Next big hotel tech trend: turning hotel rooms into computer screens

Ubiquitous computingHotels can live and die by their customer service and experience. I don’t have to tell you because you already know: competition is high and choices are plentiful. What will set your hotel apart from the rest? What will prevent your customers from defecting to AirBnB and the competition? It always comes back to winning customer experiences.

One easy way to create quality guest experiences is to adopt leading-edge technology trends. Hotels are already creating mobile apps, allowing guests to check in with smartphone room keys and adapting to Google Glass. With the pace of innovation rapidly accelerating, what could possibly be next?

My prediction for the next big hotel technology trend is ubiquitous computing. Also known as “pervasive computing,” ubiquitous computing allows a computer to appear anywhere and everywhere, on any device, in any location and in any format. This means that processing power will be embedded in everything and humans will interact with electronics in more natural ways than we do now.

Imagine a world where your guests can use the window as a whiteboard, the desk to schedule meetings and the wall to recreate a cinema experience. Think about it this way: mobility allows your guests to connect on the move. Ubiquitous computing lets their surroundings connect with them inconspicuously. Mobility moved the computer into our pockets and ubiquitous computing will take it out again and place the computer wherever your guests will want to interact with it.

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Ubiquitous computing works in concert with a concept called ambient intelligence. With ambient intelligence, devices support people in carrying out their everyday activities, tasks and rituals using information that is hidden in the network connecting these devices. The Internet of Things is the platform that makes ubiquitous computing and ambient intelligence possible. A few years ago, Microsoft released a video touting their future vision for 2020. The video gives a feel for how computing becomes part of the natural environment for people in an unobtrusive way, demonstrating the concept of ubiquitous computing and ambient intelligence beautifully.

I believe this technology will be mainstream in the next few years, and it’s already on its way, with companies like Microsoft and NEC leading the charge. For example, earlier this year, Microsoft Research released the SurroundWeb prototype, which projects screens from a computer on any surface; including videos, maps, documents, photos, browser tabs and more. The system uses small projectors and sensors to scan the layout of a room, including furniture, objects and people, to make sure the web pages aren’t distorted.

We will enter into a new era when ubiquitous computing and ambient intelligence become mainstream. Not only will ubiquitous computing improve hotel customer experiences and interactions, but ambient intelligence will give us the opportunity to gather and analyze data in real time. Powerful stuff. It may all sound a little Jetsons-esque, but this type of innovation is right around the corner. More than 90 percent of young people in developed countries are digital natives, according to a recent study. More and more hotel guests live in a connected world and expect to stay connected. They operate multiple gadgets, prefer seamless transfer of data and are willing to share a large amount of personal information. As hoteliers plan for future IT expenditures, they need to be prepared for this world – it’ll be here sooner than you think.

About the author

Peg McGregor headshotPeg McGregor is CEO of Technovation Solutions, a professional solutions-lab/proof of concept setting where visitors can experience a simulated high-tech environment, and technology vendors can display their products as part of a larger vertical market solution without the pitfalls of complex, time-consuming and costly independent systems integration. Prior to leading Technovation Solutions, Peg served as a marketing and business strategy executive and worked for 18 years for the U.S. Government Accountability Office in Washington.
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