You don’t have to pull out your crystal ball to predict the direction hospitality technology is going. Rather, I recommend you study the 2015 education program for the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference (HITEC), which lists out the industry’s top trends and interests. Designed each fall by the HITEC Advisory Council, a group of top technology practitioners, academics and consultants, I guarantee that the topics scheduled are what hospitality technology professionals are facing day-to-day and what they are looking to plan for going forward. To provide you an overview, I have an outline of the larger themes you will find this year in Austin, Texas USA.
Integrating the Marketing and Technology Roles
It used to be that these two practices would be considered two very disparate departments, one for creatives and the other for engineers. But now with the influx of digital marketing tools, these two fields are partnering to capture a highly visible online presence and maximize results from collected data. The discussion now is who is taking ownership of these systems and how these two departments can work together. To explore this further, the HITEC education program is hosting a Super Session panel with marketing and IT executives to discuss just this topic.
State of Security – Cyber and Physical
The need for the tightest security is an age-old issue, but the parameters are always shifting. With the incidents of cybercrime growing, and methods evolving, hotel IT departments cannot remain static in this area. And, as we’ve seen with recent high-profile cases such as Target and Sony, the aftermath is costly. In our industry, we might as well have a big “Welcome Criminals” sign on our doors, as we collect vast amounts of guest personal data and oversee locations that see revolving traffic. This year’s program offers a keynote by hacker Josh Klein who will cover cybercrime in 2015. Returning to HITEC with new content, Josh has practiced and was trained, both formally and informally, in hacking social systems, computer networks, institutions, consumer hardware, animal behavior, and, most recently, the publishing industry. Continue the study with forums on both cyber and physical security, helping you keep up-to-date on the latest methods.
Explosion of Mobile Devices and Mobile Payments
What would be more of a setback on a trip, forgetting your wallet at home or your smart phone? I am sure many would say their smart phone, especially because we can now use our phones for payment processing. Our guests have become dependent on their devices for communication, entertainment and now as a means for monetary exchange; and when our guests check-in, we are expected to support these mobile devices with a strong wi-fi network and as a means of communications. Hear what marketing gurus and bandwidth experts are doing to support the rise of mobile usage.
IT professionals are stuck in a stereotype that describes them as difficult communicators. It used to be easy to embrace this idea, as IT departments were their own separate entity. Now, it is less and less the case as technology is highly integrated into operations. Knowing this, the Advisory Council has introduced a number of sessions to help brush up on workplace best practices. These include IT hiring, preparing a business plan, career development and ethics.
Hot Technologies Expected to Debut at HITEC 2015
While not exclusive to the education program; you will have a chance to see the most current technologies for the industry. One benefit to HITEC’s prominence in the industry is that exhibiting companies use this week to debut their newest technologies.
You can also see emerging technology at HITEC’s newest feature competition and exhibit: Entrepreneur 20X. Designed to propel the development of cutting-edge technologies, Entrepreneur 20X initiates on the first day of HITEC with presentations of technologies in the works. These presentations will be judged by a panel of investors and forward-thinking hospitality technology experts who will select the top products. In the exhibit hall meet face-to-face with the winning innovators and their technologies in a special display area on the show floor and see what’s coming down the pipeline.
Last, I have to mention the session I am most looking forward to: “Robotics in Hospitality.” I’ve seen so many examples recently, including drone waiters, it’ll be fascinating to hear how far of a reach robotics will have — how about a drone-delivered beer to my poolside perch?
Frank Wolfe, CAE, is the CEO of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP) and an inductee into the International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame and a Paragon Award winner. He often speaks on hospitality and travel related issues. He is an author, speaker and an advocate of careers in hospitality technology or finance. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @frankwolfe. Or Facebook: Frank I. Wolfe