Robots, Retina Scans, and Infrared Sensors: Hotels Go Hi-tech
By Rhonda Parmiter, Chief Customer Officer
As featured in VentureBeat
It is said that competition is the mother of innovation. And faced with competition not only from other hotels, but also from disruptive players like Airbnb, some hotels have taken meaningful steps to differentiate their guest experiences by adopting innovations in technology. According to a 2014 J. D. Power report, guest satisfaction in North American hotels is up significantly. Why? Hotels that are tapping into consumers’ wants—devices and experiences that cooperate for immediate satisfaction—have already figured it out. Customer satisfaction, loyalty, and profitability are directly impacted by the implementation of collaborative technologies and networks that put the customer first.
If you are staying at Aloft Cupertino, a boutique hotel in central California, and order room service, you may get it delivered from their newest employee, A.L.O., a 3 ft. tall Botlr robot. “Our hotels are known for offering future-facing, tech forward experiences, so it seemed only a natural fit to pilot the Botlr program at our Cupertino location.” said Brian McGuinness, Senior Vice President of Starwood’s Specialty Select Brands. “Boltr draws the greatest inspiration from the robots of our childhood with the productivity of Wall-E, the humor of Rosie from The Jetsons and aesthetically reminiscent of perhaps the most famous robot of all, R2D2. We are thrilled with our newest talent member and look forward to further expanding this pilot in the upcoming year.”
Botlr wears a butler uniform and has 2 cubic feet of storage place, and with just a touch of a button, will deliver items such as toothbrushes, snacks, and chargers to its guests. Sensors are used to locate rooms and people. It uses wifi to call the elevator, and when it arrives at the room it uses the phone system to announce its arrival, and a sensor to release the items. Botlr communicates via a touch screen and after a guest rates Botlr’s service, if the delivery gets a 5-start rating, Botlr will even do a celebratory dance!
At New York City-based hotel, Yotel, you’ll find a robotic concierge that will store your luggage if your room isn’t available yet, or if you are checking out and need a place to store your luggage. The robot, named YOBOT, sits behind a large glass panel where guests can view its movements. Using a touchscreen, guests enter the number and size of bags and the YOBOT stores the luggage. The robot then issues a receipt with a barcode to the guest for retrieval.
One of the top customer complaints in the industry involves housekeeping interruptions, and hoteliers are taking a close look at the impact cleaning staff can have on the overall customer experience. Many have tight processes in place such as knock and wait 10 seconds before entering, and door hangers or magnets to alert staff that guests are in the room. Hotel 1000, a Seattle-based hotel, has found an innovative approach. Each of their hotel rooms comes tricked out with an infrared sensor that detects body heat. If the sensor shows up on the door panel, hotel staff moves on and checks back later, ensuring that guests are never disturbed.
Security has always been a concern for hotels and their guests—especially when it comes to keys and key cards. Many hotels are now moving to keyless entry systems designed to provide users with convenience and higher levels of security.
Some hotels are now offering their guests RFID-enabled key fobs or wrist bands that take the place of room keys and wallets. RFID provides a way for the hotel to offer their guests a customized experience—think walking up to the elevator and the elevator instantly responds to pick you up and take you to the floor where your room is located.
Other hotels like Alma Barcelona have taken keyless entry one step further and are now using fingerprint-activated room entry similar to that found on the new iPhones. And, Nine Zero Hotel in Boston uses a retinal scanning device that provides even more accuracy and security than fingerprint identification.
If robots and retina scans aren’t enough for you, there is a wide array of hi-tech personalized services available as well including rooms that greet you by name, customized mood settings, and even hi-tech toilets with a motion activated lid, seat heater, and deodorizer.
Douglas Coupland once said, “Even when you take a break from technology, technology doesn’t take a break from you.” In this case, it’s true.
Imagine, now, the incredible experience you would post, tweet, and blog about if you had a chance to stay at one of these properties. From robots to retina scans, heat sensors to finger-printing, hi-tech hotels are transforming the customer experience through collaborative technology investments and networks. Whether a hotel is looking to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, or to keep up with disruptors like Airbnb, it is hardly a competitor if it is not exploring what hi-tech capabilities it can bring to its guests. If competition truly is the mother of innovation, it has to be one proud mama.