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Closing and opening drapes, controlling room temperature, turn the lights on or off with voice commands in a hotel room? Marriott International, a giant in the hospitality industry is all set to bring in these and more such tech driven changes in their hotels. Marriott already has Netflix ready TVs which allow guests to gain access to personalized accounts and view movies of choice. The technology that makes it all happen is the Internet of Things (IoT).

IoT In Hospitality

First coined in 2004, IoT gained popularity at the end of 2013.  According to Intel, there would be 200 billion connected devices by 2020, up from 2 billion in 2006. Each individual would be connected to at least 26 smart devices, as per Intel’s estimate!  Also termed “internet of everything” or “machine to machine” the concept is that everyday objects would talk to each other to provide a smoother, richer experience.The hospitality industry is one of the biggest spenders as far as IoT is concerned.   Close to $128 million was spent in 2015 per company across the world which is much more than what other sectors like manufacturing, banking or utilities spend.

Rooms Of The Future

The next logical step for Marriott is to make the voice controlled actions in the hotel rooms a reality. The hospitality leader is testing Amazon and Apple devices at the Aloft Hotel in Boston and once the right device is chosen, guests at Marriott will experience the convenience of the Internet of things (IoT).In collaboration with tech partners such as Samsung and Legrand, Marriott is testing another concept at its innovation lab to bring about “connected hotel rooms.”  Samsung’s IoT in the form of ARTIK and smart lighting systems from Legrand will help Marriott bring in the most advanced IoT technology to its rooms to enhance guest experience.According to Samsung, the IoT will help provide the “ultimate relaxation” and bring in personalized and intelligent experiences for guests. Business travelers could enjoy increased productivity while helping the hotel be more energy efficient.Some possible experiences include asking a virtual assistant to sound a wake up alarm, taking yoga classes on the full length mirror or setting the required temperature for shower – all with voice or app based commands.While the three-month project testing is on at Marriott, the “room of the future” could be all about smart technology from IoT. While technology enabled smart rooms would become a reality at Marriott five years from now, other big brands too are increasingly interested in leveraging smart technology to enhance guest experience.At a recently concluded Revenue Strategy Forum event at London, the key message for hotels was to invest in and adapt the digital age technologies in order to improve market share, guest engagement and the bottom-lines.

Predictive Behavior

The changes that IoT will bring in the hospitality industry are not restricted to providing seamless experiences during their stay. Hotels could benefit in many ways including improved efficiency, energy saving and reduced manpower. Another crucial aspect that IoT would help in is to do with data related to consumer behavior.IBM Watson which has already made headlines with predictive intelligence in other domains – particularly healthcare – is set to foray into the hospitality industry with connected devices such as Panasonic digital mirror, Softbank Robotic lobby concierge and the Harman JBL intelligent speaker. These IoT devices would also help hotels gain valuable insights into guest behavior including their preferences, complaints or requests. Retrofitting these would also be possible, according to Bret Greenstein, Vice President of consumer business at IBM.Telkonet’s EcoSmart and Samsung’s Hospitality Business went a step ahead with a welcome sign with the guest’s name in the smart room that also showed the controls of lights, temperature and shades.For a returning guest, the EcoSmart can remember the guest’s previous preferences and adjust the light and thermostat accordingly.IoT will make it possible for hotels to know the dining preferences of guests, which means there is no need for elaborate surveys and feedbacks.

Super Wi-Fi

Experts predict that the coming years will see smart phones being capable of handling Super Wi-Fi, that uses TV broadcast frequencies.  Not only is Super Wi-Fi more affordable, but has a bigger bandwidth and coverage area which is of critical importance to the hotel industry. Such Super Wi-Fi could change the way hotels collect user data to create better experiences. The Super Wi-Fi platform would make it possible to have a seamless network of all IoT connected devices.

Improved Operations

IoT can help probably eliminate the need for elaborate check in which also is one of the most often negatively rated services in hotels.The Hilton Group and Starwood Hotels are set to introduce ‘Digital Keys’ that are sent to guests before they check in once the rooms are ready.Location finding technology will in the future also help do away with check in with an automatic check in becoming a reality. This would also reduce the need for front staff personnel.Smart sensors in the room can help hotels manage their assets also better.  The smart sensors can alert the administration personnel when there is a maintenance schedule or when in distress.  Correcting leaky pipes and tubs well before they become expensive problems is one of the advantages of having connected devices and sensors.Starwood Hotels also use smart technology to control indoor lighting based on the amount of natural light that is entering the hotel.Smart sensors can also help hotels know when a room is empty. While knocking is an invasion of privacy and can be rude, smart sensors can help personnel know if the room is occupied.While personalization can get technical, too much automation could also be detrimental. Server bots for room service and absence of front desk personnel could deprive the guest of the valuable human interaction that can still make all the difference.While hotels embrace technology, the guest’s comfort and personalization will always be at the heart of hospitality. Big data, IoT and automation can be intelligently used to add to the guest’s experience and improve operational efficiency.

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