Hotel Technology is Moving Faster Than Ever

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The keynote address from Peter Leyden Tuesday morning at HITEC in Austin was titled “The Next Tech Paradigm Shift,” but the former managing editor of the original Wired magazine said there are actually multiple shifts happening at once: the explosion of mobile devices, tablets and Apple's i-offerings; the growth of video (90% of all web content will be video by 2015, he said); and the aging and emerging millennial generation and its fondness for social media. It all adds up, he said, to a global digital revolution.

Much of what he talked about was on display Tuesday through Thursday on the trade show floor. Technology really is moving at a higher rate of speed than ever before, and hoteliers and vendors are doing their best to keep up. From HDTV to 3D, from RFID to NFC (near field communication) technology, from email to Facebook and Twitter, vendors are adapting and evolving. Computers, Leyden said, were 10,000 times more powerful in 2007 than the first supercomputers in 1977, and that growth is continuing exponentially.

What's next is an impossible question to answer, but savvy hoteliers know there is a next coming. That's why vendors across different spectrums told me their best advice was to be looking and thinking three to five years out.

Ron Snaidauf, vice president of commercial displays for LG Electronics USA, said some hoteliers may not be interested in TVs right now with all the offerings like LG's interactive Pro:Centric features or IPTV video decoding, and they may not be next year, but what about in four years when those features have become industry standards? TVs can last 10 years or longer, and by not keeping your eyes and options open, you could be locked into an outdated product or face a costly changeout sooner than later.

I heard the same theme in booths like Vingcard and Onity, where the emerging NFC technology, now only a blip on the radar in this country, is expected to take off in the next few years allowing guests to easily use their mobile devices to open locks. Installing a door lock without this capability now may limit your options in the near future when most guests will have cell phones with NFC chips.

My first HITEC was a whirlwind adventure of meetings, educational sessions and after parties, but that was my takeaway. It's now more important than ever to look ahead as these tech paradigm shifts are happening before our eyes. The smart hotelier understands that and is focused not just on today, but also what may be ahead.

Check back next week for a more complete report on HITEC.

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