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“Hey Angie, get me an interview with your creator” – meet the man pushing the envelope of voice-activated hotel tech

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Back in February, I wrote an article about the debut of Angie, the voice-activated guest-room assistant.

It’s revolutionising hospitality for guests and hoteliers, with the ability to change room lighting, book spa treatments, set alarms, modify bookings and more. Now it’s time to meet the man behind the magic.

Angie Hospitality’s CEO Ted Helvey is the main developer of Angie. For almost two decades, he’s been looking out for new ways to help hotels and resorts improve guest satisfaction, while maximising operational efficiencies and revenue. I picked the brains of the hospitality-tech innovator recently – here’s what he had to say:

What inspired the creation of Angie?

I began providing hotels with guest technology nearly 20 years ago, and I have watched guest expectations continue to rise and challenge the ability of hoteliers and their providers to keep up. We asked ourselves, what if we could combine the guest technology into a single device that is the size of an alarm clock and just as easy to install, maintain and even replace?

“We laughed at first until we stopped laughing and got to work building Angie.”

We started with the most important technology in guestrooms today, which is Wi-Fi. We knew that hoteliers are under pressure to provide ever-increasing Wi-Fi bandwidth and connectivity, as guests bring along multiple internet-enabled devices that need fast and secure connectivity.

We then addressed room controls and finally rolled-in the phone for good measure. Once combined, we knew it needed to have the ease of use of both voice and a beautiful touch display for the guest, while also being an enterprise-class, cloud-managed device for the hotelier.

“We packed these combined solutions into a future-proof and multi-purpose device that, unlike consumer technologies, is built specifically for the hotel environment.”

Why did you call it Angie? Where did you get the name?

We were looking for a name that began with the letter “A” and had the right combination of technical sounds to serve as a good trigger phrase for the device. It also needed to be easily recognized among audiences.

As a developer of an innovative product, what were the things you’ve learned in your journey so far?

We have really learned a lot from our first hoteliers and their guests. Over half of Angie’s current features are a result of feedback we received from those using the first-generation devices.

“I must also acknowledge that we learned why they call it “hard”ware because of all the work that is involved in creating a future-proof solution that can truly live up to very high expectations.”

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How did you feel when your company won the 2017 HTNG TechOvation Award?

It was a real thrill! We felt being recognised with the 2017 HTNG TechOvation Award validated the need for what we’re doing. It was a surreal experience being honoured at a respected industry event right out of the gate, and we were proud to be recognized for something we’ve worked hard on by people for whom we have such great respect.

CEO Ted Helvey at the centre holds the 2017 HTNG TechOvation Award

How was 2017 for Angie and what’s in store this year?

2017 was a big year and we learned a lot from our first-generation device and the feedback we received. We began this year with the introduction of our second-generation Angie offering improved voice recognition, touchscreen, industrial design and Wi-Fi enhancements.

We’ve added a handset to completely replace the need for a separate phone in the room. We are also installing our first properties outside the U.S. this year.

“We hope that Angie conquers the world and becomes a common resource for improving and personalizing the guests’ experience in their global travels.”

With all the competition in tech, how do you keep Angie relevant?

Fortunately, Angie is a powerful Linux computing platform that is routinely updated via its cloud management. Unlike the consumer devices that some hoteliers have experimented with, Angie is purpose-built for the hotel environment and is designed to integrate with other hotel systems and continuously learn and improve.

How do you see the future of the hotel industry?

I think it is a very exciting time in our industry. We’re seeing a variety of new technologies with advanced capabilities being developed to now meet a multitude of challenges from both a back-of-house and front-of-house perspective.

What the future will continue to see is these new technologies being increasingly implemented in hotels around the world, creating more streamlined and efficient operations with a drastically improved guest experience.

If you had one advice to those who want to build a company, what would it be?

“Start small and be laser-focused on an area where you and your team have a deep and even unique experience, so that you are able to create something truly great!”

 

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