Marriott Hotels names MEA TestBED finalists

Marriott Hotels
Marriott Hotels’ TestBED pitch day

Marriott Hotels has announced the three finalists for its TestBED programme, which launched in the Middle East and Africa region for the first time in September this year.

TestBED is a 10-week accelerator programme that gives select seed and early-stage start-ups the opportunity to test their ready-to-pilot products within an operating Marriott Hotel in a major city.

First launched by Marriott Hotels across Europe in 2016, this year marks the first time the initiative has been brought to the Middle East and Africa region, beginning in the United Arab Emirates.

Out of the almost 200 submissions received, six candidates were shortlisted before the three finalists were selected, the firm said.

The programme has given regional entrepreneurs an opportunity to turn their innovations into a reality, while providing Marriott Hotels with the chance to enhance the guest experience in the Middle East and Africa.

As well as the chance to test out their product or service by piloting it in a live hotel environment, with feedback from guests and associates that would help them further develop and perfect it, the winner will also have the opportunity to be supported and mentored by Marriott Hotels in the longer term.

The six shortlisted candidates were invited to pitch their idea in front of a panel of judges on November 14th, following which three finalists were selected. Participants were asked to address which problem their product or service was designed to tackle, what made it different, how it would benefit the Marriott guest, and what made them a winning team, among other questions that indicated their motivations.

“With such a wealth of talent across the region, and genuinely innovative submissions from day one, choosing three finalists was a real challenge, but we are confident that these three candidates’ ideas have what it takes to help shape the future of technology in travel,” said Sandra Schulze-Potgieter, vice president of premium and select brands, Middle East and Africa at Marriott International. “Supporting game-changing technological innovation to progress our industry has long been a hallmark of the Marriott Hotels brand, and we’re looking forward to seeing these ideas brought to life, and selecting our ultimate winner.”

The three finalists are:

Twistar: A new Android IoT mobile device that uses AI for market intelligence by analysing guest’s actions and voice for real-time insights. Using animated customer surveys, Twistar allows businesses to ask the questions to help further business needs, while creating a “deeper and more meaningful” connection with their customers. It uses advanced connectivity (4G-LTE, Wi-fi, Bluetooth, BLE-Beacon, NFC), and an augmented AI-Voice core, powered by IBM Watson, and can identify and understand user sentiment on an unparalleled level.

Unified Inbox: A “specialised” chat app that allows guests to communicate with smart devices using text and voice. The global intelligent Internet of Things (IoT) messaging company has created its UnificationEngine platform bringing together AI with IoT and unified messaging, so that people will be able to voice and text message within the environment of a smart home, smart city, or smart enterprise, the same way that they would chat with their friends on the communications channels they use the most – but without the need for an additional app.

Beachill: An eco-friendly solar-powered beach mattress that can even charge guests’ mobile devices and cool their drinks. The mattress features a built-in solar-powered 7-watt charging station with a USB 2.0 output, a 2-litre thermo-storage fridge where you can preserve both your hot and cold beverages, and a heat- and water-proof pocket to help keep your valuables safe, pulled together with dralon acrylic fabric imported from Spain.

The finalists will now take part in a three-day boot camp beginning on 27th November, where the intensive workshop will help them develop their testing strategy and kickstart the acceleration process. They will receive full support throughout the product piloting and training process, with the start-up mentorship programme beginning at the end of November.

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