A More Relaxing Vacation- Brought To You By Technology!

As we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel with COVID many of us are having an itch to get back to traveling.  When the pandemic hit many hotels, restaurant and casinos suffered immensely from reduced business, some even temporarily closing their doors to be able mitigate impacts.  As consumers begin to imagine their next trip hotels will begin to see an uptick in booking.  With so many options for consumers and websites like Travelocity, Kayak and Expedia that easily compare prices and customer ratings brands in the hospitality industry are looking for the best ways to stand out and get ahead.

As we have discussed in class the pandemic as really sped up the adoption of digital technologies across all industries.  As I started doing some research on Hotels, I began to see that over the next few years there we will begin to see a lot of changes in our stays- making things better for both the customers and employees.  Two trends that I found very interesting was the use of IOT and Robotics.

Internet Of Things:

The internet of things are physical devices are embedded with technology & sensors that are connected to the internet allowing the device the ability to interact with other devices & systems. For guests implementing IOT makes a much more comfortable stay.  This will see with rooms with the ability for all controls to be managed through mobile devices, such as changing the temperature, turning off the lights, changing the tv station and accessing the room (mobile electronic key cards).  There is also technology that is called tray trackers so as room service carts and placed into the hallway a notification is sent to house keeping so it can be moved right away.

How IoT is enhancing the Hospitality Industry | by SmartSense | Medium

The use of IOT will also have benefits and cost savings for the hotel itself.  New technology allows for smart energy systems which can manage the temperature in rooms that are not booked and automatically raise the temperature as guests are checking in.  It helps save energy reducing the power of light bulbs during the daytime. Also, as others have discussed hotels are implementing predictive maintenance so it is able to tell when an item such as an air conditioner is going to die in a hotel and can be fixed in advanced.  This can prevent the last-minute shuffling of rooms or over booking issue if some rooms are out of service.

Robotics:

Another trend that we will begin to see more in hotels is the use of Robotics.  To start off big here there is already a hotel in Japan called the Henn-na Hotel in Nagasaki that is staffed with robots from areas from check in robots at the front desk, to concierge robots who can provide you with exciting things to do and see in the area to cloak robots that store your luggage and use facial recognition to remove it and only allow it to be given to the correct person.  Check out the video below for a quick video!

Aside from that use we are also seeing robotics being used across many mainstream chains today such as the Hilton- they currently have a smart robot named Connie in some of their hotels.  This robot was developed by IBM and can answer questions a typical information desk can answer about specific about what to visit, where to dine and how to find specific things on the property.  This will reduce lines for employees but also allow for employees to spend time on other valuable tasks.

Hilton Worldwide is experimenting with a robot concierge named Connie.

Another cool use I stumbled upon is room service delivery.  With robotics a bot can be sent up with the food/ items reducing wait time- elevator buttons can be pushed over WIFI and beacons are used to direct the bot to the correct room.  The tub where the food/ items are stored remains locked until the door of the room is opened so it makes sure that items are delivered to the correct people.

The benefits of using robots in a hotel is often they are more efficient and can do jobs more quickly than human counterparts, robots do not get tired and can work 24/7.  They are also programmed for specific reactions- so if a customer is being rude, they may have a better response than an employee who could get emotional or act annoyed or mad towards and employee.

Downsides?:

The first downside for hotels is obviously the initial investment in these technologies is expensive.  Over time it will pay off, but it is expensive to invest in from the beginning.  Also, sometimes too much robotics or tech could take away some of the feel or being pampered when being in a hotel.  In some places people really do value the human interaction and connection.  In some instances, also robots are unable to adapt and if they are not programed to do a certain thing, they may be unable to adjust for certain circumstances in which ways a human can.

The other issue which we often face with tech is the need for security and privacy of customers.  There is always the potential for cyber-attacks and security breaches.  With things being linked to IOT and using robotics there is always the possibility things could go wrong- so the hotel must take extra precautions to guard the customer data.

