Cloud, Mobile and More on Display at HITEC

Cloud, mobile and social. Those are the three areas expected to draw the most attention at the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference later this month in Baltimore. “Those are the big trends,” says Agilysys CEO and President Jim Dennedy. “With those, we’ve made three principal bets in what we think the industry is looking for in the future. And those three are on the hot list of most technology companies.”

There will certainly be the usual headline-drawing gizmos and gadgets at HITEC, but Douglas Rice, executive vice president and CEO of Hotel Technology Next Generation, says “the most exciting technologies this year are the ones you can’t see — they’re all in the infrastructure.” Or the sky, as cloud computing continues to be perhaps the hottest topic leading into the industry’s largest technology event.

HITEC is June 25-28 at the Baltimore Convention Center and more than 330 exhibitors are expected. Last year approximately 4,700 people attended the event in Austin, TX.

“Cloud computing, and its little brother hosted services, have really come into their own in the past year,” says Mark Haley, co-founder and partner of The Prism Partnership, a hospitality consulting company based in Boston. “In addition to maturation of the available cloud-service providers, the big swing is in marketplace acceptance. The buy side — the hoteliers — are now ready to really look at making this technology shift.

“The old fears about control of data and loss of data communications have been allayed by the realization that you need to deal with control of data contractually and that a professionally managed data center is probably more reliable than a local server room under the stairs secured by a bathroom door lock and overseen by whichever front desk-clerk got the short straw.”

Agilysys, for example, has responded to the industry’s thirst for the cloud by making its primary products (property management and point of sale systems) available via the “cloud,” although Dennedy says that’s an overused and difficult term to define. “Our customer base increasingly wants to acquire technology services we offer in a subscription model vs. a license model,” he says, noting that one of the two things he’s hoping to learn at HITEC is how the hotel industry wants to use cloud-enabled technology. The other area he’s curious about? “How to leverage all the conversations on the social networking side of it. There are a lot of conversations we need to tap into to best position our customers to recruit the guest and maximize their wallet share.”

Those topics and plenty more will be discussed and on display at HITEC. The conference opens Monday, June 25 with several breakout sessions and boot camp (training) sessions. Caesars Entertainment Chairman, CEO and President Gary Loveman will discuss guest loyalty during his opening keynote address from 3:30-5 p.m.

Simultaneously going in Baltimore that Monday, at the nearby Sheraton City Center in Baltimore, will be the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International’s (HSMAI) Revenue Optimization Conference. The one-day interactive program will focus entirely on revenue management and distribution.

Back at HITEC on Tuesday, the exhibition floor first welcomes visitors beginning at 10 a.m. and closes at 4 p.m. Prior to the trade show from 8:30-9:45, Josh Klein, a professional hacker, frequent speaker and consultant, will offer his views in a keynote session titled, “Lulz to Laceny, Self Defense in the New Media Age.” Prior to Klein’s talk, HTNG’s Douglas Rice will be inducted into the International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame.

On Wednesday, the trade show is open from 10-3, and again on Thursday from 10-2. Both days will also feature several breakout and general sessions, ending with a closing keynote address from Google Idea’s Jared Cohen titled, “Technology, Part of Every Problem, Part of Every Solution.” Cohen, who has served as an advisor to both Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton, is a noted expert on international security, global political dynamics and the impact of technology.

On the trade show floor will again be Guestroom 20X, now an every other year feature. The futuristic guestroom that debuted at HITEC in 2006 will be on display with the latest and near-future technologies for the hotel room. Some of the technologies included will be of the non-traditional variety — eco-friendly products, bathroom fixtures, fabrics, furniture and more — as well as traditional technology like TVs, mobile devices, telephones and robots.

“I always look forward to seeing what the creative minds in this industry have done with integrating information and software apps to provide new insights and new capabilities,” says Jon Inge, president of Jon Inge & Associates, a Seattle-based consultancy. “There’s always something that takes existing functionality at least one stage further, sometimes from mainstream vendors, sometimes from the smaller ones around the edges of the exhibit floor.”

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