Authors' Note: In the second of a 12 article series themed on where the money is now for casinos, VizExplorer executives examine the impact technology adoption rates are having on the gaming enterprise from both a customer and operations perspective, and how properties can best adapt to these changes. Please note these articles are meant to stimulate thought and that we are using some deliberately provocative metaphors which should be taken with a grain of salt.


A sea change is taking place when it comes to consumer adoption of new technologies. Simply put, new technology is now adopted by a wider portion of the population in less time than ever before.

 Indeed, as Figure 1 shows, it has taken less than five years for tablet computing devices to reach a 10 percent adoption rate among U.S. households. By way of comparison, it took electricity 30 years and the telephone 25 years to attain the same 10 percent adoption rate. What this means is that when we contemplate any cutting-edge devices, we need to look carefully at adoption curves to understand when these evolving technologies are likely to impact our gaming world.

It’s safe to say that the most impactful technology development over the past decade has been the smartphone, which has allowed people to easily connect and remain in constant touch with the world. The next consumer adoption is to control the things smartphones allow us to interact with; everything from smoke detectors and air conditioners to hotel check-in and valet services. As we start thinking about this step, challenges arise in the forms of new vendors, new systems and environments that are changing so fast that just keeping up with the change is a full time job.

For gaming operators truly seeking to create a “smart” casino, one of the primary challenges going forward will be the need to combine the traditional data in the operational systems with the data streams created by smart systems.

SIMPLE IS SMART

According to Pew Research Center, two thirds of Americans now have a smartphone; indeed, it seems like it is difficult to buy any other kind of phone these days. What is more dramatic is that these smartphones are changing how we interact with the world in dramatic ways—these highly sophisticated and complex devices actually bring a lot of simplicity to the environment around us.

Consider the example of the Nest, the humble smoke detector that we talked about in part one of this series which ran in the February 2016 issue of Casino Journal. The Nest device is a massively complex technology stack with a sophisticated computer and a real-time cloud interface, yet it is the simplicity of this device combined with the fact that it can monitored from our mobile phone that makes this sophisticated hardware simple and easy to use.

Another example is self-driving cars, which until recently were confined to the realm of science fiction but are now very close to becoming reality. According to Wired, the current version of the Tesla’s self-driving car is akin to the autopilot setting on an airplane where the pilot/driver still needs to have their hands on the wheel. Google is experimenting with an even more customer-friendly self-driving car where all the passenger has to do is program in a destination and sit back and relax until the car deposits then at their stop. Either way, a very complex technology is poised to replace the chore of driving a car with the much simpler task of opening the door, climbing in and saying, “car: take me to my favorite casino.” 

As a final example, consider the smart home, which is gaining adoption exponentially (including features such as the Nest described above).  Someone who lives in a smart home is going to be able to control their locks, air conditioning, lights, appliances, computers and security—countless of digital experiences neatly tied up in an easy-to-use app on a mobile phone.  Now imagine this savvy consumer coming to a casino and staying in the hotel that has not been modernized with these smart techniques.  They look at the clock and wonder why it has a plug for the outdated iPhone 4.  They try to find light switches hidden in various nooks and crannies throughout the room.  They struggle with an outdated A/C wall mounted unit that never seems to operate correctly and certainly doesn’t anticipate their needs.  They are astonished that the TV doesn’t have any streaming and has no knowledge of their entertainment preferences.

It won’t be long before a smart hotel room will be one of many requirements that customers expect from their casino.

DATA PRODUCTION

This simplicity in user experience is driving rapid adoption, but the underlying technology is actually far more complex, generating vast volumes of data. 

In a smart casino, a customer is able to use their phone to get their car from valet, check into the hotel, acquire their (digital) room key, check on the availability of their favorite slot machines or table game, contact their host and control every aspect of their hotel room. While the customer is interacting with all these casino touch points, the property is fed a constant stream of information (data) about the customer, from GPS location to facial recognition on the customer’s mood.  The potential touch points are enormous and a single customer could generate as much data in a smart casino as the entire casino generates in a traditional data environment.

Some new technologies associated with the smart casino concept are already in operation and have created the beginnings of a data boom. This smart casino data boom has driven growth and innovation in the business intelligence (BI) industry.  Now more than ever, gaming executives are seeking the right BI tool for their organizations. However, an important question is commonly overlooked: Once the powerful new interface is purchased, how can a company maximize the value of its investment? Faulty traditional methods of introduction, training and deployment can be major factors in not actualizing the value of BI tools.

DEPLOYMENT EVOLUTION

To overcome the pitfalls of many traditional methods of deployment and adapt to the more sophisticated, data heavy new reality, industry leaders must think out of the box. Leaders must analyze the changing environment with a view to traditional techniques and evolve to methods that represent focused value considerations. 

For example, currently one of the more popular models for software deployment is Focus Pairing Integration (FPI).  Under this model, companies identify areas of product functionality that connect with a specific department. The introduction of the BI tool is then structured to focus on this specialized group. All training and deployment activities are reserved for the “paired” department to create a steep learning curve and expedited operational use of the valuable tool.

BI tools present an aggregation of huge amounts of data in dynamic interfaces. The result of this conversion can be a product with valuable insights to a business. However, identifying the majority of those insights and maximizing their value is a challenging task. In some circumstances, a tool or functionality seemingly built for a specific department can provide value to many even if the insights vary from group to group. Unfortunately, this approach often fails to integrate data from finance, marketing and other vital departments within the casino enterprise, thus isolating the benefit and leaving valuable insights out in the cold.

Varying legitimate, valuable insights from several departments on a single functionality of a BI tool leads to the conclusion that isolating deployment and training to the most correlative group may not be the optimal strategy. Instead, the property could manage and deploy elements of the new BI software through a Value-Based Deployment (VBD) methodology. Under VBD, the operator identifies the weighted operational value of functionality. The operator then organizes the focus group by relative value to ensure key operational members are not left out while the value dominant department retains the focus of training. VBD allows the main users of the functionality to obtain the required level of acclimation for immediate operational impact but also ensures alternative perspectives and values are not shut out, maximizing the value of the BI tool for the company.

LOOKING AHEAD

The indicators are that the movement to the smart space will be one of the fastest consumer adoptions in history. This adoption will render obsolete the enclosed space technology in the majority of the world and make casinos that lag seem old fashioned. Furthermore, this new technology will flood our operations with data streams requiring new strategies across the business. These new strategies will, at their core, be data driven and so it is how we handle the data that will define us.

The strategy used for project management and deployment of a BI tool is critical in maximizing its value to the company. Some common practices for deployment fail to realize the total value of tools by isolating correlative departments and functionalities. To avoid this potential pitfall, gaming organizations can turn to Value-Based Deployment, remove the isolation and encourage an environment of dynamic analyzation across the company’s departments.