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During these trying times we are seeing a meteoric rise in cyber security threats targeting user credentials, financial information and sensitive business data.  The current environment presents specific risks and opportunities for hoteliers.  Identifying and addressing these risks has not yet garnered support from the top of the hotel’s management structure.  This must change and will before long.  It is vital that hoteliers take this opportunity to review their data security processes and procedures in order to close the threat vectors.  The coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on serious process and technical security gaps that lead to an increase in the probability that hotels will suffer catastrophic data compromises. 

It may be quite some time before hotels start buying technology again. There will be exceptions, to be sure, but for now they will be few and far between. And as much as I have enjoyed highlighting pockets of cool innovation in this column over the past year, very few readers will be able to act on those insights in the current environment. So while I hope to be able to return to my old format sooner rather than later, I’m going to change focus in this and upcoming columns. I’ll instead talk about what hotels, technology providers, and displaced technologists can do today.

During this challenging time, remember that your people need even more emotional connection.

Well, I had a topic all lined up for this week’s column. I had completed most of the research and sat down on Monday to start writing. But with all that is going on in the world, I decided to put that on the shelf for a cycle or two. No one is going to take the time to read anything right now that doesn’t talk about the novel Coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease. So, I started afresh and will diverge from my usual approach.

Last week, the World Health Organization announced that COVID-19—the viral disease that has swept the globe and killed more than 8,200 people—is officially a pandemic. And on Saturday, the Trump administration extended the ban on foreign nationals from certain European countries to include those traveling from the United Kingdom and Ireland. Industry conferences and meetings have been cancelled or postponed, and many companies are electing not to require employees to travel.

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Definitely Doug 12/20/19: The Year in Review

by Doug Rice
The Year in Review
As 2019 comes to a close, it’s time to count our blessings. One of mine has been the privilege (and fun!) of being able to reach out to so many interesting companies and get them to tell me what they’re doing that’s different, disruptive, and game-changing. The list of things I have to write about in future columns has only gotten longer in the nine months since I started writing this column.
If you’re like me, whether and when you read emails like this newsletter can be hit or miss, so I thought I’d do a recap of the topics I’ve covered this year, with links in case there’s one that interests you that you missed. Along the way, I’ll also highlight some companies that came to my attention or were only ready to talk after publication of the particular topic -- ones I would have included had I discovered them sooner.
In April I started by describing my objectives for the column, which haven’t changed but are worth skimming through if you’ve joined me during the course of the year. Then my first substantive column addressed robotics. A few months after writing that one, I ran across Techmetics, which offers not only a robotic butler, but a drink server for casinos and a back-of-house delivery cart robot.
May’s first installment covered Enterprise Service Buses. The subsequent announcement of Jonas Chorum brought to my attention the Jonas Hospitality ARC ESB; that’s another option that’s worth a look. The next topic was technology to help guests exploit the many things to see and do in the neighborhood around the hotel, and to incorporate them into the hotel’s marketing proposition more seamlessly.
In June I turned to artificial intelligence and chatbots, used to answer guest requests quickly during a hotel stay. Another company in this space I would check out is Easyway – they were on my radar when I wrote the article, but hadn’t formally launched past their pilot sites. And just last week I read that Whistle has added the AI and workflow layers that were qualifiers for that column; I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet but it sounds about right. The second article in June, written post-HITEC, called out some of the more innovative things I saw wandering the exhibit floor in Minneapolis.
July’s first blog covered some innovative things going on in the reservations world. The second one covered location services as applied to staff panic alerts.
Then in August I turned to housekeeping systems, where a lot is going on. A couple of companies focused in Europe came to my attention after writing that article, and I found RoomChecking to be interesting in its ability to deal with complex European work-rule requirements; it is not unusual for individual housekeepers to have unique restrictions such as which floors they can work on, how many credits they can be scheduled for, or how many twin rooms they can clean (these are features typically only found in the top-end systems). 1Check also sounded interesting, although I wasn’t successful at getting a first-hand look. August’s second column covered eLearning software.
I got a lot of good feedback on my September column, which talked about barriers to innovation in hospitality. One industry disruptor I spoke to just last week said he’d read it in preparation for a call, and he wished he’d had it earlier in his company’s lifecycle, that they had to learn some of my observations the hard way.
My first October column covered Hotspot 2.0, and it’s the one you should go back and read if you missed it the first time and if you are one of the many hoteliers hoping that 5G technology will replace the need for Wi-Fi (spoiler: it won’t!) The second topic that month covered some interesting innovations in sustainability, and the first November edition looked more specifically at energy management systems.
The second November column covered some innovative approaches to guest engagement, which every hotel should be trying to address. And my most recent topic was sales and distribution software for meetings and events, an area that has been far behind the curve but is showing promise of catching up.
I’d love to hear from readers about topics they’d like me to cover, or companies that should be on my radar. I’m always happy to spend a half hour looking at any technology product that is targeting hotels, or that thinks perhaps it should.
And speaking of game-changers, I should note that Puzzle Partner is now accepting submissions for their Hotel and Travel Tech Game Changers 2020 Report.  If you’ve got something game-changing, get on their radar as well as mine!
Wishing everyone a very happy holiday season and see you all in 2020!
About The Author
Doug Rice

Twitter: @dougrice

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