But overall the benefits of the use of these technologies in hospitality outweigh the faults. Over the next few years we will see many more major chains implementing a lot of these tools to be able to make a customer’s stay more efficient, personalized and relaxed.

https://www.revfine.com/digital-trends-hospitality-industry/

https://www.revfine.com/internet-of-things-hospitality-industry/

https://www.revfine.com/robots-hospitality-industry/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/roadwarriorvoices/2016/03/09/introducing-connie-hiltons-new-robot-concierge/81525924/

15 comments

  1. sayoyamusa · ·

    Great post! Soon after I started reading your blog, I wanted to share “Henna-Hotel” in Japan but I’m happy you’ve already known that! “Henna” means strange, and it does look weird! Someone might think employees will be replaced by robots and technology will eliminate human jobs, but that’s not the case. There is a serious problem of lack of manpower in the hotel industry in Japan due to the rapidly aging population. I’ve read the interview article of the hotel owner and he says that the primary objective is actually enhancing efficiency (not just providing guests with unique experience) as you pointed out.
    I feel sorry for Japanese hotel enterprises because they had expected huge business opportunities brought by Tokyo Olympics only in vain now…but I hope tourists will come back and many foreigners (including you!) can enjoy technology and “henna” experience in the future!

  2. courtneymba · ·

    Interesting post! I wonder how the ROIs compare on supplementing the staff with robots vs IOT in the rooms to capture energy savings etc. It does feel like the appeal of robots in the US would be more for a novelty-factor and a little trickier to quantify. But those energy savings would start fast and add up quickly. It would be even better if I could remotely adjust my own thermostat!

  3. Andrae Allen · ·

    Great Post I think predictive maintenance is going to have an even greater impact as the technology to do so becomes easier to attain, but it does just end there. Kike. you mentioned hotel management would need to buy into idea of committing the time and resources to this goal. In the end it will probably come down to scale ie, a large hotel chain with thousands of rooms vs a quaint bed and breakfast kind of place. I wonder if/when people resume traveling again will they remember the previous procedures and will they accept the new ones?

  4. Great post. The IOT Revolution naturally has taken its next step from the home to the hotel. A lot of hotels pre-Covid had been incorporating keyless checkin with mobile. What will be an interesting challenge is how the level of care for customers will be carried over with robots. I think it will be hard to replicate the compassion and empathy that a human hotel worker can provide when dealing with a particular client grievance. Only time will tell.

  5. Awesome post!! I am always fascinated with IoT and smart homes since the first time Philip Hue was introduced ten years ago. Self-check-in and guided room tours by robots always appeal to me when I book hotels. This also reminds me of Alibaba’s smart hotel in China: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLwCG-5sOkY&ab_channel=AlibabaGroup
    It is indeed an experiment to imagine the future of the smart hotel. Although I haven’t been there before, I would definitely go there and experience myself post covid.

  6. ritellryan · ·

    This definitely straddles the creepy/cool line for me. I think it is awesome that we can use robots to do what is ultimately a repeatable process, but remembering my face and then knowing where I sleep and having that on record is something I know is coming, but for now I have not warmed up to yet. I think your point about the initial investment/ startup costs are spot on. However, with Moore’s Law one would think this technology will get cheaper over time. Additionally, I would think any company might just buy 1 to start and see how it works and how to best utilize it before completely turning over its workforce. The point about the Olympics is a great one that I did not think of before. With all of the money the country spent on infrastructure, to find out they will get no return on investment will be something that impact decision making for the entire country for years to come and the process improvement will be needed to recoup some of the losses.

  7. therealerindee · ·

    Great post. It will be very interesting what a “normal” stay looks like in the coming months. I think the best places to implement this technology is things you touched on with the IoT use case, check-in. Check-in and check-out at a hotel is always my least favorite process and always something I was confused as to why it wasn’t being done via my phone, so I am glad that Covid has forced them in that direction. I could see the implementation of all of these different technologies to be tiered based on the hotel and chain the hotel belongs to. You may receive more personalized or human attention at a 4 or 5 star hotel, while the lower tier hotels may have more robots and different kinds of tech for efficiency and cost savings. All of that being said, I don’t think tech in hotels is going anywhere, and I foresee most of the new features being more helpful than hurtful.

