IoT: The next big thing in hospitality?

The dawn of human communication instigated rapid progress. And the reason was simple – when people began to understand one another, they could share ideas and experiences, and learn faster. Communication enabled the development of complex concepts from simple ones.

It’s no coincidence that some of the biggest spurts in technology that we have recently witnessed quickly followed major breakthroughs in communication. This can be traced back from the recent onset of globalisation after Ihe internet’s inception, to the early days of industrialisation soon after Gutenberg pioneered the first commercial printing press.

That’s why the Internet of Things (IoT) is generating so much excitement today. This will be the birth of a whole new era of communication – communication between devices. Most technological advancements have been enhancing what we’d already established – human interaction. The printing press, radio, telephone, and even the Internet took what we’d built over the centuries to a new level, tearing down geographic boundaries and enabling us to communicate with unparalleled freedom – but they were still just better mousetraps.

Based on how well the advent of communication worked out for us, it quickly became apparent that IoT would trigger an avalanche of devices ‘talking’ to each other and doing things on their own.

Almost every industry in existence will be altered in some way by this upcoming network but here, I’ll take a look at how hospitality can benefit from this technology.

IoT creates an environment within which devices can be assigned IP addresses and communicate with one another, by sending and receiving information in the form of low energy transmissions. Considering the number of devices being used daily in a hotel, it’s easy to see why hoteliers are getting so excited about the possibilities.

Let’s examine some of the areas where IoT can optimise a hotel’s performance –

Automation

The modern Property Management System (PMS) is regarded by a large number of hoteliers as the holy grail of simplified management. It achieves this partly through automation of repetitive tasks such as night auditing, reservation management, room status updating, and so on. With IoT however comes the ability to automate even infrequent occurrences – a malfunctioning heater, for instance, can detect abnormalities in power usage and send a maintenance request when a safety threshold has been crossed before the appliance breaks down.

That’s not all. Hotels can take this one step further and personalise the automation to fit guest cycles. Starwood Hotels and more recently, the Hilton Group have announced plans to introduce ‘Digital Keys’ – an extension to the HHonours app – that will be automatically sent to guests once their room is ready before they check-in, allowing fatigued travelers to skip the front desk and head straight for a hot shower.

Curtains that draw open in the morning, meal reminders at the appropriate time and even smartphone notifications about nearby attractions can also vastly enhance the guest experience.

Optimisation

Hotels are constantly looking for new ways to enhance their resource utilisation and Cloud PMS technology has allowed properties to optimise many of their major operations.

IoT takes this to a whole new level by enabling the management of a number of other crucial operations that could not previously be monitored as effectively, such as power and energy consumption. These are two areas where hoteliers have always struggled to keep costs under control and IoT can make a massive breakthrough here. Every device will have a unique IP address, feeding information regarding its energy consumption to the respective servers, while integrated with other devices such as motion sensors and activity monitors. The system will intelligently turn off the air conditioning, lighting, and other unnecessary utilities, allowing hotels to clamp down on energy consumption like never before.

Optimisation also makes things more pleasant for visitors. Lights that adjust to external cues, pillows that measure stress levels of guests before playing soothing music and even televisions that filter channels after studying guest profiles are all part of the upcoming future. In fact, many hotels such as the Atlantis Jumeirah and select branches of the Hilton Group have already begun putting these devices through an experimental phase.

Improvisation

Perhaps the youngest aspect of the IoT vision, improvisation using IoT enabled devices involves the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, which stands at the very pinnacle of what modern computing hopes to achieve.

While there still may be a long way to go before a truly sentient system is created, developers have made considerable progress in a smaller subset of AI – cognitive computing. By focusing more on replicating the human mind’s thought process generation rather than human intelligence itself, these systems attempt to ‘think’ their way through a task, and this is the very reason they could be huge in hospitality.

By intelligently planning out a large part of a guest’s travel, cognitive computing has the potential to streamline the entire journey – hotels and airlines can auto-plan itineraries, seamlessly guiding guests through travel and accommodation.

Human communication had always had its limitations, based on language, geography, mental state of the participants, and a host of other uncontrollable variables – but it still proved to be the engine powering the rapid progress of our many civilizations. So we can only imagine where IoT – communication between flawless, machine-built devices – will lead us.

We’ll know soon enough, many of these technologies will begin to be incorporated this year.

Aditya Sanghi, Co-Founder and CEO of Hotelogix.com

Image Credit: Ahmetov_Ruslan / Shutterstock