s a particular department within the issue that catches my attention and I use this platform to alert you to the piece, so it catches yours, too.

In this case, it’s our Technology story on page 18. Maybe I’ve chosen to focus on this topic because Hotel Business will soon be heading to HITEC, and I’m in the editorial planning stages of the corresponding issue (June 7). Or, maybe it’s because I’m fascinated by the subject and the pace at which digital solutions are entering our industry—and the opportunities they’re creating for guests. Yet, I’m also wondering if there will be a time, at some point in the not-so distant future, that technology will no longer just enhance the hospitality experience but override it—and the one thing our foundation has always hinged on: people. With all of the interactive displays and touchpoints, will we lose human touch? Will the virtual concierge replace the “real” one?

In all truth, I think the installation of tech options at a property is not only efficient and effective, but fun. I think about the movie Minority Report, often referenced when the topic of digital signage arises, where the medium is intuitive, interactive—almost human— personalizing messages and media to the individual. It all seemed, in 2002 when the movie came out, rather futuristic. The world portrayed in the film is 2054 and, in all fairness, the technology depicted has often been seen as controversial in terms of privacy issues. But Minority Report, on some level, is now. No longer a Hollywood creation or niche industry, digital signage has elevated itself to a marketable media channel to supplement staff services but, hopefully, not replace them.

Look at The Renaissance Midtown Hotel, the focus of our aforementioned story, with its digital displays and “living wall.” The interactive nature and multisensory experience of the hotel’s Discovery Portal, billed as the “ultimate insider’s city guide,” enables guests to select attractions outside the realm of the typical tourist traps, and offers them information about these points of interest, in order to navigate the outing. All through motion-activated concierges. This is just the beginning of ambient intelligence, as it’s known, where digital solutions begin to take the leap from what has been a mostly atmospheric experience to strategic and customized engagement. And, who doesn’t like streamlined information, better personalization and targeted approaches?