5 hospitality tech trends to watch in 2018

1. Conversational Commerce

Conversational commerce and the ability to speak your order, is finally coming to hospitality. With the rise of devices such as Amazon’s Alexa, hospitality venues around the world are working on integrating voice recognition technology into their services. For example, several well-known chains of hotels have purchased Amazon Alexa or similar type devices for their premium suites. For the guest, the ability to simply speak their order is more emotive and importantly, more convenient. Eventually, the technology will access existing data to address guests personally, or even ask them if they’d like one of their favourite drinks.

However, the initial purchase of such devices is expensive – particularly when you consider the fact that most consumers carry a smartphone, which already has the required technology. wi-Q Technologies have developed and are now testing voice recognition technology. Whilst there are still difficulties with the ambient noise in some hospitality venues, the technology is improving. In the future, venues with wi-Q and Mi-Room will be able to offer their customers the ability to speak their order to their own device – negating the need for investment in additional, voice-specific hardware.


2. Mobile / Carrier billing

One of the biggest, all be it slightly hidden global trends is the rise of mobile or carrier billing. In places where access to banks is limited or simply doesn’t exist, consumers are using their monthly mobile phone bill or account credit to pay for goods and services. In Kenya for example, monetary transactions are moving from cash to carrier / mobile billing, completely skipping credit and debit cards — a method so widely adopted elsewhere.

For small purchases, such as coffee and snacks, carrier billing is a particularly exciting trend. Tola Mobile are one of the leading carrier billing payment providers, and allow consumers to make a purchase at a new venue with wi-Q or Mi-Room, exceptionally quickly. Other than the customers' mobile number, there is no need to for them to type in any billing or payment information. The amount owed for the coffee is added to their monthly mobile phone bill or taken from the credit on their account. The whole checkout process takes seconds and requires very little data input from the customer.


3. Investment in wireless charging

Thanks to the Wireless Power Consortium, there is finally a global, unified standard for wirelessly charging advanced smartphones — including iPhones. Hospitality venues can now more safely invest in wireless charging devices, without the risk of adopting a redundant standard. In a few years time, the large majority of smartphones will have wireless charging. This means devices will most likely lose wired ports all together, making wireless charging a must-have feature for hotels and other hospitality venues.

Aircharge In Thistle Hotels

Whilst the initial investment in wireless chargers may scare some providers, with the right technology and marketing in place, the chargers themselves can actually become revenue streams. wi-Q Technologies have partnered with Aircharge, one of the world's leading suppliers of wireless chargers. Many wireless chargers can include an NFC tag, which when a device is placed on the charger, activates a pre-programmed behaviour. In this case, the NFC tag would direct the device to the venue's web-based mobile ordering menu. This gives the customer or guest, instant access to the venue's products and services.


4. Any-device (not just mobile) ordering

Consumers do not only want mobile ordering; they want any-device ordering. Whilst the global mobile trend is far from slowing down, consumers just want convenience, and this involves the ability to order products and services from the most convenient device available. At one of our coffee shop venues, over 70% of the traffic to their wi-Q ordering menu is from desktops and laptops. A large number of their customers come from the surrounding offices, who order from their desktop or laptop because it is the most convenient device to use. This coffee shop, thanks to its web-based, any-device mobile ordering, is now one of the busiest venues in the area.


5. The hospitality technology convergence

The real key for hospitality businesses to capitalise on these trends and emerging technologies is the ability to use them all simultaneously and cooperatively. Whilst this has been technologically possible for several years, it has been far from easy and affordable. However, it is rapidly becoming a reality for a variety of businesses thanks to the rise of APIs and cloud technology.

Hospitality businesses will soon be able to congregate and utilise a larger majority of their consumer data and provide an extremely personalised service – both online and offline. This is exactly what wi-Q Technologies envisage with wi-Q and Mi-Room’s cloud-based, mobile ordering platforms. Developed as a long-term technology solution, wi-Q and Mi-Room allow hospitality venues to integrate 3rd party services and emerging technologies into their online ordering menus and customer profiles.

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