3 Mobile technology


Understand the role of mobile technology in the hospitality industry


  1. Know the definition of mobile technology
  2. Distinguish among the main mobile ecosystems
  3. Evaluate the various applications of mobile technology to hospitality and tourism

Definition and overview of mobile technology

Mobile technology represents wireless information and communication technology that generally addresses mobile tasks. Mobile technology is generally characterized by the ability of the user to take the system anywhere, offering mobility and convenience in task completion. While the tasks can be accomplished in multiple areas, it is important to recognize that mobile technology facilitates a variety of commercial tasks, such as information search, purchasing, consumption, and evaluation. When mobile technologies are used for commercial purposes, they are becoming a part of mobile commerce.

Mobile commerce is generally defined as a layer of applications relying on the mobile Internet. In other words, mobile commerce creates a link between the Internet and mobile wireless devices, which facilitate commercial transactions. This aspect is critical for businesses, as multiple tasks require completion outside of the consumer’s residence, in situations where the consumer needs to travel to the place where the service is being provided. For example, a guest check-in using a hotel app is facilitated by the consumer having access to a mobile device such as a smartphone.

While the technology has evolved in the past few years and all the major manufacturers have developed great mobile devices, generally, mobile technology includes devices such as wireless phones, tablets, other handheld communication devices, and the supporting infrastructure for these devices to work properly (e.g., fixed network, distribution towers).

The evolution of mobile technology is being currently classified by generation. The latest technology standards for mobile devices is represented by the 5G (5th generation). 5G can be described as a set of device standards and the corresponding infrastructure that allows users to exchange data fast, securely, and efficiently.

Characteristics of 5G mobile technology:
  • Fast network speeds (10-100 Mbps) associated with low download latency,
  • Greater network capacity allowing more devices to be connected (e.g., not just smartphones, but also cars, household appliances, sensors, cameras)
  • Ubiquity, or availability everywhere
  • The ability to use a wide range of applications
  • Strong encryption

Challenges of mobile technology
While mobile technology offers a variety of benefits, such as convenience, mobility, ubiquity, entertainment value, there are certain challenges with respect to commercial application of mobile technology. The primary challenge is related to coverage and reflect the extent to which users can use signal of certain strength in the areas where they would like to use mobile technology. For example, not all the territory of U.S. is covered equally by the mobile service carriers, resulting in areas with low connectivity or no connectivity at all. Other challenges relate to the size and popularity of a certain mobile ecosystem, availability of hardware, software, applications, mobile commerce environments, and standards.

Such challenges are especially relevant for the hospitality industry. For example, consumers expect to connect their mobile devices to Wi-Fi services in hotels, but at the same time they expect to have access to cellular service provided by their mobile service carriers, such as T-Mobile, AT&T, or Verizon. Sometimes, in hotels, clubs, or convention centers that have thick walls, the cellular signal cannot penetrate through all the areas, which could result in lower connectivity. Generally, these challenges could be addressed by installing signal amplifiers or providing Wi-Fi services.

Other challenges relate to the way mobile services are commercialized. For example, a traveler from the U.S. may take a trip overseas, but their mobile service provider can charge extra fees for using roaming services. This aspect is important especially for travelers arriving at unfamiliar destinations, as they need to use their mobile devices to find directions, pay for food, beverages, and transportation services.


Mobile ecosystems represent the totality of mobile devices, communication networks, device and vendor infrastructure, the Internet, and enterprise systems that support modern mobile services.

The following elements of mobile ecosystems are described in more detail:

– Mobile devices represent the users’ mobile terminals such as smartphones.

– Commercial software infrastructure represents public app stores and device and operating system infrastructure (e.g., Apple App Store). For example, major mobile operating companies such as Apple own and operate their own native mobile app stores, where consumers can buy, download, and install applications to their mobile devices. Applications range from music, games, utility, to efficiency apps and are aligned with the major operating systems – for example, iPhone users have access to the Apple App Store, which hosts applications developed specifically for the Apple iOS mobile operating system.

– The enterprise systems include enterprise app stores, access and mobile management (for example, Virtual Private Networks or VPN), and back-end services (for example, e-mail, file shares, application)

Generally, we refer to the following as the main mobile ecosystems: Apple (iOS), Google (Android), and Samsung (Android). The value of an ecosystem is determined by the stability of the hardware (how good the hardware is in terms of usability, ease of use, reliability, security), availability and stability of the software (how good the operating system is, the number and quality of apps that are available), and the rate of adoption by users.


Because of the advantages and convenience of mobile technology is common there have been a variety of developments in the hospitality and tourism industries that take advantage of mobile devices.

In hotels

The hotels have seen numerous recent applications of mobile technologies, which can be grouped by the location of deployment and the tasks that they help facilitate. For example, the front of the house has seen applications for reservations, where mobile devices can be used to reserve rooms and can be integrated with the property management systems to provide seamless access to reservations. There are numerous applications that serve guest communication and marketing functions, such as payment, sending requests, or communicating with the hotel prior to arrival. Many hotel property management systems are able to send text messages to arriving guests’ mobile devices and allow guests to communicate seamlessly with the hotel throughout the property once they have checked in. This way, the customer relationship management function is enhanced and the consumers have a chance to be served promptly, therefore increasing service satisfaction. In addition, multiple hotels have deployed tablets and smartphones for guests to use while they stay on the property. For example, Intellity has developed s tablet that can be placed in guest rooms for consumers to access foodservice items and facilitate ordering, while allowing guests to control various aspects of the room settings, such as ambient temperature, curtains, lighting, and TV.

