Innovation and groundbreaking technology thrive at the annual Consumer Electronics Show.

Recently, I had the great fortune to attend the annual Consumer Electronics Show – better known as CES. Billed as one of the largest gatherings of people who thrive on the business of technology, this event attracts over 175,000 attendees who are keen on visiting as many of the 4,500 exhibitors as possible. These exhibitions are spread across close to three million square feet in multiple locations throughout Las Vegas.

This was my first ever CES and I had been warned: Wear comfortable shoes, bring water, don’t carry anything heavy–and plan to walk a lot! What nobody prepared me for, however, was the sensory overload of spending two days immersed in innovation and ground-breaking technology, some of which might never be commercialized.

Why was I there? Every year for the past four years HSMAI has partnered with the Consumer Technology Association, the organization that is responsible for CES. Through this partnership, a select group of hotel executives are provided a mix of private tours, one-on-one conversations and networking events. IDeaS, as a global thought leader, pioneer and innovator in travel technology, sponsored the event with Google and Travelclick.


This year’s HSMIA/CTA tour group gearing up for a lot of walking.

Solutions Looking for Problems

First off, the entire group, including industry representatives from Choice Hotels, Hilton, Accor, Red Roof Inn and Preferred Hotels agreed – a lot of the technology represented a “solution looking for a problem.” I am sure there are some people who would love to talk to their water faucet or have their suitcase follow them like a pet, but we all agreed that there were a lot more “nice-to-haves” than critical technology. This led to a discussion about what happens with all the possibly toxic and environmentally damaging components in our “throw away” culture.

In the end, however, we also agreed that there were a number of areas which will definitely have an impact on travel tech and the hotel industry. Here are some of the highlights:

Everything connects

The Internet of Things has been talked about for several years now. However, this year we will see the first instances of 5G, the next-generation mobile network appearing in countries and cities near you.

Add to that the fact that technology is getting smaller (and smaller) with more and more of it already being incorporated into everyday items. All that tech is starting to talk as well. We are moving from the Internet of Things to the Internet of Everything.

Yes, maybe I don’t want to talk to my faucet, but if I can remotely control my bathtub to fill to my preferred temperature exactly when I arrive at a hotel, that would be convenient. Add sensors that can pinpoint leaks, automatically turn off faucets that have been left on accidentally by guests, or control energy to a much greater degree and the benefits for hotel owners will be many.

Prediction: The Internet of Everything will (slowly) take over the hotel room, enabling unprecedented control for guests and efficiency gains for operators and owners. Roll out will be slow as upfront investment is considerable.

Voice is everywhere

Voice assistants have been the talk of the town, especially since Google demonstrated its duplex functionality in 2018. Google didn’t disappoint again this year, with a fully simulated story of how the Google Assistant makes work and life easier. Not everyone will like Google and others listening everywhere, but if Google helps resolve language problems and makes the guest journey more joyful, then why not?

Prediction: Who wants to type when you can talk? Voice is the original and natural user interface. From doors, lights, appliances and even beds, everything will have a voice.

Forget paper – Paper-thin screens are the future

One of the most stunning innovations for the entire group was the world’s thinnest full color display by a company called Royole. Only 0.01mm thick, the company showed us screens on handbags, foldable phones and an interactive screen tree. They explained how their technology can replace traditional tent cards for meetings and conferences and make them interactive. Our group discussed a number of potential future applications for the hotel industry, including interactive nametags, branded wear, conference swag, etc.

Prediction: As screens become thinner and foldable, you’ll see them pop up in more unexpected places. For hotels, it might start with interactive name tags and end with new ways to incorporate screens into walls and amenities. Instead of having a TV on the wall, why not have TV wallpaper instead?

From virtual reality to parallel reality?

While a lot of the buzz was about virtual and artificial reality, the most mind-bending innovation we all tried to understand was the launch of “parallel reality.” Announced during a keynote by Delta CEO Ed Bastian and developed by MisappliedSciences, parallel reality allows for individualized and personalized views of displays without special equipment – no goggles – looking through your phone, etc.

You simply scan your boarding card, walk up to a display and instead of looking through hundreds of departing flights the display will have a personalized message for you, and a different personalized message for each person looking at the display. Now that’s personalization!

In a chat with the CEO and co-founder, Albert Ng, he told us that in the lab they are able to individualize the display for up to 10,000 people, which means that theoretically the conference of the future could include personal messages.

We all scratched our heads about parallel reality and it is very apparent that there is a significant amount of application for the hotel industry. Personal greetings when entering the hotel, meeting indicator boards that only show your meeting, or a public menu display that knows your favorite dishes and your name, in your language.

Immersive and Connected

After 36 hours of intense immersion in the technology for tomorrow, the entire group was both scared by the quantity of “nice to haves” and excited about some of the innovations with evident application for the hotel industry. We all walked away with a sense that we are only seeing the beginning of what will surely be a more immersive, interactive, connected, and voice enabled future.

Klaus Kohlmayr
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Chief Evangelist

Klaus Kohlmayr challenges strategic processes, stimulates thought-provoking conversations and reinvigorates the future of revenue management and pricing within the hospitality and travel industries.

A natural contrarian, Klaus has challenged the status quo for over 20 years. He re-joined IDeaS from TSA, where he led the company’s global commercial, operations and strategic partnership initiatives. During his previous stint with IDeaS, he started the company’s global consulting division -- leading a team that partnered with top hotel companies. Together they pioneered the industry’s first group price optimization and function space revenue management proof-of-concepts in a real-world environment.

Klaus developed his passion for the hotel industry at the Hotel Management and Catering School in Villach, Austria, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Hotel Management. An advocate of lifelong learning, he has since studied business at Henley Management College, real estate investment and asset management at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration; and finance and strategy at the Singapore Management University.

Klaus has been an active participant in various advisory boards, including HSMAI in Asia Pacific and the Americas, and the Cornell-Nanyang Institute of Hospitality Management, Singapore. He not only loves to challenge the status quo, but wholly welcomes being challenged in new ways of thinking.