By Maxwell Stoner, Senior Account Manager, Fluidata
Despite the sheer number of complaints about hotels that still don’t offer free Wi-Fi, internet connectivity is only the tip of the technology iceberg that hotels need to scale.
Not all hotels wish to cultivate a futuristic image, but even for the most traditional, the importance of technology can no longer be ignored. A 2012 Hotel Amenities survey reported that good Wi-Fi was the most important feature of a hotel for 34% of travellers, going up to 56% for business users.
With technology becoming more and more pervasive in all parts of society; playing an integral part in how we work rest and play, hotels that want to keep ahead of the curve have become keen adopters of the latest hi-tech. In order to stay fully in the future they need to offer the same experience to their customers as they will get at home.
A stay at the Yotel, New York, will afford guests the privilege of having their luggage stored by Yobot the Robot. The hotel has also revolutionised the dining experience for its guests with hi-tech tables that raise or lower in height at the flick of switch depending on the customers’ preferences.
The 1000 hotel in Seattle has also embraced technology. In the lobby it has stationed a Microsoft Surface table that can treat you to a spot of virtual chess, or help you explore the local vicinity with its virtual concierge. There’s nothing people hate more than a long queue to check in or check out, so this type of technology is helpful and keeps customers busy while waiting for a free member of staff.
It is not just the lobby that has received a technology makeover. Guests can head to the ‘Holodeck’-like room for virtual golf – complete with infrared tracking for real-time ball flight, interactive practice situations and a choice of up to 50 different courses.
Even the UK is staying ahead in technology advancements. The Magdalene Chapter in Exeter gives each guest an iPad on check-in. This innovation allows the hotel to be the world’s first paperless hotel.
In addition to customer experience that can benefit from the innovative use of technology, there are also efficiencies within management. With the ‘Internet of Things’ just around the corner, imagine a TV that alerts maintenance when there is an issue as opposed to a call from a customer. Or a lift that alerts the management team when a service is due. Or intelligent air-conditioning systems that alert a hotel to how it can save money or become significantly more efficient.
And it’s not just about catering for your guests’ needs. Intelligent Wi-Fi platforms, such as Meraki, coupled with multimedia channel apps like those delivered by UsableNet, allow hotels to get closer to their clients; delivering a more personalised service, opening up new and improved channels for direct marketing and ultimately equipping them with ‘big data’ for improved business decision making processes.
The integration of IP-based services into hotels is something that the industry has seen more of over the last few years. In particular, IPTV and TV on Demand have become more prevalent. Furthermore they have been adapted to allow for the console to be used as a central, interactive service hub capable of entertaining a number of hosted services.
Graham Phillips, Development Director of Sanguine Hospitality, sees the next step as being able to link any external device – laptop, mobile or tablet – to use on the television screen wirelessly.
Travel technology firm Amadeus, recently released a series of reports of what hotels will look like in 2020. Its findings, based largely on customer responses around their wishes and expectations, highlighted the importance of innovation with people expecting more responsive, personalised services in the near future.
Intelligent furniture and air conditioning systems, smart TVs and intuitive entertainment systems: the future of hotels lies in the development of intelligent, interconnected devices, or in other words, the ‘internet of things’.
Just like with the idea of the ‘Smart City’ or ‘Smart Home’, one stumbling block when looking at machine-to-machine communication and services is that the building needs to be ‘plumbed’ – first with sensors, cloud servers, internet and Wi-Fi infrastructures, and then with ‘things’, from TV’s and fridges to elevators and doors.
Any company that plays a part in developing and designing hotels from scratch, has the opportunity to build with next generation hospitality services in mind and effectively build the hotels of the future.