Perhaps one the most comprehensive applications of mobile technologies is the branded app of a hotel brand. All the major hotel brands have developed apps that function as the main portal for communication outside of the website. For example, Hilton’s Hilton Honors app is one of the best apps, and include functions such as reservations, updates, and payments. Consumers download the app and use it to book and manage reservations, clear upgrades, make payments, and manage their loyalty program membership within a single app. Moreover, such well-developed apps contribute to enhancing the loyalty of consumers toward hotel brands, as guests are encouraged to make all the transactions with the hotel to the app instead of using third party services (for example travel agents).

There are a lot of applications of mobile technologies in hotels’ back of the house. One such application is communication between housekeeping staff and all the other areas of the hotel. Systems such as AliceApp, HotSos, or HelloShift enhance the communication between various areas of the hotel and help employees address problematic areas and respond to customer requests immediately.

Another important aspect addressed by mobile technologies is the security of staff. There are multiple applications deployed on the mobile devices of housekeepers and maintenance workers. For example, they could have a “panic button” in case of a dangerous situation.

There are applications that use mobile devices to control other hardware or equipment within the hotel. For example, mobile devices can be interfaced with the ovens in professional kitchens, so that the oven tasks are optimized and this way the hotel could reduce energy consumption and streamline operations.

In restaurants, clubs, and spas

There are numerous applications of mobile technologies for restaurants. One of the most commonly used in popular types of application is marketing apps, which allow consumers to find various restaurants and read reviews. Apps such as Yelp, Google, or TripAdvisor, facilitate this logic and allow consumers to evaluate possible services before the purchase, therefore reducing intangibility of services and potentially increasing their satisfaction. Along with finding a restaurant, there are popular mobile apps that allow customers to book and manage their reservations. This way, a restaurant dining room area is optimized, with an important impact on the costs and revenues.

The recent development in food delivery systems have created opportunities for customers to use their mobile devices for ordering from restaurants. This is especially important as the global COVID-19 pandemic have forced many restaurants into developing systems that rely on mobile technologies to facilitate consumer ordering or information search online. For example, many restaurants now use QR codes that allow consumers to access menus without touching anything, therefore providing convenience and diminishing health risks.

One interesting application of mobile technologies in food service is related to travel, but effects consumers dining behavior. Restaurants can send push marketing notifications based on a consumer’s location, therefore increasing the likelihood of customers visiting a restaurant when they are located nearby. This type of applications rely on data provided by consumers, and could have important implications for consumers’ privacy.

Finally, there are increasing numbers of applications of mobile devices for capturing payments in restaurants. The common practice in the U.S. used to be that the consumer would hand the payment method (typically a card) to the server, who would use the card with a fixed terminal to process the payment. Given the development in mobile technology and secure networking, IT vendors have created mobile terminals that can be taken directly to the consumers’ table in restaurants, and the customers can use their own mobile or traditional payment methods at the table without leaving their method of payment from their site. One important consideration when using these types of applications is that the wireless communications between the mobile terminal and the fixed terminal must be completely secure and compliant with the PCI-DSS guidelines.

In travel

One of the areas that has seen significant development in terms of using mobile technologies is traveled. Common applications include mobile boarding passes for airlines, mobile passports for crossing the border, and mobile check-in for when the guests arrive at the hotel. All of these applications add a layer of convenience to the travel experience and facilitate frictionless travel.

Another important set of applications for travel is location based services push notifications. Consumers who opt to receive these kinds of services can benefit from additional information being sent to their devices when they arrive in the close proximity of various attractions, or retail places or events. Consumers can utilize these messages to purchase ancillary services or make more informed decisions about the various things that they might do at a destination. However, a barrier for using mobile technologies in travel is the uneven development and sometimes the different standards adopted by different countries or geographical regions. For example, mobile devices or protocols that are commonly used in the US may not work in Asia or Europe, therefore limiting the possibilities for travelers to use their mobile devices internationally.

One particular type of application has become quite popular in air travel. Traditionally, air carriers would provide hardware for in-flight entertainment in-flight, such as screens located in the back of the passenger seats. However, to provide personalized services and reduce the weight and aircraft, several airlines have deployed systems where entertainment content (for example movies, music, route information) is now pushed to consumers’ own mobile devices, which are connected with the aircraft’s Wi-Fi systems through the airline’s app.

There are emerging applications of mobile devices, especially as devices become equipped with more advanced processing power that can handle novel applications such as augmented reality or virtual reality. For example, experiences such as visiting a museum or attending a sporting event can be enhanced by these technologies and capitalize on the fact that consumers bring with them variety of mobile devices.



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Information technology in hospitality Copyright © by Cristian Morosan, PhD is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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