Hilton does already take use of Face Recognition Technology, others are on the run to use that tech tool soon, but do we really want or at least need this?
It is one of these hot technologies, which we have to face in the next few years. But it is already there – for example at The Hilton in Houston, Texas. There, electronic face recognition is used already quite a while in public and also in the non-public area. Supposedly, in order to identify regular customers and V.i.p.'s and send an alarm to the concierge - that he may welcome the celebrity personally by name. In general the set-up is justified with an improvement in services (as always questionable technologies are justified with).
The advertising industry is very hot on face recognition; in the next few years, for example posters should identify who stands before them, then to play personalized advertisement according to age and gender; car spots for men, shoe spots for women. We imagine malls where we get personally addressed by all sides: "Hello Mr W., we have here very cheap underwear for you!" - "Hey W., your favorite toothpaste should be gone already, buy two tubes and get one for free!" - "Hello Mr W., our partner Amazon tells us you recently bought this hot video at them - we would have even more of that stuff!" And so on.
In the hospitality industry with their traditional tendency to discretion, we would not rather suspect the gadget to get implemented that soon. A strange aftertaste is also caused by the information that the software actually was developed by the Japanese group N.E.C to identify criminals and other undesirable subjects. However, this particular effect probably also in the Houston Hilton and other hotels in America and Europe, which already use this software, is desirable.
It also serves to follow employees, a science magazine quotes the security officer of the Texan Hilton. The property has 1,200 rooms, it is like a small city, a living mace with a permanent safety problem. For thieves, such a huge building is an ideal domicile, repeat offenders could be filtered by the monitoring IT in this way and intercepted. But should the principle of mistrust really apply that everyone whom the software does not recognize as a guest or employee, must be an unauthorised person?
It requires also a little effort of imagination, to work out use cases of exercise the N.E.C. software directly on the hotel staff. House maid x, who frequently falls sleep in the Presidential suite rather than to it clean up? Room service waiter y, who by heading to the central supply room always does a detour through the wine cellar? Enforcement of the ban from the house for the cleaning woman g., after she was fired without notice?
Clear case: Such tool is made for power-hungry people who are met by deep distrust of their employees and not rest until they can track every move of them. But whether the continuous monitoring (if it is covered by law at all) is conducive for work peace, we dare to doubt. And who should operate a monitoring-apparatus? A click on the profile of any person, employee or guest, and he is "out". Or "in".
And whether such a tool will create much passion among the guests, we find at least as questionable, too. What would Mr. K. say, who regularly descends on pure purpose under a different name in the hotel, when he and his female companion would be welcomed as Mr. and Mrs. K? Would any celebrity be addressed really constantly by everything and everyone personally? Is everyone who has ever claimed the mini bar bill to be put on the "unwanted" list?
After all, the new tool offers attractive marketing opportunities. Just as there are now mobile-free hotels, turning their natural isolation into an advantage, because they have no network coverage and stressed-out careerists there spend a few days without permanent telephone ringing, there for sure will be "anonymous" Hotels soon.
Those are hotels as they once existed. In which adulterers can calmly spend a few days in cohabitation without fear to be recognized by anyone. Or where rock stars take a creative break away from intrusive fans. And be it only the computer.This is strictly an exclusive feature, reprints of this article in any shape or form without prior written approval from 4Hoteliers.com is not permitted.
Roland Wildberg is Travel Writer and Correspondent based in Berlin, Germany. He started as an Editor for the National daily 'Die Welt' (tourism section), later on switched to a freelanced career and nowadays mainly publishes on the Web. Observing the hospitality industry always has fascinated him as it looks like the perfect combination of sleeping and writing – work-live-balance as its best.
Roland also heads the annual 4Hoteliers ITB Berlin news micro-site journalist and video/photo teams. For more info: www.4Hoteliers.com/itb
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