Monthly Archives: August 2013

Why Hotel Technology will be Travels “Next Big Thing”.

tech-savvy hotel image
For some time hotel technology has been limited to online booking.  With so many Hotels out there what will be the differentiator for both the leisure traveller and business traveller?  It’s time for hoteliers to embrace tech and step up the game.

Some tech-savvy hotel chains and hoteliers are now introducing additional mobile information to the customer:

  • Book
  • Loyalty points
  • Promote upgrades and ancillaries – social
  • Hotel info with photos and features
  • Location-based things to do and weather
  • Getting to hotel
  • Customer service notification

However, these functions are becoming the norm and the next-gen hotel needs to become a “smart-hotel”.

In addition to “basic functions” the “smart-hotel” should add power features.  These are features that make the hotel experience better for the consumer, especially the time precious business customer.

The “Always-Connected” hotel

Let’s start with always on, free Wi-Fi web access.  There is no excuse for any hotel to charge for broadband – Even McDonalds restaurants and Costa coffee houses, now provide free Wi-Fi.  I won’t even book a hotel unless I can guarantee free Wi-Fi.  I make sure at check-in that it’s available in my room and throughout the hotel.  If not, you won’t find me booking again.

Bypass check-in and open the door

OK, sometimes it’s nice to be able to chat to the reception crew but most of the time, and on a repeat booking, you arrive at the hotel and just want your room.  Imagine being able to check-in remotely from your mobile and get an update when the room is ready and your electronic NFC or barcode key is ready.  The Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites in Marion, Illinois has enabled guests to “breeze past the front desk and head up to their room as long as they have their mobile to unlock and enable the room”.  This uses a tech from OpenWays (http://www.openways.com).  This provides a Crypto Acoustic Credential (CAC) using text messaging to deliver a unique acoustic key to the guest anywhere in the world.  The good thing about this tech is that a CAC compliant door lock can be retro-fitted to many hotel electronic locks.

In-hotel services

In the last hotel I visited, neither the TV nor the remote worked.  I could not order movies or room service (there was no phone you had to use the TV).  So, why not pop up a mobile page on your phone using NFC or post your remote check-in to order room service?  Consider the upsell opportunity here as the mobile site shows me the delights of the room service menu in glorious Hi-Def and tempts me with side orders and beverages.  Alternatively let me pre-book dinner and my selection?  Why not show reviews of each course and better still show me any peer reviews.

Downloadable movies and (free of course) and TV channels could also be facilitated to my mobile or better still via the room flat screen TV.

A relatively new app on the scene is the iRiS app (http://www.irisapps.com/).  This ingenious app enables the guest and hotelier to communicate in any language and offers the guest many enhanced features such as setting room temperature, opening the door, closing curtains and set the mood lighting.  This is a cloud based facility so that the guest can set the room temperature while they are out and about and also make spa or golf bookings, or order a meal.  The hotelier, on the other hand, can push real-time offers and discounts to the customer and also ask the customer to fill in a questionnaire: all from their mobile.

What else will we see changing our hotel experience?

Bill Payment

With a mobile enabled hotel, we should be able to review our bill each time we buy a drink or book a service with the ability to pay from the mobile.

Calls

Should you wish to call the front desk why not offer Skype or other network calling capability?  Genius, but simple.

Personal service

Hotels need to offer a more personal experience where the customer’s preferences are remembered for each visit making the customers life as easy as possible.  The hotelier can then harness the power of personalisation to send personalised offers.  I recently had a call from a hotel I regularly use in London.  Their room rates have skyrocketed and I was politely asked why my bookings had tailored off.  If they had checked my history they would have seen I only book when the price is reduced.  All they offered me was a direct contact for my next visit.  I may not return unless they do something drastic with their rates!  A great mobile experience could be just the bate I need to return.

Enabling technologies

So, smart-hoteliers need to ensure they have enabling technologies for many of the things I have mentioned above.  Why not also provide QR codes for the guest to scan to read magazines, info about the hotel?

Oh, and let us not forget, all this smart-tech must work on iOS (iPhone, iPad), Android, Windows Phone, and Blackberry.

This article originally published in Travolution magazine Q3 2013 http://www.travolution.co.uk/.

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What Smartphone APPS can I not live without?

I do a lot of consultancy for companies reviewing their mobile apps and making recommendations for enhancing their mobile apps.  I have been a smartphone user since the very first Nokia Communicator (9000) released in 1996.  I have moved between devices as more and more features are released and having gone through all incarnations of the iPhone and Android I now find myself with a Samsung Galaxy S4.  Am I happy with it?  Well, no not really as the problem Android has over iOS is that it is often disjointed and cumbersome.  Switching between apps is somewhat manual unlike iOS’s seamless experience.  Anyway, that is not what this post is all about.

