High Tech, Low Touch
Contact less, experience more
From mobile check-ins to cashless payments and keyless entry, today’s travelers contact less and experience more
While evolving technology has engulfed our dayto-day lives, it seems the hotel industry hasn’t always kept pace. From heavy brass room keys in Europe to lengthy check-in lines in Los Angeles, innovations in hotel technology have been relatively scarce in recent times. However, today we find ourselves on the horizon of an entirely new hospitality world where revolutionary technologies will surely open doors – both literally and figuratively – to a more expedited, efficient and, ultimately, more enjoyable traveler experience.
If you relish the idea of obsolete keys, cash and rewards cards, and the introduction of NFC, RFID, high-tech gizmos and whatchamacallits, you’re in luck. Though it may sound more like something out of Inspector Gadget, the hotels of tomorrow have already begun to deploy and integrate scifi-like technologies throughout their establishments. From West Hollywood to Orlando, Stockholm to Shanghai, techsavvy hotels and resorts are offering their corporate and leisure travelers futuristic conveniences that go way beyond free WiFi and iPod docking stations.
What if you were told you could leave those old-fashioned, plastic keycards behind? Imagine one hotel stay without demagnetization or some other card malfunction. Envision a hotel stay where you didn’t have to wait in long check-in lines. In fact, think about a hotel lobby with no front desk.Yet, today’s innovations all embody a common theme: Less is more. Touch-less, contact-less, wire-less, and ultimately bringing less – while experiencing more.
NFC? No Friggin’ Clue!
Harnessing the functionality of already existing smartphone technology and integrating it into today’s connected world brings the all-in-one device of tomorrow closer than ever. By now, it’s likely that you’ve heard the buzz around something called near field communication, or NFC. Mostly that buzz surrounds NFC’s pivotal role in the up-and-coming mobile payment market, or even more recently, its involvement in the ongoing craze surrounding the iPhone 5S.
According to recent report from Strategy Analytics, in 2013 the number of NFC- equipped smartphones will surpass 400 million devices globally. That’s nearly one in three smartphones sold throughout the world. Given the upsurge of NFCenabled mobile devices, hospitality chains have already begun deploying contactless technology to encourage guests to make reservations, check in, check out, access their rooms, enjoy amenities and partake in newly-unveiled loyalty programs – all through their handset.
Using NFC-equipped smartphones, guests can check in remotely after a simplified, expedited process that works like this: First, the hotel sends its future guest a link via text message. From there, the guests are provided with the room number for their upcoming stay along with an encrypted key that is sent by SMS over the air to a SIM card. With their digitized room key, guests can forego those daunting lobby lines and head straight up to their rooms. To gain entry, guests merely place their NFC-equipped device in close proximity to the contactless reader on the door and, presto!
Though it may initially seem like a brand spanking new innovation, it’s not entirely in its infancy. NFC is the successor to radio frequency identification (RFID), which has been used throughout the hospitality industry for years. The frictionless, contactless and above all, versatile technology gives users the unparalleled ability to streamline a host of common tasks throughout their hotel stay.
The transition from mere concept to universal adoption will no doubt take time; but with nine out of 10 major phone manufacturers having already unveiled NFC-enabled mobile devices in their lineup, not only will supported ted gadgets become more widely y available, but the public is consequently ly more likely to adopt them. In the end, it really comes down to developing solutions that are secure and easy for travelers, hoteliers and the rest of the market to grasp and implement – much like the rest of the contactless experience.
Courtesy of new technologies and applications, that experience begins even before passing through the hotel doors. In fact, nearly half (47 percent) of guests start planning their travel itineraries from a mobile device.
The rumor mill continues churn out speculation on Apple’s decision not to include contactless technology in its latest iPhone. However, forgoing NFC doesn’t mean the Cupertino giant is abandoning its commitment to expedited travel via mobile. In fact, many hotel chains and hospitality establishments have already taken advantage of Apple’s Passbook app, which stores guests’ membership cards, coupons, tickets and reservations on iPhone and iPod Touch devices.
Similar to the NFC digital wallet, the Passbook app transforms a hotel confirmation into a mobile pass that is sent directly to the guest’s Apple device and added to their Passbook app account. Since the app is location-based and in realtime, hotel confirmations automatically appear on the screen when and where the information is required. As travelers approach the hotel, their confirmations appear for easy access, viewing and expedited check-in.
Truth be told, we have now entered a hospitality world where the front desk has fallen into obsolescence, a result of nearly eight in 10 (79 percent) hotel guests choosing to check in and out of hotels ls from mobile devices.