University of Central Florida researchers are investigating the impact of artificial intelligence on future jobs in the hotel and restaurant industry.
The National Science Foundation recently awarded UCF an almost $1 million grant to study AI’s impact by analyzing job data, looking at tech trends, incorporating interviews of front-line workers and employers, and more. The project is led by Assistant Professor Arthur Huang from the Rosen College of Hospitality Management and is the largest research grant awarded to the college in its history.
“We are looking at not only how jobs will change, but what kinds of services we will need to provide workers so they can reskill,” said Huang. “And we believe we will be able to anticipate some of the new jobs that will be needed when AI intersects with the industry. I know there’s a lot of fear out there right now about AI, but we hope to help inform key stakeholders on what could happen, so good decisions can be made by individual workers and organizations.”
One novel aspect of the study is that Huang and his team will conduct surveys, interviews and focus groups to help identify how workers’ social, cultural, technical and family backgrounds influence individuals’ adaptation of future jobs. The group expects to develop a smart platform to assist in the data analysis. Using this information, the group will also make recommendations on ways governmental agencies, nonprofit groups and employers can work together to prepare the future workforce. Some of those recommendations may include public-private partnerships and customized online learning programs, such as setting up micro-credential systems (digital form of certification based on specific competencies) accessible to front-line workers.
“The need to be ready is immediate,” Huang said. “Some hotels are already testing AI in their operations. For example, some hotels are experimenting with a modified version of Amazon’s Alexa tailored to hotels. It allows customers to issue verbal commands for things like turning on lights, or the television in the room, or adjusting temperature. Some hotels already allow guests to check in virtually bypassing the front desk. Other hotels have mini-robots cleaning hallway carpets late at night when customers are asleep.”
The interdisciplinary research team brings various expertise to the project, including: computer science and engineering Assistant Professor Zhishan Guo, Rosen College Associate Professor Nan Hua, and associate dean of the College of Business Sevil Sonmez.
Huang has an interdisciplinary background in engineering and tourism research. He is affiliated with Rosen, ranked among the top five best hospitality and hotel management schools in the world, and the College of Engineering and Computer Science, where he works on smart cities and smart tourism. His experience and his passion for finding ways for technology to help people drove him to this project.
Prior to joining Rosen in 2018, Huang worked as an assistant professor of civil engineering at Texas A&M University-Stephenville and a research associate at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. He developed software that integrated his research findings on destination planning and management, such as ANGIE (Agent-based Network Growth model with Incremental Evolution) and CLUSTER (Clustered Locations of Urban Services, Transportation and Economic Resources) as part of his research. His expertise has made him a frequent invited speaker at MIT and University of Arizona and other institutions.