However, progressive and tech-driven hoteliers realize that to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, they must provide their guests with a completely connected environment that would make them feel like home regardless of where they’re.
To future-proof their business, hotel owners need to transform digitally and achieve the maturity that comes with hospitality automation. That’s why they start looking at the Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud and Big Data technologies to better address their challenges and improve operational efficiency, profits, and customer satisfaction.
In this article, we’ll explore typical and innovative IoT use cases for hospitality, in general, and hotel automation, in particular.
The Internet of Things (IoT) can transform the hospitality industry by disrupting how hotels, resorts, cruise ships, casinos, restaurants, and other leisure service companies collect data, interact with users and automate processes.
IoT refers to the environment of physical objects connected to embedded sensors, actuators, and other devices to collect and transmit real-time data for further processing, analysis, and insights generation. When combined with data analytics, IoT creates a new paradigm in the hospitality industry.
A standard IoT-based hotel automation system can control lights, locks, thermostats, wall switches, blinds, curtains, security cameras, CO2 sensors, occupancy sensors, door sensors, and humidity sensors.
With such a system, an event manager, for example, can prepare a conference room by turning on the lights, opening the curtains, and adjusting the air conditioning without having to physically visit the room and perform these tasks manually.
In particular, IoT allows hospitality industry actors to:
First, at its most basic level, IoT creates alerts, so a door sensor inside the minibar can tell wait staff if the minibar has been opened in the last 24 hours, saving them time when preparing the room. Having a dashboard showing which minibars have not been affected can save a huge amount of time in large hotels with hundreds of rooms, such as those in Las Vegas, Dubai, and China.
Maintenance and service personnel in hospitality, who often work alone, wear panic buttons on a lanyard around their neck to immediately alert management of an emergency. In some American cities and states, panic buttons for hospitality employees are now a legal requirement.
In hotels, managers and front desk staff can get “Room Ready” notifications from IoT devices straight to their smartphones as soon as a room becomes available for check-in. Again, in large hotels where maids have to travel long distances, this speeds up the process.
Such alert-based IoT applications are easy to deploy. They operate on a Wi-Fi network, and all it takes is sensors and an IoT control platform.
The second step after alerts is automation. For example, hotel sprinklers stop automatically when it rains. Instead of a simple alert, there is an input (weather) and an output (sprinklers), making it more difficult to set up in terms of the type of sensor needed and the information to feed into the rules engine.
Another example of IoT automation is the increasingly popular deployment of online door locks. Deployment complexity is a little higher here, with a possible requirement to install IoT modules and management software in locks and update the PMS.
The third and final function of the IoT is data collection. IoT devices emit a constant stream of data. Having automated IoT data logs allows hoteliers to track utility consumption and detect anomalies. It’s up to hotel owners to decide how to store this data and act on it.
The Internet of Things has a proven track record of saving time and money in energy management and predictive maintenance. It can also help bring together teams that work in isolation because it requires greater collaboration between cleaning, F&B, IT, security, and maintenance units.
IoT solutions promise to make hospitality businesses more tech-savvy and successful at what they do. Here are examples of how IoT solutions open up opportunities for the hospitality industry to better serve customers, increase operational efficiency and deliver differentiated services:
Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ) has moved from the fringes of hotel design to the very center of it. The COVID-19 outbreak has put hygiene and air quality in hotels, restaurants, and convention centers at the top of the list of priorities. In the past, IEQ’s focus was on reducing energy consumption. Now, it has shifted to providing these spaces with clean air while ensuring optimum ambient temperature, light, and noise control for guest comfort.
Wireless IoT sensors play a crucial role in IEQ monitoring. They provide information about these critical indoor climate factors to protect guests’ and employees’ health, comfort, and productivity.
Energy is the second-largest expense category for a hotel after occupancy, accounting for 3% to 6% of its operating costs and approximately 60% of its CO2 emissions. IoT plays a vital role in ensuring the efficient use of energy resources in line with the principles of sustainable development.
Combined with building automation systems, data from occupancy sensors in guest rooms, conference rooms, or break rooms can be used to automatically adjust room conditions such as HVAC, power, and lighting to optimize energy consumption based on room conditions, such as checked-in rooms, occupied rooms, and unused rooms.
