When asked to comment on the technology highlights of 2015 I initially drew a blank but then a number of items popped into my head:

I guess I would start with infrastructure as this seems to be what everyone always asks me about. At almost every industry conference the four letters of GPON get raised. While we are seeing an increased interest in the fiber-based infrastructure, the number of deployments still lags behind that of traditional copper/fiber primarily due to cost. Based on the interest from a number of key IT executives we can probably expect an increase in the number of deployments for 2016 but they will have to convince the developers and owners to spend the additional capital on the newer infrastructure.

Converged Networks
Converged networks are playing an ever-increasing role with many hotels and the need to engineer these networks effectively when they are deployed is being highlighted as hotels are starting to rely on these networks for all of their property communication needs.
Data Security
Data security continues to be of high importance at both the property and corporate levels. The biggest news item this year was the new EMV compliance deadline of October 1. I can tell you from firsthand experience of trying to deploy this technology that we have a long way to go. Retail deployments are very different to that of hospitality, and quite simply, we as an industry were not ready. Given the capital expenditure required to deploy the new terminals and their impact on the overall operation, many hotels and chains elected not to deploy EMV technology by the deadline, opting instead to wait until the solutions were effectively matured before rolling this out operationally. Based on my experience this was a smart move.

PCI Compliance
PCI compliance also is at the forefront of most security initiatives with many hotels and resorts, as PCI DSS 3.0 takes effect at the beginning of the year. The focus on the new standard was about making compliance part of the overall business operation and not an annual report. As such, most hospitality organizations are required to fill out an SAQ D and provide Internal and external scans along with pen testing.
Outsourced IT Resources
In speaking with a number of key hospitality executives there was a desire to move much of their support operations to outsourced resources with a number of entities engaging with outsource companies to help streamline their overall support requirements. This allowed them to “flex” their needs and requirements based on the acquisitions and divestitures.

Focus on Millennials
Millennials dominate the hospitality segment and we are starting to see their impact in a number of areas of hotel technology. One key area of focus has been the change in the design of hotel lobbies and public space areas. Traditional guests have typically retired to their room at night and accessed the Internet or watched TV in the confines of their hotel rooms. This is different with Millennials. They tend to enjoy congregating in public space areas like lobbies or lobby bars and interact with their surroundings. This has changed the way that these areas are designed and has had an impact on the AV and other technology requirements for these areas.
The demand for bandwidth continues to increase with gigabit throughput becoming a new standard for many of the larger hotels. Group contracts are now calling for the increased bandwidth and this has necessitated that hotels upgrade their networks to accommodate the new requirements. There is also greater “free” access to bandwidth at many of the hotel chains with a number of the brands offering complimentary Internet access to guests who are part of their loyalty programs.

Keyless Entry
Starwood and Hilton continue to roll out their keyless room entry systems that allow guests to use their smartphones to unlock their room doors, and have made the promise of additional hotels being enabled in 2016.

Larger Focus on Reputation Management
Online reputation has started to become a big focus for many hotels and brands due to the ever-increasing number of guests who rely on reviews and online information when booking or reserving hotel stays. Many hotels are dedicating staff to the real-time monitoring and management of their hotel reviews with TripAdvisor, Yelp, Facebook, Expedia and personal blogs and articles. There is also a focus on the applications that help manage online reputations.

Addressing the elephant in the room is the acquisition by Oracle of MICROS and the assimilation of both OPERA and MICROS POS into the Oracle business model. This has been a year for change and has had an impact on many companies within the industry. Many will be watching how things evolve in 2016 and how this will impact their operations going forward.

Circling back to the Millennials is the emergence of new technologies and how they will impact systems and technology going forward. Examples of this are beacons and augmented reality or (AR). With many hotels starting to adopt this type of technology it will be interesting to see what products and applications are developed that use this newer technology in the coming year.