FCM April Innovation Spotlight

Dealing with Double-Bookings through Blockchain

A Taiwanese ex-google employee has come up with a way of utilizing blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, to help hotels solve the issue of double-booking. Darren Wang has created OwlTing a system to authenticate the provenance of goods and services. Using an open ledger verified by multiple parties could make it easier for hotel operators to avoid double booking, confirming transactions and avoiding mix-ups.

Marriott Tests New Brand Innovations in California

International hotel giant Marriott has unveiled the Marriott Irvine Spectrum in Irvine California. Operates say this property will be the testing-ground for new innovations and amenities that will define the direction of the Marriott brand in the future. These ‘hotel labs’ include the Irvine development, the JW Mexico City as well as the Charlotte Marriott City Center in North Carolina. Currently they feature restaurants where you can order food by mobile app, a Bluetooth key card for elite rewards members and a virtual reality experience where customers can get a sneak peek at upcoming hotel concepts to provide feedback to the company. The hotel is also much more data-smart, managing information about guests to enable staff to greet customers by name, see if they are celebrating a special event, or anticipate their dietary needs, allowing for a curated and personalized experience.

IBM Digital Assistant Set to Join Hotel Industry

IBM has launched Watson, its entry into the increasingly diverse marketplace of digital assistants. Launched at the recent IBM Think conference in Las Vegas, designers promise that the platform will bring ‘enterprise-level artificial intelligence’ to customers. IBM is pushing its suitability for the hotel industry, where many brands such as Hilton, Accor and others are working on ‘smart room’ concepts, generally powered by Amazon Alexa or Google Home. Watson has the advantage of being designed to integrate with the complex back-end systems of large organizations, allowing hoteliers to personalize the assistant for their brand. This means customers would be speaking to the hotel directly, not the hotel via the intermediary of Alexa or Google, enabling more direct interaction and customization of the assistant to hotel specifications. Additionally, hotel chains would not be sharing their data with IBM, instead using it themselves to build up guest profiles to deliver a more personalized service.

Robot Butlers More Widespread Than Ever

In addition to voice assistants like Alexa or Watson, hotel guests might soon experience the AI revolution in a more tactile way. The Courtyard by Marriott in Lynchburg, Virginia has joined a growing list of hotels using robot butlers to make deliveries around the hotel and improve guest service. Yotel, Aloft and Hilton already have these robots operating at select locations. Able to deliver a host of items including hot towels, coffee and larger menu items from room service, the 36-inch tall robot will help serve guests promptly and enable human staff to stay at the desk providing services it cannot. The robot butler can weave through crowds, avoid packed elevators and refuse to open its storage area until it is at your door. And while it can’t shake your hand, it is programed to make a happy sound and spin in excitement when it receives a 5-star rating for its service. If trials continue to be successful expect to see more of these machines around hotel corridors, perhaps delivering your morning coffee or bringing you that charging cord you asked the desk for.

Space Travel Ready for Take-Off

Virgin Galactic completed a successful test of its VSS Unity spaceship this month, bringing commercial space travel one step closer to reality. Virgin plans to use the craft to take passengers on suborbital trips starting in 2021. Also slated for launch in 2021 is Aurora Station, billed by creators Orion Span Inc. as the world’s first luxury space hotel. Guests would orbit more than 200 miles above the earth, taking in 384 sunrises and sunsets over a 12 day stay. While supersonic spaceships and orbital hotels might not be part of your company travel policy, they are a reminder of just how fast the world of travel technology is moving.

Etihad trials Virtual Reality

Etihad Airways plans to trial of virtual reality (VR) technology in its premium lounges. The technology is now available in the carrier’s flagship First and Business Class Lounges in Terminal 3 of Abu Dhabi Airport as part of a month-long trial. The aim is to assess the popularity of the VR experience, with a view to including it as part of future entertainment offerings.