CES: Tech of the future poised to impact hospitality

The Consumer Electronics Association’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which took place in Las Vegas, once again offered an eye-opening array of revolutionary innovations that stand to become mainstream in the near future. Here, Les Spielman, president of Hospitality Automation Consultants Ltd., reveals his picks for the top trends from this year’s show.

By Les Spielman

Having attended CES for the past 30+ years I have always returned to reality when I return home. Over the years I have found that a fair amount of new technology finds its way into hospitality one way or another. My first takeaway from this year’s showcase is, everything will be connected and everything will require power!

Concept Cars: Autos Automatically Attuned to Drivers
The automobile is becoming irrelevant because well, you really don’t have to go anywhere to work, buy stuff, order dinner or touch the outside world.  Faraday Future, the Chinese electric car company, kicked things off by showing their prototype that will probably never be seen on the road.

Car people are rapidly taking over the consumer electronics industry.  They want to be everywhere by 2020. Your car will be electronically, automatically attuned to you. Ford says it will also handle things at the house. Toyota has set up a $1B lab to solve any/all problems, needs. The car folks know everyone isn’t going to have 1-2 cars in the garage, so Ford, Audi, GM, etc. are taking on Uber and Lyft so you can share the car with your neighbors.

Ford’s Sync is ready to start your car for you, turn the lights on/off in the house, set your thermostat, warm up your entertainment center, check for thieves, start the robot vacuum, to clean everything.  To them, the house is just an extension of your life so it should be the center of everything.

Home Sweet Connected Home, err Hotel 
All of the major players in the industry put their best home solutions forward at CES, showing how everything worked beautifully together to take care of you.  Most folks start with safety and security, and then think about the rest of the smart home.

The big hitters had their own homes’s Panasonic, LG, Samsung and others had end-to-end solutions for you from the moment someone walked up to the house to when you tucked yourself into bed at night. And all of them worked together so easily – at least on the show floor. We are already seeing this technology in our hotels, but now that it has begun to be more universal, shortly you will see the prices drop for your guest rooms.

Of course, you had to be amazed at Samsung’s refrigerator that kept track of when and how frequently you opened the door and sent the information somewhere. Then too, there was a remote screen for writing notes. It would do all that and more for a mere $5K plus. Then there’s the added electricity required to track how often the door was opened. Today’s mini-bars already beat this pricing structure. Look for very cost effective upgrades for your minibar and other control points within the guestroom and housekeeping.

It’s all part of a $100B industry that we’ll be contributing data and money to by 2020. Yeah, that’s twice what we all contributed to in 2015 but come on, just think how much more it’s going to know about you and do for you. You have to keep in mind that in 2020, 20B of the IoT (Internet of Things) sensors out of the total 50B worldwide will be in the home/hotel gathering information, determining what needs to be done and doing it even before you know you need it.

Smart TVs Focus on Viewing & Content
While we have some naysayers, I have to say the new TV sets’s  HDR (high definition resolution) UHD (ultra-high definition) 4K TVs at the show were spectacular.  LG and others introduced the generation now HDR UHD 4K TV set that is not only super-smart but delivers an even more dramatically compelling image.  With 4K content already being widely offered, HDR images will begin streaming to add to the excitement in a few months.

Content was mind blowing.  Sound was awesome (should be for those with Dolby Atmos) and true, there is only a smattering of HDR. I dislike the people who are telling you to drag your feet on getting the new sets. Most of that tail dragging is because the show is demonstrating 4K too soon, and to wait for content to arrive in quantity before buying.

You can get it your way“ through the cable, OTT (over the air), satellite provider, pay as you go, you name it. It’s here already! I caught a speech given by Reed Hastings, CEO & co-founder of Netflix and he’s going to take killer entertainment global now that he’s one of the biggest studios (and providers) around! Are you listening hospitality content providers?

Smarter Remotes Poised to Upgrade In-room Control  
What I stumbled across at ShowStoppers was this guy who had (what else?) a smart remote. If the Sevenhugs remote is half as good as he was telling us: sold!

I don’t care if it does control everything in the house/ or the guest room, I don’t have everything ready to be controlled, and won’t for a while. Until then, the set manufacturers are trying to talk us into connecting everything in the house to be managed by the TV set, which has a whole set of its own always-on, insecurity issues. So be sure that all technology that you are looking at for your guest rooms are already enabled, or upgrade enabled for the future.

Virtual Reality with Real Applications
International CES is one of the best AR (alternate reality) events you can attend. There were a bunch of new headsets and augmented glasses on the CES floor with tons of cool adventures you could enjoy. No wonder VR unit sales are expected to jump 500 percent this year with a million plus units. AR is expected to hit about $550M.

They were all cool and fun until we learned one thing – less than one percent of the PCs out there are powerful enough to run the kind of high-end VR technology folks showed at CES. That was from Nvidia, who should know graphics inside and out. So right now, it’s pretty much limited to game play or some awesome unreal world/real world walking around. My suggestion is to wait a while for this technology to be deployed.

I was looking for a practical application when the young engineers panel at Storage Visions at the Luxor gave me the answer. One of the questions from the floor was, “Do you prefer to work remotely or in an office/team environment?”  It dawned on me that VR was the real answer for tomorrow’s workforce because your best people could be located anywhere in the world.

Everything Wearable
With all of the promise of a better way of life, there were wearables of every shape, shade, kind :  wrist, finger and clothes, as well as sports bras, shorts and shoes. They were anywhere they could design in a sensor and send data.

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