IoT & AI Disrupts Hospitality

The IoT Economy is set to top $11.1 trillion per year by 2025, according to McKinsey. The technology is set to add value to all types of industries from factories to retail to smart city management.

In the hospitality industry, beyond these broader economic forecasts, the major players are leveraging IoT technology to create a more personalized experience for guests. Hilton and Marriott are among the large hospitality brands that are thinking creatively about the Internet of Things.

Hilton

Hilton’s Internet of Things initiative is called the Connected Room.

“Imagine a world where the room knows you, and you know your room,” explained Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta, speaking to Skift. “Imagine a world where you walk in, the TV says, ‘How are you doing, John? Nice to see you,’ and all of your stuff is preloaded.”

The idea, for now at least, is for guests’ smartphones to serve as remote controls for their hotel rooms, allowing them to control room features including temperature, lighting and window coverings. In the longer-term, Hilton says guests will be able to use Connected Room to use voice commands to control their room or access their content, as well as to upload artwork and photos for display.

Marriot

Marriott is partnering with Legrand and with Samsung to create its own version of a connected hotel room in an initiative called the IoT Guestroom Lab. The idea is to explore how connected devices could elevate the guest experience, create more efficient designs and construction processes for hotel rooms, and promote sustainability.

Two prototype rooms are geared around the needs of three different types of guests: a yoga-minded meeting planner, a frequent road warrior, and a family of four on vacation. Smart features in each prototype room include a connected art frame, a connected shower, and a smart mirror.

“We know that our guests expect to personalize almost everything in their lives, and their hotel experience should be no different,” said Stephanie Linnartz, global chief commercial officer at Marriott International. “By teaming with best-in-class partners, we are leveraging mobile and voice-enabled technology to give our guests the ability to set up the room to best meet their needs — whether that is creating the ultimate relaxation environment or one that enables productivity for business travelers.”

In a related project, Marriott introduced a “shareable shower door” that was available this past December and January at a Marriott location in Irvine, California. Acting on internal company research that showed that over half of business travelers said they had their best ideas while showering, Marriott created a way to preserve and share those ideas.

As steam builds on the connected door during a shower, guests can use their finger to draw whatever comes to mind. The door records these strokes using touch-sensitive technology and shares the resulting images through the guest’s email or social media accounts.

A smart shower door may seem like a whimsical idea, but connected amenities such as smartphone-activated room locks are already widely available at properties around the world.

When some of the largest players in the industry are publicly discussing how to holistically integrate connected devices into experiences for guests, it sends a strong signal that a wider rollout of Internet of Things technology in hospitality is coming soon.

More recently, Marriot has partnered with Amazon to install Alexa into rooms.

“ Alexa for Hospitality is a new experience offered by invitation to hoteliers that brings the simplicity and convenience of Alexa to hotels, vacation rentals, and other hospitality locations. “

Intercontinental

In China, the Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) has begun rolling out “smart rooms” with AI that include voice control technology. These AI Smart Rooms have been developed in collaboration with Chinese technology company Baidu and allow guests to use voice commands to freely switch settings between work and leisure modes, and enjoy a more convenient and seamless room service experience.

AI Smart Rooms, Lin Wang, vice president of marketing for IHG Greater China, said:

“Millennials are particularly sensitive to technology, often seeking new things to try. The AI Smart Room will undoubtedly be extremely attractive for them, paving the way for a new level of modernisation and consumer satisfaction.

“We will continue to make use of cutting-edge technology in hotel service and facilities in the future, and we hope this will further strengthen customer awareness and appreciation of smart technology.”

Grand Ambassador / Pullman

In Seoul, the Grand Ambassador introduced 25 Smart Rooms last year. All 25 of the hotel’s rooms on the 16th floor are IoT Smart Rooms. Guests can scan a QR code on the wall of the room using their own device and control the lights, curtains, TV channels, and room temperature from one menu. Do not disturb and make up room notifications can also be set along with ordering amenities such as pillows, towels and shampoo.

Who Is Doing All Of This?

Companies such as hIoTron provide backend platforms for hotel IoT while companies like CIRQ+ provide some of the front end IoT units.  As well, Samsung, LG and many others are introducing smart room technology into their consumer electronics products.

“At the 2018 Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference (HITEC), hotel TV leader LG Electronics announced new smart features set to revolutionize the hospitality industry with advanced in-room voice assistant compatibility.”

The Voice Controlled AI Systems (the “Brains”)

While Alexa and Google Voice are 2 potential voice controlled AI systems that hotels are introducing, IBM offers a white-labelled alternative.

Henry Broodney, Offering Manager at IBM Internet of Things, makes the case that

Data is arguably a company’s most valuable asset. And voice assistants are a way to strike “customer gold” since they enable customers to literally tell you “hey, here’s what I like and want.”

He goes on to say that:

“As companies like Amazon and Google carry on the conversation with your customers, where does that leave you? Are you training them on what your customers say and do? Are you enabling them to “mine” your customer gold?”

Get in touch with me if you would like to know more.