Like most events these days, the Cyber HITEC conference kicked off Tuesday in a vastly different environment than in the past. Not only is the conference being held four months after its usual June slot, it’s also being combined with the “Best of HFTP” events originally scheduled for this month: the HFTP Annual Convention and the Club Forum.
"Health and safety have always been our top priority and continued uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic makes it prudent to forgo the in-person events ahead of critical deadlines for both attendees and exhibitors planning to participate," Frank Wolfe, CEO of the nonprofit industry association Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals, which runs all of the events, said when the move was announced. "We arrived at this decision thoughtfully after hearing from many sources including our exhibitors and attendees who shared industry concerns."
The first day kicked off with a keynote session featuring John Picard, founder of John Picard & Associates, titled “The Convergence of Innovation and Wellness to Stability.” Picard is known for his understanding of the innovative principles of natural systems designs and connects visionary thinking with emerging technologies to drive successful projects for corporations, commercial buildings, college campuses and towns.
He’s now working in Silicon Valley with seven companies that are dedicated to engineering and prototyping, connecting them together so that the skin, security, energy, water, controls, mechanical, lighting and building occupants are all talking together in real time
Picard started by framing the problem the industry is facing to make the path to opportunity clear.
“You can't just fix this stuff that's happened to us this year. This isn't a flat tire. This is a game changer. The pre-existing model for hospitality in the meeting business has been broken, and we've all known that the impact of COVID-19 has laid bare the vulnerability of the old structure. The future doesn't appear to include a return to its past convention and visitor bureaus, hotels and hospitality groups, the aviation industry and municipalities, they're all grappling with a new path forward. We're all feeling like there is a lot at stake right now.”
And with this chaos that’s taking place, there’s going to be winners and there’s going to be big losers, he said.
“The biggest opportunities have always been born in some form of crisis. It’s only in our nature to reimagine the world when it's our last available choice, so we may be standing at that very point in this business today. But I'm not afraid. And you definitely shouldn't be. I see hope, and the opportunity for a new genesis, a major reset for the hospitality industry,”
But hotels must not look at the pandemic through a one-dimensional lens, he cautioned.
“The uncertainly we feel mired in also has given us an unexpected reprieve, a break, an opportunity to create a moment of clarity; embracing that pause has allowed us to ask ourselves if there hasn't been a better way to build and manage our business, all of this time,” he said. “Maybe we weren't willing to honestly assess our circumstances because the system was working well enough for all of us to maintain that comfort of the status quo. Regardless of the confluence of current events, there is a movement afoot, that is altering the world for the better. It's the latchkey to the future. And it is convergence.”
Picard said that we need to start with health and wellness and its transformative impact on our own longevity.
“What if health and longevity is at the center of everything we did for our guests, customers, employees and ourselves? What if we built spaces that really are longevity and wellness centers?” he asked. “That could be the heart of the hotel, and that could launch 100 other things from this new health platform. Think of all those applications. Hotels as a wellness center could be open to locals while also revitalizing valuable business travelers and guests have that they feel their best pre travel, or maybe they stay a day longer for some well-deserved self-care. This could be a whole new revenue stream and pivot, in the user experience.”
The big question, of course, is how to make that real and how to make it all connected, Picard said. The answer is artificial intelligence, which is allowing us to drive the reset engine in the most futuristic way.
“Imagine a building that thinks and learns as it lives and actually becomes the companion to its guests. Digital twins are emerging and changing the portfolio value of real estate, coupled with AI and machine learning,” he said. “The result is an autonomous structure with a consciousness within our reach. With today's AI capabilities, a building could have software consciousness that allows you to interact with its guests. Now, imagine the human digital twin and the building digital twin working in concert. This is how we code the wellness algorithms, and every guest could have one.”
Picard’s final advice was for hoteliers to know that these changes are going to benefit the world at large.
“How did you help … humanity be net positive to the planet?” he said. “It's an amazing thing to strive for. And it's not in your business plan as a hotel, but it's in your life and your employees your guests, everyone's going to recognize that, and they're going to jump in and support you, because we, as humans, we always help each other when it's real, and it's real.”
Hall of Fame Inductees
Also during the opening general session, HFTP honored Michael Blake and Henri Roelings as the 2020 HFTP International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame inductees. Blake, CEO of Hospitality Technology Next Generation, was recognized for his experience and leadership in promoting hospitality innovation and technology. Roelings, owner and CEO of HospitalityNet.org, was recognized for building a comprehensive digital platform for broad distribution of industry news and commentary.
Day 2 and 3
Cyber HITEC will run through Oct. 29 virtually and sessions will be available on demand through Nov. 25. In addition to education sessions, it features keynote presentations, a networking lounge and a marketplace with hundreds of technology providers.
Click here to register.