Can holograms and blockchain improve the luxury hotel guest experience? That’s what Les Roches students aimed to find out during a recent Spark innovation project.
In the upmarket hotel lobbies of the future, will we see guests being greeted by holograms at reception who guide them through the lobby, seamlessly take payments and deliver an entirely personalized experience?
Though that may sound like something in the realms of science fiction, the potential for futuristic technology to play an increasingly central role in the luxury hospitality industry is what Les Roches BBA students have been investigating during one of their real-life Spark projects.
Working with user experience (UX) developers UDIMU and non-fungible token (NFT) experts Quantum on the research and development project, the students were challenged to explore the hospitality market readiness for using blockchain and digital art in the form of NFTs in hotels.
This involved drawing up a coherent research question and objectives, reviewing the current state of academic and trade literature on the topic in question, constructing a valid data collection tool, gaining ethical approval, gathering and analyzing data, writing a report and presenting the findings in an engaging way to UDIMU and Quantum.
“Spark projects such as this one teach students to focus on the requirements of a real company in the knowledge the data they are collecting serves a real purpose rather than merely an academic one,” says Associate Professor & Dissertation co-ordinator Rachel Germanier. “And as representatives from UDIMU were present at the end-of-project presentation to assess the results and provide feedback, there was an added incentive for students to deliver a polished, professional piece of research.”
As well as honing their presentation skills, students taking part in the project were able to develop project management and research capabilities.
“On a project such as this, students have to master time management, teamwork, communication, problem solving and critical thinking,” adds Rachel. “But what they also learned – particularly in this project – was adaptability, not only with regards to presentation delivery but also in this case due to one of the companies stepping away from the process during the project.”
Hospitality as an ecosystem
For Bachelor student Aidan Falla, the opportunity to gain practical skills and develop knowledge as if being truly part of a genuine workforce was one he particularly relished.
“Learning and subsequently applying that knowledge in real time was enjoyable,” he says. “But what really stood out for me was that this project allowed us to expand our understanding of hospitality and begin to see it more as an ecosystem of intertwined experiences rather than just a simple hotel or restaurant.
“This was one of the key takeaways for me – there are many moving pieces that go into each customer experience, so when developing new ideas, projects and so on, we need to consider the effects and feasibility in holistic terms to produce the best outcome.”
Focus and the need for consistency were also important lessons Aidan and his fellow students took from participating in this project.
“The other key thing I learned is the importance of consistency, especially when co-creating ideas and solutions with a team,” he says. “From the moment a project like this starts, you need to develop deliverables with the main goal as the focal point.
“Throughout this project, my team and I had to develop a certain professional common sense when we were sifting through data, brainstorming suggestions or framing our research. At every point, we had to continuously consider our goals and make sure each action had its relevance.”
Valuable testing ground
As well as helping students fine-tune their skills in a real-life context, Spark projects provide valuable learning experiences for the technology companies taking part too.
“We have already tested our technology in some sectors with clients such as Philip Morris, Swatch Group and Bulgari Parfum as well as for a large hotel group,” says Didier De Giorgi, Founder and CEO of UDIMU. “And we think it will be possible to simplify the management of various elements of the hospitality – particularly those related to personnel, for example – by integrating our technology with AI. That’s why we were keen to work with Les Roches students and get their input.”
Didier believes UDIMU’s technology can be deployed in many aspects of hotel operations, including room management and service contexts where interaction with the customer occurs. In such an international industry, he thinks the potential is incredible, which was one of the key drivers for the company wanting to tap into additional research through the Spark program.
“Discussing our research and development with students in this context was a fantastic opportunity for all,” he adds. “Our interaction with the students was highly enriching, while the 360-degree insights they provided during the project were invaluable. It’s given us a lot of food for thought in terms of evolution and improvements to our offering in a hospitality context and allowed us to reflect on our current and future research efforts in this area.”
So will we be happy interacting with holograms instead of humans in years to come? Who knows? But research and development such as this brings the day we will find out ever closer.
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