The modern travel experience involves much hassle and aggravation. There are endless security procedures, delayed flights and the discomfort of jet lag. After all that, who wants to stand in a long line waiting to check in at a hotel?\n\n\nHilton Worldwide is aiming to ease the hassle of travel with apps and Internet of Things (IoT) technology. The company\u2019s approach emphasizes flexibility and convenience for guests.\n\nDelivering flexibility and convenience by smartphone\n\nWith Hilton\u2019s HHonors app, guests of the company\u2019s hotels now have the ability to select their own rooms via their phones. It\u2019s an important option for frequent travellers with clear preferences. In a 2014 Hilton survey, 84 percent of the business travelers polled said they wanted the ability to choose their own rooms. Guests have the option to select room type as well as specific rooms by room number. The latter option will be particularly significant for frequent travellers who have favorite rooms.\n\n\nLaunched in 2014, Hilton\u2019s digital check-in service has proven very popular. As of April 2016, Hilton had recorded over 10 million digital check-ins. \u201cThe check-in capability is a great value add at our busier urban properties,\u201d says Hilton CIO Bill Murphy.\n\n\nThe HHonors app also includes digital room key functionality. An example of how the hospitality industry is using IoT technology, the feature will enable guests to use their smartphones to unlock their hotel room doors. Many U.S. hotels have deployed similar systems. Full implementation across all Hilton properties is expected by early 2018. The company has to equip more than 700,000 hotel room doors with Bluetooth technology before the system can go live companywide.\n\n\n[Related: Will hotel room keys and desk check-in soon be obsolete?]\n\n\nThe new features seem to be popular with Hilton guests. \u201cSince its relaunch in 2014, the Hilton HHonors app has been downloaded nearly 4 million times and has received the highest average Apple App Store customer rating of all hospitality apps,\u201d says Virginia Suliman, vice president of digital design and development at Hilton.\n\nHilton\u2019s IT mandate now includes enhancing the guest experience\n\nSuliman says programs that add value for guests in that way are important. \u201cWe have to be delightful with the technology we deliver, as we are with the rest of our service,\u201d she says.\n\n\nDelivering customer-facing technology is a new focus for Hilton IT. \u201cHistorically, technology in the hospitality industry focused on delivering solutions to employees,\u201d Suliman explains. \u201cWe are now delivering directly to our guests.\u201d\u00a0\n\n\nAccording to Murphy, IT\u2019s new focus is the result of a mandate from the top. \u201cOur CEO and executive leadership have set a clear direction: We are going to be a leader in providing easy-to-use technology for guests,\u201d he says. Top leadership support for new technology helps keep everyone at Hilton aligned and focused on delivering better systems, he adds.\n\n\nHilton guests have praised the company\u2019s technology on Twitter over the past year.\n\n\nBrian Ross, lead principal at the The Ross Group FT, a new media company, says he used the new technology during a stay at the Hilton Bonnet Creek Resort in Orlando. \u201cI used the digital key after the front desk clerk alerted me to it. It was impressive. Not only did it open the door, but it also started to alert me that I was within range of my room,\u201d he says. \u201cThe key worked 95% of the time. There was one point where my phone lost contact with the hotel system. I turned off my Wi-Fi, turned it back on, and I was in business with a working key.\u201d\n\n\n\u201cThe app also allows you to hide your room number, which is a well-thought-out feature,\u201d Ross adds. \u201cThe ability to charge at bars, restaurants and shops on Hilton properties with the digital key would be the \u2018final frontier\u2019 for this app.\u201d\n\n\nIn addition to reporting that it has received positive comments from several guests, Hilton says it has been responsive in addressing complaints and questions sent to its HiltonHHonors Twitter account.\n\nCustomizing the hotel experience at scale\n\nTravellers often have two desires that are difficult to accommodate simultaneously: the familiar comfort of standard offerings and the flexibility provided by small operators. With improved technology, Hilton is managing to deliver better on both fronts. For example, \u201cArrivals Request, a feature on the HHonors app, enables our guests to pre-order select amenities \u2014 like extra pillows or a bottle of champagne \u2014 to be ready in their room prior to their arrival,\u201d says Murphy. These requests are transmitted to the company\u2019s property management system to ensure that hotel staffers fulfill follow through.\n\n\n[Related: Meet Connie, Hilton\u2019s smart robot concierge]\n\n\nIn-room entertainment and services is the next frontier for customization. \u201cWe have to recognize that data consumption is growing significantly due to the popularity of services such as Hulu and Netflix,\u201d Murphy explains. \u201cIncreased demand for entertainment is a key driver for our Wi-Fi service.\u201d Hilton\u2019s bandwidth standards for guest rooms range between 3Mbps to 6Mbps, depending on the property. Hilton IT is making plans to significantly increase guest Wi-Fi bandwidth in the next few years.\n\nApplying end-to-end thinking to travel: Hilton partners with Uber\n\nHilton\u2019s strategy of using technology to improve the travel experience extends beyond the confines of its properties. In April 2016, the company announced that its HHonors app would be integrated with the Uber app. Now, Hilton guests will be able to use the HHonors app to request Uber rides. They will also be able to use the Uber app to view stay details of their Hilton reservations while riding in an Uber car on their way to the hotel.\n\n\nThe new system also includes tools called Ride Reminder and Local Scene, which have been used by more than 250,000 U.S. travellers to date. As its name implies, Ride Reminder allows users to to set travel reminders. Local Scene provides recommendations of restaurants and nightlife destinations to people visiting Atlanta, Nashville, Houston, New York and other cities. The recommendations are based on anonymized data from Uber users.\n\n\nThe phrase \u201cend-to-end process\u201d is common in IT, yet it\u2019s rare for a system or project to fully deliver on that promise. The Uber-Hilton partnership shows that organizations need not build exhaustive systems that offer every capability imaginable \u2014 that it\u2019s OK for partners to add value incrementally by sharing application programming interfaces (API) and cooperating in other ways. The deal also shows that a venerable Fortune 500 company and a disruptive startup can find common ground and offer valuable new products and services to their respective customers. That\u2019s an idea that CIOs at large and small companies may want to explore further in their ongoing pursuit of innovation.