Hilton Owners Test New Technology Apps

Among other things, Hilton owners could use their iPads to order roomservice while at the meeting.

Hilton Worldwide’s technology team used the company’s recent owners meeting as an opportunity to showcase and test new customer applications that many properties will be able to adopt in the near future. On arrival day at the meeting, which was held at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando and the Hilton Bonnet Creek, all 1,700 owners received an Apple iPad which they used throughout the event to test two systems: a virtual concierge system and a paperless meeting experience.

“We thought this was the best way to demonstrate to our owners the innovative things we’re building for and with them while also giving them a good experience at the conference,” says Josh Weiss, Hilton’s vice president of brand and guest technology. “And the owners responded very positively, which was exactly as we had hoped.”

The virtual concierge app on the iPad allowed attendees to request hotel amenities and services at the host hotels—everything from scheduling wake-up calls and arranging transportation to making dinner reservations and ordering drinks by the pool. Attendees made about 400 such requests during the meeting.

The meeting application housed all the conference materials, including agenda, welcome messages, property maps and corporate information. Also available on the computers were business plans, excerpts from books written by conference speakers and a daily video highlighting upcoming activities. In addition, attendees could include their photos and contact information to receive messages from other attendees and Hilton staff members. More than 10,000 instant messages were transmitted during the conference. Finally, attendees could print documents from their device and access the Hilton intranet. Officials say the meeting app alone reduced the need for materials to be printed on paper by 70 percent, or the equivalent of more than 50 mature trees.

“They had all been to meetings where they had to lug around thick folders full of paper in order to keep track of what was going on,” says Weiss. “They couldn’t believe we could put all that information and more into an iPad that weighs less than two pounds.”

To facilitate issuance of the devices, Hilton created what Weiss calls a “pop-up retail experience” in the hotels where attendees could pick up their iPads (which they got to keep), get them configured and have any questions answered. “It was a way to show them this kind of system can be quick, interactive and engaging,” says Weiss.

Individual hotels will be able to use both applications for their meeting customers, although they require some customization for specific groups and events. For example, property-specific information would be needed for the concierge app and conference and group information for the meeting app. “The foundations are there, and with the right groundwork, both corporately and at individual properties, these applications are scalable to additional locations,” he says.

In addition, work needs to be done on the WiFi infrastructure and networks at some hotels that may want to pursue this technology for its customers. Hilton works with communications partner AT&T to accomplish these tasks. At the two Hilton properties in Orlando used for the meeting, AT&T developed a custom WiFi network with hundreds of wireless access points that allowed more than 2,000 simultaneous users at the same time.

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