Five hundred years from now when historians look back at the early modern era, they’ll likely identify the advent of the screen-based technologies – that is, the still camera, the motion picture projector, the cathode ray tube and so on – as one of the most important discoveries right alongside the transistor, nuclear power and the theory of relativity.
Understanding how humans lived prior to these inventions helps gives us some perspective. A friend of mine used to glibly remark, “A fire is nothing more than a caveman’s TV,” as we huddled together around a blazing pit late at night while up at the cottage. He couldn’t be more right. Prior to the mass adoption of home television sets, the fireplace was the centerpiece of a room, and before that innovation (yes, even the chimney wasn’t a household commodity until the Renaissance), most families used to sleep together in a central hall around an open flame.
In little over a century since theater patrons dove from their seats while watching a steam engine plow directly into the screen as part of a scene from the Great Train Robbery, televisions and all other manner of screens have come to dominate the spaces we inhabit. Nowadays, I dare you to find me a living room without a large flat screen dominating the space. Moreover, it’s become somewhat of a luxury to have an auxiliary ‘sitting room’ in your house as a social place that does NOT have a television. Compound that with millennials’ irresistible urge to check their smartphones every five seconds and the message is clear. Screens dominate our lives and, except for some Buddhist monk in Tibet, we are all but dependent on them.
So where do we go from here? And more to the point for the harried hotelier, how does this impact your property and your livelihood?
I’m going to leave the content and marketing side of this answer for another article, and for now only comment on some of the physical and technological advancements that you can capitalize upon to revolutionize the onsite guest experience.
My imagination was opened up to the vast possibilities for screen technology beyond mere outlets for your favorite movies and episodic programming while attending the HITEC 2016 tradeshow down in New Orleans. After having a chaperoned tour of the Samsung booth (and to a lesser extent, the LG booth, the other major hotel screen supplier), it was easy to get a better glimpse of what the future of screens looks like.
While the screens themselves are getting bigger, brighter and sharper, one the most practically improvements is that they are becoming exceedingly interactive. Via ‘casting’ integration, your mobile devices are able to sync with a larger monitor so that your smartphone not only acts as the universal remote but also so your personal preferences can be uploaded.
This comes in very handy for such minutia as not having to plug in your Netflix account credentials while in traveling. Importantly, though, it can lead to greater CRM applications such as remembering room services favorites or housekeeping preferences so that the guest experience can be fully customized, stored and further modified all through the guestroom’s television set. Additionally, the newest thermostats are now capable of talking to smart TVs which means that you can set your chosen climate controls without ever touching the actual wall-mounted sensor and then adjust conditions remotely via your mobile. Throw in the fact that many flat screens now have touch features and it’s easy to see how the television’s role as the centerpiece of a living space will only grow in the coming years.
To understand the next clear and present application of modern and future screen technology, you have to think outside of the living room and beyond what fits in the palm of your hand. That is, you must think spatially and not just in terms of newer electronics will slightly better or thinner screens and a billion rich colors instead of the previous model which only has a hundred million.
After all, most of these incremental upgrades are hyped up the nth degree by corporate marketing teams while only providing logarithmically curved utility to the purchaser or your guests. Right now, 4K Ultra HD is all the rage, but once sales for those models plateau, undoubtedly the tech conglomerates will unveil 8K Ultimate HD. This pattern will eventually echo that of Marvel Comics which has already run the gamut of superlative adjectives as it has relaunched its main superhero lineup every two years using names like incredible, amazing, superior, uncanny and ‘all new, all different’. Coming soon in 2025, 16K Astonishing HD with a trillion pixels!
Instead, imagine every flat surface you encounter throughout the day and then picture those surfaces as flat screen televisions. Smart touchscreens will replace your bathroom mirrors so you can read this morning’s headlines while flossing. Lightweight, small, durable LCD (or LED) panels will be built onto walls in every shape possible whereby all the individual panels act in concert to display one seamless graphic or an endless procession of images, effectively replacing static wall art. Those same panels will also be punched in as floor tiles to do everything from show advertisements, run a stock market ticker or give off the appearance of walking on neon water. Or to get a bit of breathing room between one and the next couple dining at a fancy seafood restaurant, instead of building a physical divider out of wood and drywall, just install a freestanding, two-sided screen with a preprogrammed fish tank screensaver.
And then when there are no walls left, obelisks or cylindrical kiosks will be erected in the middle of rooms with each surface covered by a high resolution screen. All this sounds a bit space age, but based on my tour of the Samsung booth at HITEC, I can tell you that these are already possible.
Knowing that this is all within your grasp, the real question now is what can you afford? That is, given the wire-thin margins on your budget, which futuristic screen installation would have the greatest impact towards boosting the onsite guest experience?
As each hotel is different, I cannot say for certain what will work best at your property. But I do know that while so much attention is being given to the next big thing – integrating mobile to improve bookings and operations – perhaps you should also give some thought to the next-next big thing which will involve using screens in unconventional ways. Well, unconventional for the time being, but soon to be the norm, so best get on the bandwagon while the cart is still being built.
(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published by Hotels Magazine on September 2, 2016).