2020 Tech Predictions New Demands to Shape the Industry

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March 13, 2020
Technology | Trends
Ted Horner - Ted@hornertech.com

Editor’s Note: The Spring 2020 issue was published prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. While some of the information is dated we published the articles in their entirety as the industry was showing great progress prior to the outbreak. We can learn from these articles and examples as we prepare for future disruptions.
 

10 years ago, we arguably had no real blueprint to help us understand the dramatic social, economic and psychological impact that would result from the global population being tethered to the Internet 24/7.  Apple's pioneering smartphones were undoubtedly the driving force behind most of the changes over the last decade. And while constant connectivity has helped improve productivity and launched new career paths, it has also disrupted nearly every industry that flourished in the 20th century.  The rise of the social media influencer has changed traditional notions of celebrity and created a new pathway for marketing that is both insidious and effective. Digital marketing is a relatively new concept still, with apps, websites and Instagram the three pillars that raise businesses to new heights.
 
So, what will the next decade bring?

We've already begun our journey into the 2020s. The tail end of the 2010s acted as a trial period for artificial intelligence, big data and the gig economy. How we approach these new technologies and pressing challenges will ultimately define this decade, but it certainly pays to be optimistic and proactive. Below is an early-stage guide to the 2020s; a decade with endless potential and opportunity. 

Artificial Intelligence Will Serve, Not Rule.
 
If you ask Elon Musk, artificial intelligence (AI) will cause the downfall of humanity. While Musk's vision of a society controlled by machines and for machines is certainly terrifying, we can hope it won’t be the route we'll go down globally. I maintain we're smarter than that! However, this decade will undeniably be a turning point for AI technology, which is still relatively in its infancy.
 
If you've been impressed by what AI can do now, you're going to be blown away this coming decade. Just take a look at what has been achieved to date.  AI can already speak to us online, compose music and make art that sells for a bucket load of cash. If Google has its way, we'll soon have our own personal assistant in the cloud that can book appointments, contact people on our behalf and send our clothes out to the dry cleaners. This decade is already looking very exciting.
 
According to Loo Wee Tek, head of global consumer electronics research at Euromonitor International; AI will soon seamlessly integrate into our daily lives like never before. “Robots have been in use since the 1960s. What makes robots in Industry 4.0 any different? The most important difference today is the usage of AI in robots, which will drive our smart world forward,” Tek said. “Robots are mainly deployed in industrial applications but consumer-facing robots are increasingly making inroads into our daily lives.” 
 
For example, guests can interact directly with Connie, Hilton’s robot concierge, to get answers to FAQs and other requests for information. 

Robots will replace tasks and repetition, not jobs and certainly not humans. Rather, robots and humans will sit side by side. The industrial world will still be the main driver in robot adaption as we struggle with an aging society and face increasing labor costs. Backed by maturing algorithms and machine learning, AI-driven robotics is a tool to achieve precise automation and avoid manmade risks in a wide range of situations. For example, there are now four hotel sites in the US using a robotic vacuum to clean corridors, function/convention spaces and even guestrooms. The return on investment is looking good. 

AI will also have a huge impact on voice applications. As more hotel brands begin to support these tools, the full promise of this technology – like those inherent in smart homes – will be more fully realized.
Consider these facts: 
 
1. There are now more than 100 million voice devices in U.S. homes - Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Mini.  
 
2. It’s predicted that by 2022, 55% of all U.S. homes will have at least one device. That adds up to more than 170 million devices installed.
 
3. There are now close to 100 hotels in U.S. with some form of voice technology installed. This number is growing rapidly.

Digital Marketing Will Be Smarter 
At the turn of the last decade, social media was just taking off. Facebook was relatively new, and Instagram was still a photo editing app. A lot can happen in 10 years.  It's impossible to understate the impact social media has had on the marketing world. Overnight the industry was flipped on its head; old rules were thrown out and young, social media savvy kids ruled the block. Terms like content creator and influencer were waiting to be coined. 
 
So, if the 2010s were the era of Instagram and content, what will the next decade bring?
Colin Bernard, commercial director of Criteo AU/NZ and former head of retail and Google shopping at Google, said AI will rule. “New technologies are often labelled as revolutionizing the marketing industry, but more than ever marketers must distinguish between potential game changers and jargon,” he said.

Will Traditional Retail Survive? 
What can hotels learn from the decline in retail industry over the last 10 years? Globally, retail had a pretty disastrous 2019. A number of high-profile, legacy retailers have fallen into administration (or as we’d say in the states, entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection). Others have been forced to close a number of stores as both the economy and the landscape have shifted.
 
If the theme of 2010s retail was all about e-commerce, the 2020s will focus on customer data and seamless experiences. Perhaps the best signifier of the unknowable future is Amazon's experiment with its own bespoke convenience store concept. Customers simply walk into the store, dubbed Amazon Go, pick up what they want off the shelves, and walk straight out. No human interaction required.
 
Imagine the possibilities for hotels that introduced this sort of technology. Guests using the hotel’s mobile app could bypass the front desk or order drinks and food from their smartphones in the bar with little or no human interaction. This technology may not be for everyone, but think of the benefits of providing a seamless, frictionless guest experience.
Anders Sörman-Nilsson, futurist and creative director of research and strategy for Thinque, was quoted, “Seamless transactions will definitely be the consumer expectation in whatever hotel context we're in, particularly in situations where we're frequent and loyal customers.”  In the future, loyalty members will be affronted if they have to pull out a credit card at that hotel. They’ll feel the brand doesn't know or trust them.
 
“Let AI and technology do all the boring stuff. Let robots manage labour intensive or menial things that hotels have to do, and instead retrain your staff to be really human and customer facing,” he suggested. “All of a sudden your customer service staff sounds professional because they've been able to augment and amplify their human intelligence, human empathy, and shared experiences with technology. I think that's a wonderful marriage of artificial intelligence with human intelligence. That's what I believe the future of hotels is all about.”

Get Ready to Pay as You Go
I know I don't only speak for myself when I say Uber has changed our lives. For better or for worse, the company’s pay as you go model has flipped a number of industries right on their heads. Euromonitor International dubs this new economy shaped in Uber's likeness as frictionless mobility. Expect to see this concept broadened as technology continues to advance at a rapid pace.
 
Euromonitor International cites consultant Fransua Vytautas Razvadauskas as saying, “The availability of fast broadband internet and smartphone apps paved the way for numerous mobility services, such as ride- and scooter-sharing schemes to complement existing public transportation. This fostered the frictionless mobility trend – the notion of making mobility a seamless experience, providing fast, convenient, efficient and cost-effective consumer travel.”
 
This mobility-as-a-service model will be one frontier for growth, Razvadauskas said. Urban mobility is headed toward a seamless experience, covering the entire journey from the first to the last mile with consumer convenience in mind. The challenge for hotels is to embrace this concept of urban mobility. Other technology aspects that will be important for hotels to consider in this decade are 5G (by 2022, 5G phones will outnumber 4G phones in the U.S.).
 
Finally, content distribution has become more fragmented with more players in the marketplace. This will require hotels to keep up with guests’ ever increasing demands for content. They want constant access. Hotels must be able to manage the subsequent bandwidth demands this creates.
 

©2020 Hospitality Upgrade 
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