Most stakeholders involved in the conception or day-to-day operations of a hospitality-related entity will benefit from the deployment of a fully integrated, IoT-network. However, some, such as architects and construction engineers, may face additional challenges as there are unique structural challenges that need to be considered when constructing a smart building. Regarding the customer journey, there are sheer limitless possibilities in which the guest’s experience can be enhanced and personalized using IoT sensors and actuators, some of which, however, may include sacrifices, most prominently an individual’s privacy. Let’s identify some of the key stakeholders in hospitality and how their responsibilities may shift as various IoT-components are being deployed.
Improved operational efficiency
A hotel manager’s main concern is the entire operation’s efficiency, including staff productivity and room occupation rate. As we’ll mention below, all employees will be more productive when working alongside a smart, integrated IoT environment. A hotel’s occupation rate can be greatly improved using big data analytics to enable dynamic pricing.
A personal guest experience
Smart devices can tailor an experience to the individual guest’s preference. This provides the guest’s stay, a personal touch. For example: There is no such thing as perfect lighting; some guests prefer white light for work, while others find cold white light may interrupt their sleep rhythm by suppressing melatonin secretion. As such, having Alexa devices connected with smart light switches and light bulbs, guests are able to customize their own experience and truly feel “home.”
Many larger corporations, employing IoT networks with thousands of IoT-enabled sensors spanning across several countries and even international waters, have dedicated IoT-network operators who are tasked with the deployment, monitoring, and maintenance of IoT-infrastructure. Realistically, in smart hospitality, the existing IT-staff will likely take care of these responsibilities. While the workload and span of responsibilities for other staff colleagues may drastically decrease thanks to IoT, IT-network operators will have to fulfill additional tasks; such as deploying and maintaining a wide range of new devices and managing new potential security vulnerabilities that arise when traditional analogous, mechanical components become network-enabled.
Reducing Energy & Water consumption
Smart water meters or faucets can further improve efficiency. Even a slightly dripping faucet that a guest forgot to switch off completely can decrement profits. Using smart water meters, engineers can detect if an unoccupied room consumes water and are able to shut off the water supply remotely.
Remote Monitoring & Predictive Equipment Maintenance
Besides other crucial details, such as the quality of the WiFi signal, a quiet, fully-functional air conditioning system improving indoor air quality is another factor that was shown to immensely affect guest satisfaction. A barely working AC can make the difference between a “wow” experience and an “okay” experience or the difference between 4 or 5-star reviews on booking platforms. Using IoT-enabled AC systems, engineers can identify AC units with deteriorating functionality and thus trigger an automated service request.
Overall improved service quality and better allocation of staff resources
Using beacons and other types of sensors can greatly improve housekeeping services, especially for high-end establishments. Housekeeping staff typically has a very tight schedule to follow. Using IoT, their routines can be highly optimized, reducing the idle time of staff members. For example:
- Only around 25% of guests actually use their minibar. Thus hotel staff wastes unnecessary time in each room having to check the inventory of the minibar items. Using basic sensory devices in smart hotel rooms, the IoT network will inform housekeepers about which minibars remained unopened during the entirety of the guest’s stay.
- Hotels often limit the maximum water pressure to keep guests from wasting water. However, housekeepers benefit from greater water pressure, reducing their cleaning time. When housekeepers enter a room using their unique key cards, IoT-enabled actuators would be able to adjust the water pressure, allowing for faster cleaning.
Improved guest interaction using virtual concierges
A concierge is a profession that is very unique to the hotel industry. They will go the extra length to ensure guests have a pleasant stay and inform them about pleasurable activities within their vicinity. While a virtual concierge may not be able to reproduce the charming attitude of a real concierge, they may be able to provide real-time information that traditional concierges simply couldn’t, such as extensive background information about local attractions, informing about current traffic or weather conditions. They may also be used as an easy way for guests to make bookings and reservations in nearby establishments. The hotel may even generate additional income by receiving a commission from each booking made by the virtual concierge.
Food and Beverage
Tracking inventory is one of the core tasks of F&B managers. If suppliers of food and beverages apply RFID tags on the packaging of the parcels, an RFID reader in the storage unit will recognize the newly arrived foods. Using this data, the IoT network can automatically update the inventory, which reduces the workload on hotel staff and improves operational efficiency by reducing the amount of food waste.
Improving safety for families
Many larger hotels and family-friendly resorts offer child care services to their guests, however many parents express safety concerns when leaving their child with hotel staff for a few hours. Using bracelets or necklaces equipped with beacon technology, daycare staff will be notified immediately if a child leaves the daycare’s proximity.
Preventing unauthorized physical access
Using CCTV and facial recognition software that checks faces against an employee database, an IoT network is able to detect whether an individual is moving in areas they are not authorized to access. This triggers an alarm, immediately notifying security personnel.
Additional structural challenges need to be considered
Most hospitality establishments have decided to deploy an IoT environment only after their buildings were constructed. Ideally, however, architects should discuss their blueprints with IoT network operators and consider the unique structural needs of smart sensors and actuators when designing the building. This can help prevent various chokepoints in individual functionalities of the IoT network later on. For example: A smart plumbing system (for use cases, see above: Engineering & Housekeeping) involving various sensors and actuators (e.g., IoT-enabled valves) is expensive to deploy in traditional buildings and most components of the previous plumbing system would have to be ripped out and replaced.