Various smart hotels are pursuing IoT-enabled self-service kiosks to automate the check-in process for their guests. Like the standard kiosks we mostly see at airport check-in counters, self-service kiosks allow guests to skip check-in lines and easily access their room keys.
We now have technologies such as Bluetooth and GPS that open up the possibility of providing location-based data that platforms can adopt in the hospitality industry to deliver messages to customers when they are most relevant to the recipient.
This may include, for example, advertisements for gym services when guests walk past the gym or the delivery of SMS messages about restaurant menu items when guests are nearby. This may also include providing up-to-date information on local transport routes or nearby points of interest. Local businesses can establish collaborations with hotels and/or restaurants and use this location data to attract hotel guests and onboard them as customers.
With IoT smart hotels using asset tracking technology, guest service staff can track equipment such as cleaning carts or luggage racks. Real-time evaluation of built-in equipment can improve cleaning procedures and improve the efficiency of smart hotels.
Various leading hotel organizations such as Marriott or Wynn have adopted IoT consumer service voice control, and this area is likely to expand and flourish over the years.
You might be wondering how this service offers an advantage to the hospitality sector. This service allows customers to request hotel room service, book tables at a hotel restaurant, or sign up for activities such as spa treatments by simply saying what they want and giving commands to the voice control service in their room.
Smart locks allow guests to use phone apps as a room key, replacing a standard card key such as a room key. Integrated IoT security devices can be connected and configured according to different protocols. For example, a security issue may result in audible or on-screen alerts and emergency lighting.
The integration of IoT-based keycards provides a greater degree of simplicity and convenience. Hotels promote more advanced key card alternatives such as mobile keys or room key apps. These keys allow guests to control door locks, temperature, and window shades simply by using their smartphones.
Customer satisfaction largely depends on the smooth operation and the absence of interruptions in service. Wireless IoT sensors can collect data on the health of hotel appliances, equipment, and facilities and notify maintenance staff as soon as equipment shows signs of wear-off or unusual performance. This reduces repair costs and ensures maximum uptime and availability of all guest amenities.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitality businesses must implement new limits on the number of visitors to their premises to ensure they comply with government social distancing rules. IoT foot traffic analytics systems can help track the number of people entering or leaving any given premises in real-time and alert facility managers when their capacity threshold is reached.
Regular disinfection and cleaning are paramount when it comes to health and well-being. IoT devices can pinpoint frequently used and unused areas or provide timely notifications when conference rooms, gyms, and swimming pools are no longer used. The hotel staff can then use this data to work more efficiently and ensure cleaning is done when needed.
The Internet of Things brings unprecedented data flows, creating performance, operational, and management challenges for network infrastructure and increasing security risks from all endpoints.
To address these challenges, hotels, resorts, and other hospitality businesses must adopt the right network designs to provide a new level of network intelligence, automation, and security.
Hospitality businesses need a cost-effective network infrastructure that reliably handles massive amounts of data in the Cloud and is easy to manage and operate.
The infrastructure should feature the following capabilities:
For effective custom IoT solution development and deployment in hospitality, tech partnerships with IoT-specialized consultants and software houses are essential. Finding a partner with robust infrastructure, access to software and hardware engineering talent skilled in embedded development, middleware and microcontrollers, cybersecurity, robotics, data science poses another big challenge. Most complex IoT development projects require access to R&D resources and emerging technologies, as there may be no standard solution available yet. As such, hoteliers should join forces with IoT development teams that have first-hand experience with automation projects, access to R&D, and the ability to experiment. This will allow most IoT deployment challenges to be addressed and solved fast and effectively.
IT professionals in various industries are already planning for more widespread use of IoT solutions in the near future. A PwC study found that 70% of hotel managers are already implementing IoT projects or pilots.
The hospitality industry’s success has always been dependent on customer service. Whether someone is traveling for business or vacation, the level of customer service received during a trip will determine whether they’ll return or avoid your business in the future.
Health and safety concerns that have aggravated during the ongoing pandemic force hoteliers and operators to provide additional layers of customer service that address these issues as the industry seeks to recover from the extended hiatus.
From personalized guest experience and comfort to improved facility management, IoT can deliver the customer satisfaction you need to stay competitive while helping hotels, restaurants, and convention centers cut costs and become truly innovative.