HITEC Toronto 2017: 3 Key Takeaways

Author: Avanti Joglekar

HITEC Toronto, the world's largest hospitality technology show, took place June 26-29th at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. HITEC's Canadian debut drew the biggest crowd ever, bringing the brightest minds and the latest technology from around the world together in one location. The convention featured more than 130 speakers, including four key-note speakers addressing trending topics like AI/BI, cyber security, IoT, virtual reality, ROI, blockchain revolution, global travel trends, guest experience, and more.  Here are three key takeaways on hospitality cyber security, the Internet of Things, and hotel mobile strategy from the event.


1. Cybercrime and Cyber Security in the Hospitality Industry:

June ended with news of international cyber attacks, disrupting systems in Spain, India, the United States, Australia and more. The attacks also had significant impact on companies including FedEx, Cadbury Chocolate and A.P. Moller-Moersk. The closing keynote at HITEC Toronto focused on cybercrime and was delivered by Kevin Rosen, Esq. CIPP/US, partner at Shutts & Bowen, LLP, and Robert Villanueva, Executive Vice President at Q6 Cyber.

It’s abundantly clear that data breaches are not going anywhere anytime soon. The possibility that someone within your organization will click on ransomware, or that your perimeter will somehow be breached is high, so preparing to detect and eradicate an attack is a worthwhile endeavor (Pogue 21). The 2017 Nuix Black report found that it takes an attacker only 24 hours to access, find and exfiltrate critical value data, but it takes 250-300 days for the targeted organization to realize they've been breached. For the hospitality industry, which relies on providing excellent service by protecting the guest’s private information, a breach can cost a property up to $4 million.

One of the solutions that was discussed at the keynote is to adopt the "zero trust model." That means operating under the assumption that hackers are already accessing your critical value data. By encrypting data and using multi-factor authentication (MFA), command and control (C2) channels cannot be established outbound which makes your information useless to hackers. There are technologies available to support these cyber security goals, but implementing them will require cooperation from both IT and security.  They’ll need to know what to purchase and how to implement it, and properly train non-technical staff so they don't accidentally circumvent security measures.


2. The Internet of Things: Assisting With Guest Experience and Challenging Security

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is "The idea that electronic devices are connected to the Internet, allowing them to send and receive data constantly." (Edwards 26) For the hospitality industry, this integration of technology offers an opportunity to create a more seamless and personalized guest experience. Mobile bookings have already exploded, but hotels can leverage what’s called ‘beacon positioning’ to deliver an unexpected service experience. Mobile apps can be useful from the moment a guest's plane lands. When the guest uses the app, their smartphone will recognize when they’re "local" to the hotel. This creates an opportunity for the smartphone to automatically query the hotel's property management system via their cloud service. Then, the property can determine if the guest's room is clean and ready, and even access information such as their previous stay or a photo of the guest so they can be greeted by name, creating a huge value add for the guest.

While the IoT offers many opportunities for enhancing guest experience, it also creates security concerns with each point of data transfer. Transfers of guest data occur from the moment of check in, to monitoring in-room systems, and continue all the way through checkout. Hospitality Technology 2017 Lodging Tech study found that when it comes to 2017 IT concerns, 40 percent of hotel IT managers cited enhanced payment and data security as their biggest concern.  One recent example of the need for increased security awareness in the age of IoT comes from Austria, where a boutique hotel had its room locking system taken out by a cyberattack, leaving guests to mill about the lobby, locked out of their rooms.

"Hoteliers that are up to the task, and which put adequate protections in place, will find that doing so strengthens their brand, resulting in higher occupancy rates and more satisfied guests. Equally important, they'll avoid joining the list of hotels that find themselves on the wrong end of a crippling attack," concludes Tony Kontzer in his article on "Embracing the Internet of Things, Security Challenges and All."


3.Using Mobile Strategy to Truly Communicate and Connect With Guests

Hospitality mobile strategies have evolved beyond simply having a mobile app. Demands for industry-wide mobile solutions have outlived the 'there's an app for that' craze, and are not going anywhere. The true value of mobile lies in what "mobile" technology and its connection to IoT can do for the industry. A device’s mobile app can empower the customer's ability to choose. Given the almost endless number of apps available for guests to choose from, the most important question for your business is "How can I truly communicate and connect with my customer?" Marcus Robinson suggests that the best strategy would include these three critical elements:

First, consider how your guest would expect to communicate with your hotel. Guests will typically use a combination of their desktop, mobile device, texting/SMS, email and the telephone. Given that few travel plans are made using only a single screen, preparing yourself for cross device services and use of the IoT will make your mobile strategy seamless.

Second, have your staff adopt a content management system, or CMS, to organize and monitor the interaction between departments. For example, you may find that the front desk manager prefers texting the housekeeping department action tasks, since it's more efficient than making a phone call. Using technology to manage workflow and tasks can greatly improve cross communication between departments, but make sure that it’s thoroughly and consistently implemented or it could end up being more trouble than it’s worth.

Third, mobile strategy can go way beyond simply being able to text with a guest.

"Using cloud and beacon technology in conjunction with contextual messaging, progressive hospitality brands are already changing the relationships with their guests throughout their entire trip." says Marcus Robinson. "Thinking 'mobile' will not get your brand to this forefront, but focusing on 'connecting and communicating with your guests' will keep the possibilities open for thinking progressively alongside wherever the technology industry leads your clients." 




From the HITEC 2017 Special Report:

Pogue, Christopher. "Leaving Nothing to Steal" p. 20-21.

Edwards, John. "The Internet of Things, The Internet of You" p. 26-27. 

Kontzer, Tony. "Embracing the Internet of Things, Security Challenges and All" p. 28-29.

Robinson, Marcus. "Is Your Mobile Strategy Enough?" p. 34-35

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