Can Intelligent Hotels Find Their Voice?

This is a guest post by James Harrison from HotelTCS. James is a Technology Consultant who’s main focus is on how hotels use technology in the Guest room.

Alexa, Read Me The Intelligent Hotels Room Service Menu

At the time of my birth this, and the whole concept of intelligent hotels might seem like some kind of futuristic idea, but in 2019 Digital assistants are very much here.

Intelligent Hotels – Predictions From The Past

Yesterday I watched one of my favourite films, Back to The Future Part 2. This got me thinking about our idea of technology then, and what we actually have now.

As a child of the 80’s I can relate closely to this film and believe me when October 21st 2015 finally landed I watched the skies with anticipation. Alas, there was only disappointment for me.

In 1985 technology very much was with us, the personal computer was in its infancy for sure, there was no World Wide Web, but the internet existed, Unix based servers peppered university labs, and one William Henry Gates the 3rd had just released his first iteration of an operating system, that only 2 years later would make him one of the richest men on earth.

A Vision Of The Future

So, in 1985 what did we think the future, mainly 2015 onwards would look like?

  • Shoes with power laces: Nike did release these, but I think this was more of a nod to the film series rather than a progression of technology. Let’s face it, today’s younger generation don’t even tie their laces anyway.
  • Flying cars: Not much to say on this, but it didn’t happen. If it did, I highly doubt it would be based upon either a De Lorean DMC-12 or a BMW 635CSI from 1985.
  • Hoverboards: Well, kind of. They’re called hoverboards but they don’t hover, and even though they are powered, they still don’t work on water.
  • Fax machines in the bathroom: So close. So very close. We ended up with emails on the smartphone, often checked in the same location, along with social media.
  • Multiple TV stations on one screen: Why? Just why?!
  • Voice Assisted ordering: I’m sure everyone can remember Marty visiting the café 80’s, and ordering a Pepsi by requesting one from a hovering CRT monitor, with an image of Ronald Reagan. Now, this isn’t exactly what we have, but it’s a close approximation.

The Rise Of The Voice Assistant

So, those voice assistants.

Amazon Echo, Siri, Google home, they’ve all been with us for some time now, they’ve become commonplace in our homes. I ask Alexa to play my music when I return home before I switch on the lights.

Of course, by switch on the lights, I do mean ask Alexa to switch on the lights, and set the heating just right, and make me a coffee. The future really has arrived.

Siri joined us in 2011, Alexa in 2014 and Google home in 2016. In 2019 these digital assistants are commonplace in our life, Siri on our mobile devices and more often than not Alexa in our homes.

But what about in hotel guestrooms? Who’s there for us then, do intelligent hotels need a voice?

As I write this in November 2019, the frequent traveller that I am. I have yet to stay in a fully voice equipped guestroom. I’ve been part of the design of some wonderful solutions, using middleware to fully integrate once disparate systems, but none of them use voice. Why?

The answer, I think, is trust.

Alexa at home, do we trust them, probably. If we don’t, we turn it off. Siri on our mobile devices, I’d say we trust Siri, if not, we disable. What about a voice assistant in the guest room of intelligent hotels? Listening to us from the moment we walk in? An invasion of privacy perhaps? How do we turn off something that isn’t ours? How do you deal with a guest who demands that no voice services exist in their room? Send an engineer up to unplug the echo device? Not exactly in line with intelligent hotels, is it?

Intelligent Hotels Are Here

Since 2017 there have existed hospitality technology companies that have built their own AI digital assistant. Based around the hotel room, and what guests expect. These are designed around integration with common hotel platforms, picking up PMS data, offering WiFi AP’s built in, ordering room service, controlling HVAC, all common requests for intelligent hotels.

The integration is key. Without this a Digital Assistant does nothing, we assume there are features built-in, but this really isn’t the case. Even when you ask Alexa for the weather, there needs to be a weather service provider, and integration to allow the data to flow. Without this, Alexa does not know the weather.

So, before you deploy a Digital Assistant throughout intelligent hotels, you need to know what you actually want it to do. After all, Hotels have had integrated systems for many years, and deploying Digital Assistants to every room is a very expensive way of turning the lights on, and finding out the weather.

“Do I Need A Digital Assistant?”

A very good question, and one that is not easy to answer. Before deploying any technology solution there are a myriad of considerations you must go through. Digital assistants must be one of the hardest to nail down.

HotelTCS can help you. By working with you, and available data on your current guests’ habits, HotelTCS can advise you on where a digital assistant might fit your intelligent hotel.

We can create your use cases. More importantly, we can help you understand how to create a return on investment from these solutions.

Maybe your guests soon will be asking Alexa to read them the room service menu, book a spa treatment, or what time they have dinner reservations.

More importantly than above though, if you do go for a Digital Assistant, we can help you select a solution that actually works.

Digital Assistants are very much in their infancy, what is commonplace today, maybe gone tomorrow.

Hotel’s cannot afford to invest in technology that is unsupportable only a few months down the line. Hotels cannot afford to invest in hardware that ties them to one provider. Hotels cannot afford to invest in a solution that does not deliver a service that the guest appreciates. Can your hotel afford not to be intelligent?

See How HotelTCS Can Help

Contact HotelTCS now to give your guests, and your technology, a new voice.

Also, if you love IoT, we’ve looked at this not once, but twice before! Read, enjoy, comment and share!

James Harrison

Technology Consultant

He is a technology consultant who’s main focus is on how hotels use technology in the Guest room. James has a passion for both technology and the written word, producing regular content on technology in the hospitality industry. Connect with him for more insights – LinkedIn.