From start to finish, technology touches every part of your guests’ stay at your hotel. Guests find your hotel in an online search, share photos of the room on Instagram, and leave reviews of your hotel on TripAdvisor.
Now technology is evolving in ways that affect even the thermostats and coffeemakers in the rooms. Welcome to the Internet of Things (IoT), where the Internet doesn’t just connect devices like computers and phones, but also connects items like refrigerators and keys.
The Internet of Things in Your Hotel Room
The IoT is big business. One estimate suggests it will grow from $655.8 billion in 2014 to $1.7 trillion in 2020. Many companies are designing IoT products. Apple’s HomeKit connects all household products to a smartphone, allowing users to control their thermostat, shades, electric kettle, and much more, all from the tap of a button on their phone. They can also set conditions, such as using their phone to turn the kitchen lights on when someone walks into the kitchen, using a motion sensor.
It’s obvious there are many ways hotels can benefit from the IoT. It has the potential to completely change the guest experience, putting more control into guests’ hands and phones.
- Automation. No need for a guest to call down to the front desk to say they’re out of mini-bar snacks. The refrigerator could alert hotel staff directly.
- Convenience and control. The IoT can enable hotel guests to customize everything just the way they like it. With smart coffeemakers, guests could set the coffee to brew just before they get up. From the elevator, they could choose the radio station they want to be playing when they enter the room. They could set the lights to dim after 10pm.
- Environmental monitoring.
Further, the IoT can help hotels run more efficiently and improve energy management.
- Energy monitoring. If power sockets were IoT-enabled, power usage could be reported to housekeeping, allowing them to see if a particular outlet is consuming more energy than it should and investigate if there is a problem with an appliance in that outlet.
- Energy conservation. Light bulbs could be programmed to use a low power setting when light conditions are bright, and become brighter in the evening.
- Maintenance. Elevators requiring maintenance could alert hotel staff or the local service center as soon as an issue comes up, even before the issue has inconvenienced any guests or staff.
As with any technology, IoT offers convenience and challenges. Hotels implementing IoT will need to ensure proper security to protect against hackers. They will also have to exercise discretion in making sure their use of in-room sensors and other technology respects guests’ privacy. Lastly, they will need to be able to work the cost of these electronics (and repairing them) into their budgets.
These challenges are not new; hotels faced them when implementing technology like hotel reservation and booking software. The question is whether guests will demand IoT, and whether hotels will consider the benefits of implementing IoT to outweigh the costs.
As David Tossell writes, “Controlling the room lights, thermostat, curtains via a smartphone app probably is more gimmicky than it is a valued guest service. But, 10 years from now, the expectations of guests might be along the lines of ‘they are disappointed if they can’t control all the features of their room from their smartphone’. Tastes change – plan accordingly.”
If the IoT takes off and people are accustomed to starting their electric kettle with their smartphone at home, they may want the same control in their hotel rooms. Smart hoteliers will keep an eye on IoT and consider if it has a place in their hotel rooms, and how to best prepare for the future.