I test a lot of apps and have therefore, many redundant apps on my smartphone which gradually slows it down and leaves no room for the vast amounts of media I take around with me (ebooks, videos and music).  So, I thought I would give my Galaxy a spring clean and clear down any apps I have not used in the past 4 months.  It was liberating but left me with a select few key apps that I could not live without.  Here’s what I call my essential top ten.  I have excluded bundled apps so these are the ones I have downloaded:

Hailo - Magnetic Taxi

Hailo – When in London (or one of the other 12 cities supported by the Hailo network) I use this app to hail a taxi cab.  Not only does it show where your taxi is on a map, it also says how long it will be and who is driving it.  The most useful thing about Hailo is the ability to create an account and lodge a credit card or debit card with it.  This means no more fumbling for cash or panic visits to a cashpoint when out and about, just opt to pay with your account and add a tip – cashless cabs – sensational – the best most useful app out there when travelling in the big city.  Every woman should use this app for trusted black cab drivers.  It has saved my bacon so many times. https://hailocab.com/ 

twitter social media app

Twitter – What is there to say about twitter?  Its essential for commenting on the world as it passes you buy.  As someone who comments on just about everything twitter is possibly the only social app you need? http://www.twitter.com

Facebook

Facebook – Facebook is my way of keeping in touch with my kids (all four of them), friends and family – oh, and the odd group also.  Essential app for keeping up to date and pasting piccies for those back home.  http://www.facebook.com

LinkedIn business social

LinkedIn – Business social media app – when you need a job you need this to keep in touch and network.  LinkedIn is something that I use every single day.  reading posts, networking with business colleagues and lining with new contacts.  The business networking app to beat them all.  http://www.linkedin.com

Instagram Logo

Instagram – So you want to post an image to your social posts and want to do it fast with some image edits?  This has to be the app.  The great thing about Instagram is that you can select one or more of your social feeds to upload an image to and fast.  Currently instagram supports Facebook, tumblr, Flickr, Twitter and Foursquare which should be enough for everyone.  I like the quick edit filters that you can apply to your pictures before uploading them – some real nice retro filters in there.  You can also use instagram to keep up with and follow your friends and celebrities should you so wish.  The great thing about Instagram is that you can just use it to take pictures – you don’t have to share them.  It’s a great and easy way to keep a visual diary of your day.  http://instagram.com

Flipboard make your own magazine

Flipboard – I started using Flipboard from the beginning – this app is essential and a great way to create your own magazines.  The interface is one of the greatest user interfaces of all time allowing the user to flip over pages and deep dive into stories.  With some great images on Flipboard you can keep in touch with worldnews, hobbies, music, photos almost anything within your own personalised social magazine. http://flipboard.com

any.do The best todo list manager app

Any.do – The web site says Any.do is here to help you manage life in a simple clever & fun way.  Well it’s right!  This is simply the best reminder and task manager on the planet.  A seductive interface the any.do app works seamlessly across devices and looks awesome.  Functionally it’s got a logical simple and effective interface letting you add, edit and complete any tasks or reminders.  For me this is my PA. Great web site imagery also: http://www.any.do/

Poweramp play ANY format music file

Poweramp – Now all of my music is in iTunes in Apple’s Lossless codec (the format I save my music in for those not in the know).  The problem is iTunes only really works with Apple mobiles and so for me with an Android device it doesn’t work.  I have been seeking a music playing app that plays apple lossless files (and indeed any other format) on my Galaxy – Poweramp does it.  Just drag your music from the iTunes folder to your phone and it plays.  Poweramp also has amazing controls, and great sounding EQ.  It’s essential if you don’t use an iPhone. http://powerampapp.com/

Google Calendar the best calender app

Google Calendar – If any of you have used Samsungs calendar app (S Planner) you will probably hate the faux leatherette brown and yellow user interface, the cumbersome calendar appointment editor and the inability to sync with anything else.  So, go to the Play store and download the stock Google Calendar app.  It just works and also beats the iPhone calendar app for ease of use – hands down.

Google chrome a fast browser

Google Chrome – Ditch the standard Android internet app or the iPhone Safari and grab the quickest most easy to use web browser, Google Chrome.  Not only is it a doddle to use but its fast and syncs with your desktop so you can pick up where you left off.  You can also read offline pages and do a host of other things with this outstanding mobile browser.