Expert insights

The future of hotel technology is on its way

19 September 2017

From live voice translation to clever chatbots, tomorrow’s hotel technology is already on its way. 

Marriott Hotels recently threw down the gauntlet to the world’s inventors with its TestBED challenge to promote new hotel technology. After inviting ideas for cutting-edge gadgets and systems to transform the guest experience, the hotel giant has chosen three winning designs, each of which will be brought to life at a Marriott hotel in Europe.

With smart hotels increasingly coming into the mainstream, these far-out inventions give us a glimpse of what tomorrow’s hotels could be like.

Translating hotel technology

Perhaps the most striking of the TestBED winning entries were the Mymanu ‘Clik’ translation earphones. By putting in one earbud, and giving another to the person you are speaking to, users who speak different languages can listen to each other through live voice translation.

Available in 37 languages, the device could make it easier for guests and hotel staff alike to bridge language barriers in an instant. If your curiosity has been piqued, you could try the technology out for yourself at the Frankfurt Marriott, where the concept will be piloted for nine weeks at the end of September.

Trends of the future

One of the interesting things to come out of the Marriott TestBED challenge – as well as the cutting-edge technology itself – is the insight it has provided into today’s technology trends.

This year, 20% of the products entered were part of the internet of things – the new world of connected devices that are collecting and sharing data on an everyday basis. One of the winning designs, Optishower, offers guests the ability to track their own energy consumption, and be rewarded for sustainable energy use during their stay. It will be installed for trials at Amsterdam Marriott Hotel this winter.

The main takeaway, however, is that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning could be here to stay. The third TestBED winner, HiJiffy’s AI-powered chatbot, lets guests connect with properties via Facebook Messenger. It impressed the judges so much that it will be road-tested at London Marriott Hotel Regents Park this autumn.

Also on the shortlist

Meanwhile, in true Minority Report style, US tech start-up Umbo has developed a projector that turns surfaces into touchscreens, using gesture recognition to navigate. Although this shortlisted entry didn’t quite make the winners’ podium, we like the idea that one day there could be an Umbo projection on your hotel bedside table that allows you to investigate weather reports, news or concierge services.

Taking an expensive trip to the hotel spa could have been a thing of the past if ‘Melomind’ from MyBrain Technologies had won. This French start-up made a clever brain-training headset to help you relax. Apparently, the headset uses neurofeedback to help the brain modulate music in real time. Hotel guests could enjoy a single tuneful session or a personalised coaching programme developed over a series of stays.

A wireless future

Marriott isn’t the only industry player on the lookout for new hotel technology that could set it apart from competitors.

As we have previously reported, Edwardian Hotels has also been investing in AI, putting its ‘virtual host’, named Edward, at the disposal of guests.

Meanwhile plenty of properties have been investing in their meeting and audiovisual capabilities. Over at QHotels, a new ‘one touch’ wireless AV system for meeting rooms, Barco ClickShare, lets delegates connect their laptops or tablet screens to the meeting-room screen at the push of a button. They can then flick from screen to screen without having to fiddle about with cables.

And with more and more hotels and venues looking at wireless charging plates for phones and laptops, the future looks set to be largely wire-free.

Don’t miss our recent round-up of the best high-tech hotels for gadget lovers.

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