How the Voice-Recognition Revolution Is Changing Hotels

Author: David McMillin       

Many of your attendees may have recently invited a new friend named Alexa to live with them. As Amazon struggles to produce enough of its Echo and Echo Dot at-home assistants to satisfy consumer demand, the most popular name in voice-recognition technology is no longer staying, well, at home. Hotels are beginning to test how voice-recognition can enhance the in-room experience. At the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, General Manager Arthur Coulombe is excited to see how guests will use the Echo Dot; the property just launched a test of the device in 10 of its rooms.

“This technology provides immediate access to our experience schedules, room service, directions, restaurant information, and more, saving time for business travelers and giving those visiting us for vacation more time to enjoy all that we have to offer,” Coulombe said. “We’ve always enjoyed being at the forefront of technology, and this is the newest tool we’re excited to offer guests.”

Coulombe isn’t the only hotelier inspired by the possibilities of voice-recognition technology. Last August, two of Starwood’s Aloft properties unveiled Project Jetson, an initiative that relies on Apple’s Siri to let guests adjust room temperature, turn off lights, and perform a range of other tasks. In December, Steve Wynn, chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts, announced that all of the 4,478 hotel rooms at the Wynn Las Vegas will have an Echo by summer 2017.

Talking vs. Texting

As in-home and in-room voice-activated assistants appear in more houses and hotels, people will want the ability to have conversations instead of typing and swiping. A 2015 report from Colorado-based market-intelligence firm Tractica predicted that speech recognition will be part of 82 percent of mobile devices by 2020. In 2014, the technology was found on 45 percent of mobile devices.

Companies are catching up with the technology to give consumers the convenience of talking instead of texting. Banks like Santander, HSBC, and Barclays are experimenting with ways to let customers log into their online-banking folders and review their spending habits with a few words. Expedia recently launched a chat-bot for Facebook Messenger to help customers search for hotels. In the event space, Eventbase designed the new SXSW mobile app with a chat-bot named Abby.

All this talking seems likely to carry over into traditional conferences and conventions, too. Instead of using keyboards to browse for information on speakers or navigate their paths to a shuttle stop, attendees will eventually expect technology to do at least some of the work for them. How do you think the meetings and events industry should prepare for the voice-recognition revolution? Has your organization considered adding speech capabilities to your mobile app? Go to Catalyst to share your perspectives on how this technology will affect the on-site experience.

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