Beyond the impending doom of Tropical Storm Bill, there were two clear standouts from this year's HITEC in Austin 2015: robots and personalization.
Despite rising in mainstream consciousness, robots had yet to appear in force at HITEC's annual tradeshow for hospitality technology.
This year marked the end of that run with the appearance of Savioke's delivery robots. Savioke is the company that received a wave of global press for Aloft Hotels' A.L.O robot, the first robobutler to be deployed at the Silicon Valley location of the global hotel brand.
The Savioke Relay was roaming the aisles, making friends and posing stoically for countless pictures. The buzz was deafening, with people pushing and jostling for position to snag a picture.
The excitement at automating certain repetitive functions at hotels was palatable, as hotels seek out ways to increase productivity and ability of existing employees without having to increase headcount.
The video below shares the original robot, the SaviOne, which has made 2000 deliveries and driven over 300 kilometers.
The Relay is the next iteration of delivery robots from the company and will be the beneficiary of the trial period with SaviOne.
The early adopter program for Relay is open and ready for enterprising hoteliers ready to experience the next evolution in hotel technology: robot staff that take over repetitive tasks.
Part of the robot future of hotels is tied to personalization. Hotels continue to push towards a personalized experience for every guest and being able to deliver goods promptly is one of the key ways that hotels can impact the guest experience.
And while personalization has been a theme at previous HITECs, there seemed to be a real shift in understanding of personalization and a true desire for brands to actually deliver on the ultimate promise of personalized: a truly customized hotel experience that focuses on the guest.
From next-gen PMS to more direct channels of communication, many vendors were praising personalization.
Checkmate shared a demo of its newly-refreshed back-end dashboard for hotels that builds a more fuller profile of each guest while allowing the hotel to respond directly to any customer service issues via SMS or email.
The profile includes previous stay information, social profiles and any other pertinent information for the stay. The ability to personalize customer service is the standout here, where workers can imbue some personal touches and personality into the brand with direct guest communications.
UIevolution demonstrated its software to personalize the in-room experience for hotels. Tested on cruise ships, the software sits on the in-room TV and allows for full skinning of the guest experience.
This includes property information and targeted-to-the-customer merchandising. The hotel can even change things, such as the colors, depending on the guest's loyalty status or other characteristic.
The company has linked up with DirecTV to offer the customizable software for its DirecTV Residential Experience (DRE) box for hotels. Every hotel will look different as each can create its own look.
This means wider penetration across hotels and more guests experiencing the personalization. This will push the industry forward and help hotels mold the experience for specific guests with targeted merchandising opportunities.
Startups were also offering different takes on personalized guest experiences. One standout was Loop & Tie, which is a solution for getting the right gifts.
The service allows you to curate a collection of gifts to send to someone, who can then select the gift for them. This is the sort of thinking that drives personalized experiences and re-focuses the industry on true hospitality.
These are just a couple of examples of products on the show floor. And while personalization is in no way new, it seems that there's a critical mass of group think that is making personalization a critical part of all aspects of hospitality technology.