  8. conoreiremba · ·

    Really nice post Alex, although I also have to admit, the robots still seem a bit too close to the creepy line still for my liking. But as someone who recently stayed in a hotel during the pandemic, I can definitely say that some of these technologies that utilize IoT cannot happen soon enough. My own experience was definitely filled with a lot of extra friction points because of the pandemic so I am personally all for this technology coming sooner rather than later. I definitely agree with you on the fact that the up-front costs will obviously be an initial hurdle but like you said I think the hotels who adopt it the fastest will benefit in the long run because having this technology will certainly be a huge competitive advantage in a post-pandemic world.
    Sayo makes a really interesting point about the shortage of hotel workers in Japan having accelerated their adoption, however, I know that in Ireland the hospitality industry is not only huge for our economy, but it is also a significant source of employment, so I wonder how widespread the adoption will be. I definitely think some countries will be a lot quicker to adapt to these technologies than others, but I feel that my beloved homeland will certainly be a laggard for fear of replacing jobs. Really nice to be able to visualize the possibility of getting back to “normal” living and booking hotels again though so thanks for sharing.

  9. Jie Zhao · ·

    Awesome post, Alex! I feel like with so little traveling in the past year, hotels probably had more time than ever to reflect on their business and come up with a strategy on how to digitally transform the company to prepare for post-covid and beyond. While the IOT technology is here, I am interested to see how will hotels balance between using technology and human being so that the guests will still get the full hotel experience, especially if they’re on vacation and want to be served. I feel like hotels could even ask guests on level of interaction while they’re making the booking to provide a customized experience for each guest.

  10. Scott Siegler · ·

    Cool post Alex! The IoT tech is fascinating to me, and I think it is already providing huge benefits through predictive maintenance. Having a broken a/c unit is a huge headache for both a hotel and the visitors. That single deficiency perpetuates a cycle of doom through ruined vacations and subsequent scathing online reviews. And I agree with Erin, it is really deflating to get to your hotel after a long cross-country flight and then have to wait in a long line to check into your room. An automated check-in option could definitely provide major benefits if it could help control line lengths. These are fantastic improvements that you are highlighting and I’m excited to see them in place.

  11. Nice post. Will be interesting to see how this develops. Some of the interviews I did in the hotel industry were specifically asking how to do hospitality without human contact.

  12. Great post Alexa. I love seeing robotics and IoT adding efficiency to the hospitality industry. It’s an interesting contrast to what we talked about last week with Airbnb. I am curious as more hotels adopt this technology if this will lead to more stays for Airbnb. As you talked about there is a delicate balance between too much robotics and the human touch. One thing that I noticed in the video that will be very convenient is the fact that robots would be better equipped to talk to hotel guest in different languages further increasing their value.

  13. changliu0601 · ·

    Nice Post!I believe that It is necessary to apply high technology to hotels to deal with “travel revenge” post-pandemic. The robotic room delivery is a good way to keep social distancing too.

  14. lisahersh · ·

    Great post, Alex! Is it strange that I was less creeped out by the dinosaur check-in robot than the woman check-in robot? Regardless, very cool video and post!!! One thing the video reminded me of was how airlines do a lot of their flight check-ins via automated kiosks and there is a short customer service kiosk manned by a human to help with the more complex check-in problems. This might be a good model for hotels too as it’s cheaper than robots, but maintains the efficiency aspect. I feel like the IoT helping with sustainability would also have widespread appeal for a lot of hotels too. I know it’s really popular for newer hotels to have a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, so on top of the energy cost savings, it could be huge from an environmental sustainability marketing/certfication standpoint.

  15. williammooremba · ·

    Very nice post. One thing this reminded me of was issues South Korea has been facing with illicit filming. I found a 2019 highlighting article an issue where motel rooms were had hidden cameras and were then streamed online. In general, as hotels become more and more sensor based, I wonder if it could make attacks like that even harder to spot. We might not even think twice about a hotel room having a microphone used in our room. This seems like another security area even outside the official hotel’s connected devices. Could be an additional area of concern as hotels become more integrated with IOT technology.

    Article on South Korean hidden motel cameras: https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/20/asia/south-korea-hotel-spy-cam-intl

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