What dominated hotel technology in 2016 

Marriott's hotel of the future (M Beta Charlotte Marriott City Center)

As this year ends, it’s a good time to reflect on the technology stories that readers were buzzing about in 2016. Marriott’s hotel of the future, data breaches and virtual reality dominated the most-read hotel technology news in the past year. Readers were also interested in Aloft’s voice-activated guestroom. Here’s a brief recap of the top technology stories.

Marriott’s hotel of the future

In October, Marriott International unveiled M Beta at Charlotte (N.C.) Marriott City Center, an experimental hotel that allows Marriott to solicit guest feedback on new concepts and initiatives in real time. M Beta is an innovation lab that enables rapid prototyping of anything from keyless entry to the latest technology in the property’s gym, Matthew Von Ertfelda, VP of insight, strategy and innovation for Marriott International, told HOTEL MANAGEMENT in an interview.

Ways to protect your hotel from a data breach

In August, HEI Hotels & Resorts became the most recent hospitality company to be preyed upon by hackers. But according to Stu Sjouwerman, founder and CEO of employee training and security company KnowBe4, hotels should be aware of the dangers of credit theft by now, though they still have a long way to go. If the industry is going to learn from its mistakes, Sjouwerman had four takeaways.

Virtual, augmented reality programs

Gamification is a powerful driver in nearly every industry. Video game developer Niantic definitively proved the concept when it launched Pokémon Go earlier this summer, gamifying the act of walking around by turning public spaces into interactive locations. The technology has arrived, and it’s now up to the hospitality industry to determine its place.

How new technology is smoothing hotel operations behind the scenes

In many ways, the biggest technology changes in hotels are happening behind the scenes, streamlining operations rather than offering gadgets for guests to play with (the majority of the time, guests are bringing the gadgets with them).

Aloft debuts voice-activated guestrooms

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide started in August offering guests at Aloft hotels the option to directly control all aspects of the guestroom using only the guest’s voice. “Project: Jetson,” an experiment conducted by Starwood, has resulted in the first-ever voice-activated hotel room powered by queries beginning with “Hey Siri.” Each Aloft voice-activated hotel room is equipped with an iPad running a custom Aloft app used for controlling the in-room guest experience, with HomeKit-enabled accessories including room temperature, lighting options and more. These new rooms are available at Aloft Boston Seaport and at Aloft Santa Clara (Calif.).