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To Secure Its Long-Term Recovery, the Hospitality Sector Must Accelerate Digital Transformation

By Matt Valentine, Managing Director at Aruba UK&I

For the hospitality sector, the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially difficult – with most if not all countries imposing some form of travel restrictions or lockdowns.

On the flip side, the pandemic did onset a huge step up in the adoption of technology and digital services. So now, as the world seems to be re-emerging and with many hospitality establishments opening their doors, businesses are quickly discovering the new “digital-first” world consumers have become accustomed to and expect.

Rather than be left outside in the cold, it is the perfect time for them to seize the opportunity to accelerate digital transformation strategies to meet the demands of customers, regain their competitive edge, and fuel their long-term recovery from the pandemic.

Recently, Aruba launched its Serving Hospitality at the Edge eBook, stating that over half of hospitality IT leaders have begun trials or applications of technologies such as AI (55%), IoT (70%) and machine learning (57%).

While this is somewhat promising, it is far from a leading position compared to other industries – for instance, in the financial services industry, up to 75% have begun to implement AI; more so for retail organisations where 77% have begun to implement IoT for distribution and transport.

The sector is now at risk of lagging, but the problems don’t stop there. Hospitality organisations are also showing signs of struggling with the data that this plethora of new technologies produce. Research found that a quarter (25%) of IT leaders in hospitality said there was too much data for their systems to handle; a further 25% stated that they could not process the data they collected quickly enough to act.

The exponentially growing adoption of smart technologies, IoT sensors, and connected devices, means data levels will only go one way – up. If action is not taken soon, the issues and concerns will only become more difficult to mediate.

The question is, can a sector that has faced so many challenges already and is currently focused on recovery, also get a handle on their data, and deliver the type of experiences customers expect? Let’s take a look at three key areas these organisations should put their focus on to set themselves up for their future success.

Step 1: Process data efficiently

Firstly, hospitality businesses must follow data all the way to the Edge of the network – this being where data is created on-site by devices using 5G, IoT or AI as opposed to transferring it back to a centralised hub. This will help sector organisations process said data more efficiently and capture it in real-time.

Some companies were already showing early signs of adoption in the industry, with 54% of hospitality IT leaders using or trialing Edge technologies before the pandemic, and a further 16% computing at the Edge.

By using the Edge, such businesses can deliver new outcomes and experiences – 49% are starting to use facial recognition technology, 45% are experimenting with live, real-time, multi-language translation, and 43% are creating enhanced augmented and virtual reality experiences.

But most of these projects were put on hold due to COVID (with some even cancelled entirely). So, as the world re-opens, it is vital that these initiatives are picked back up to keep pace with the demands customers now have and for businesses to show they can deliver world-class hospitality experiences. Encouragingly, 77% of hospitality IT leaders already acknowledge the need to implement integrated systems for handling data at the Edge as urgent.

Step 2: Analysing data intelligently

Being able to capture all that data is one thing but being able to act on it? That is something else entirely.

This is where emerging technologies, like AI, come in. Not only can they enhance customer service, provide personalised guest experiences, and support brand management – they can also assist IT teams with the likes of network troubleshooting to avoid costly downtime or damage to the user experience. The significance of AI, in this respect, will only grow as it becomes increasingly sophisticated, and as machine learning models get access to more data.

Step 3: Store data securely

With new technology, comes new security concerns. 67% of IT decision-makers in hospitality believe that connecting IoT devices at the Edge would make their business more vulnerable.

However, by implementing the right solutions organisations can easily mitigate risk and secure any data they collect. Something we believe is a key part of this approach is to utilise a Zero Trust security approach, meaning that all devices must be verified when trying to connect to an organisation’s system before they can be granted access.

Similarly, network visibility and device identification can help to homogenise the increasingly fractal world of networks while giving IT teams the ability to grant differentiated levels of data access according to specific devices or user groups (i.e. guests or staff).

The current climate is scary, yet it also presents a tremendous opportunity for the hospitality sector to make the changes that will enable it to provide superior customer experiences, not just in the present but also in the future.

For this to be done successfully though, they must evolve their network capabilities to ensure their infrastructure and solutions can support emerging next-generation technologies that will define their digital transformation for years to come.

About the author

Matt Valentine is responsible for Aruba's UK and Ireland business, including customer and partner engagement, solution engineering and business management and performance.


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