Hotel guest experience gets a boost from IoT

Hotel guest experience gets a boost from IoT
Amid fierce competition in the hospitality industry, retaining and attracting customers has become critical for hotel operators. Now they can rely on connected devices and data to better serve their customers, who can get a more customized experience, obtain information tailored to their needs and preferences, and enjoy better engagement with the hotel.

Guestroom automation

IoT devices can help deliver greater automation to the guestroom based on the environment and the guest’s own preferences. “An IoT-based guest room management system, which will include sensors, room controllers and various devices, along with software and apps, can be integrated with the hotel’s property management and housekeeping systems. All the data is shared and aggregated into a single system – creating a new level of visibility and functionality. Front desk staff gain direct visibility into conditions in each room, allowing them to better understand guest needs,” said Shovan Sengupta, VP of Hotel Segment at Schneider Electric. “Housekeeping can identify which rooms need to be cleaned, and prioritize rooms based on guest requests. The information in the GRMS enables staff to respond more quickly to any guest request, without having to depend on the courtesy panel in the corridor that might be missed.”
“The 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge Park location in New York features our automation to coordinate the lights and temperature in all of the guestrooms. The lighting is set to a schedule, and the temperature can be coordinated based on time of day or based on the natural conditions, in an effort to limit energy usage. The hotel staff are able to schedule rooms on and off based on check-in or guest occupancy as well, easily from a single iPad,” said Greg Wright, Senior Operations Manager for Hospitality Services at Control4.

Mobile engagement

Increasingly, the mobile device can be leveraged to allow more interaction between the guest and the hotel. One example is mobile check-in. “Checking in from the airport straight to room check in will happen through IoT devices,” said Sengupta. “The guest arrives at the hotel, bypasses the front desk, and uses a digital key to enter their room.”
“Consider the food service industry: ordering take out went from calling in the order and picking it up or paying for delivery with cash. Now, it’s completely mobile: customers can select different restaurants and menus from one app, order, pay, and schedule a delivery without interacting with anyone. Demand for this have moved to hotels, where guests are preferring mobile check-in and check-out, as well as digital keys,” said Bill Lally, President of Mode:Green.

"In China people use a lot WeChat. When you book the hotel online you pay it by WeChat, and you will receive the order number in WeChat. The hotel room normally will have a smart dock-lock and when you arrive at the hotel you go to the reception for basic ID confirmation, and you will open the room door by using the code you have received during the booking," said Jack He, VP of HDL Automation.

Conventionally, interaction between the smartphone and the lock is through Wi-Fi/BLE which has certain weaknesses, for example congestions, pairing problems, blackspots, unreliability and bad connections. According to Steve Dunn, CEO and Founder of LEAPIN Digital Keys, NB IoT presents a better alternative. “We will be installing a NB IoT smart access control system in hotels in Spain early in the new year. This system enables guests to self check-in on their mobile phones, and unlock the NB IoT smart locks on the hotel doors with a digital keys app. The unique difference for the NB IoT is that no onsite Wi-Fi/BLE equipment is needed – meaning better security and reliability – and the Digital Keys app can be linked to third-party booking engines/online travel agencies and property management systems,” he said.
Beyond being a digital key, the mobile phone can also be used to control settings inside the guestroom. “Hotels can allow guests to interact with their room technology using their cell phone. Guests are expecting to be able to cast their own music or movies from their device to the hotel TV, just as they would in the home. It takes more coordination to securely accomplish this in the hotel space, but allows the guest to feel more at-home in the hotel environment,” Lally said.
“Of course, hotel apps can be used for digital check in/check out. But they can also be used to control the actual room — lighting scenes, curtain control, entertainment systems. Hilton Worldwide recently integrated Uber and Google Maps into their HHonors app, and some hotel apps allow guests to chat with staff and make requests for special amenities. It’s all about enhancing the guest experience through personalization, convenience, and control,” Sengupta said.

Location-based technology

Location-based technology, meanwhile, is more and more used to deliver a better guest experience. “Geolocation, with the help of smart phones, is becoming a trend. Imagine that a guest orders a drink at the swimming pool but decides to go back to his room. The drink can be served wherever the guest happens to be, based on the ability to track the guest’s location. Location-based services are really going to make a guest feel more self-sufficient. This will be especially good for a resort properties,” Sengupta said.

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