High Tech, Low Touch

Con­tact less, ex­pe­ri­ence more

Business Traveler (USA) - - INSIDE - By Ar­tie Beavis

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.

Mo­bile Book­ings

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.

Ex­pe­dited Check-Ins

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.

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