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In-room Hotel Technology - Getting Smarter by the Day

Guestroom technology, an area of high investment promises seamless assistance at fingertips, better customer satisfaction, and in-turn also ensures a surge in business and revenue. This in-room hotel technology is now increasingly becoming a brand differentiator and hotel brands are cashing in on this potent opportunity, reports Akansha Pandey.

Thursday, July 6, 2017, 16:18 Hrs  [IST]

Technology is fuelling a more demanding and impatient traveller and the current year will see the guest’s expectations being addressed by hi-tech experiences in an unprecedented way, rightly pointed out in one of its survey early this year. This same is being replicated in guestroom technology segment. Nowadays guests carry hi-tech gadgets while travelling and technology is at the forefront of allowing guests the freedom to do what they choose during a hotel stay. Technology-driven in-room entertainment is increasingly becoming an important part of guests’ experiences. From iPads to smartphones and netbooks, visitors want their gizmos to be well-connected during the stay.

In today’s technology-driven arena while guests look for an all-integrated system providing easy access through portable devices, even hotel companies are acknowledging the fact that; tech-savvy guests have specific tastes. Hoteliers are also well aware that providing innovative and functional in-room technology and entertainment-driven amenities can help them invite more business thereby saving on operating costs by using energy efficient technology. Thus, this area of high investment is today being utilised to not only offer personalised services and enhance customer experience, but is also being noticed as a tool to maximise revenue and brand name. For hotels, guestroom technology upgrades are a priority matter now.

Evolution over the years
Year on year, the in-room hotel technology is evolving to a great extent. Gone are the days where guests had to pick up their phone and order for any on-demand movies or even room service. Today, hotels are striving hard to provide guests with the most intelligent technology, ensuring maximum satisfaction, more so in the rooms and suites. From ordering food to raising the curtains inside the rooms, everything is available on the guest’s fingertips. “In-room technology has evolved drastically over the years and has become an inevitable part of our day-to-day lives. From a mechanical button, to adjust the knob of appliances to now getting everything done with a mere touch, we have come a long way,” recalled Gunjan Srivastava, MD & CEO, BSH Household Appliances.

Initially rooms were unlocked from manual keys but now access cards and even keyless entry have taken their place. Automatic wake up calls have replaced manual calls. From a limited number of TV channels earlier, the smart TV now boasts of a huge variety of entertainment options, also enabling the plugging of USBs to watch one’s own content. There are multi-media hubs in hotel rooms today which help connecting smartphones, laptops and iPods, etc. to the smart TV.

The shift in technology has seen the emergence of connectivity panels built in furniture, controls appearing in bathrooms and an attempt to recreate a home theatre experience. High-speed internet connection, hands-free phone, LED lighting, in-room entertainment to digitalisation in the bathrooms; all have defined a new era of in-room technology. Mood lighting too, has grown as a concept over the years. The big concern of safety is being addressed with hi-tech safety lockers to store valuables, to fire alarms and smoke detectors, all of which have ensured utmost safe and sound guest experience, highlights Vinay Bhardwaj, GM - Sales, Pride Hotels.

Going forward in leveraging technology to enhance personalised guest experience, once a guest enters the room, many hotels play a personalised welcome message on the TV screen. Easing review, rating and in-turn promotion of the property, there are software that help track guest feedback soon after their check-in. Guests have the privilege to feed their preferences into these software and also provide feedback wherever necessary, shares Faiz Alam Ansari, Complex General Manager, Sheraton Grand Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel & Convention Center and Aloft Bengaluru Cessna Business Park.

“At Aloft, while we provide the best of technology services to our guest, our talent ensure the personal touch is not missed at every point, right from lobby, restaurants to room service,” confirmed Ansari. He goes on to add that updated technology plays a major role in providing the perfect stay for a guest. It is not always about giving much more to the guests, it is about giving the guests a hassle free stay, he exclaims.

Realising the opportunity
Today, with the increase in adoption of technology, consumers’ requirements are also slightly evolved and therefore, hotel operators are investing in systems and technologies which have personal touch – something that interacts with them or they have control of, believes Ripu Daman Sharma, Country Manager Sales, India Subcontinent, Lutron Electronics.

Lutron’s technology for the hospitality segment, allows them to aesthetically create and set the right aura. myRoom by Lutron, a cost-competitive light, temperature and shade control system combines sleek aesthetics with intuitive design to control lights, shades and HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) in a way that creates a memorable experience for hotel guests.

Similarly, though few hotel brands are leveraging guestroom technology to record review, rating and boost promotion of the property, a number of properties still have very little insight about guest’s preferences, their likings and dislikes. Every guest touch point in a hotel has some insight about the guest and here lies a need to capture it and turn it into useful information which can later be processed to customise the stay or the service offerings.

This is an underlying opportunity for hotels to enhance revenue opportunity along with cashing in on the upcoming trends of voice activated interactions, conversational UI, augmented reality, facial recognition, etc., said Rahul Salgia, CEO, DigiValet.

The next offering from Siemens is said to be in line with Internet of Things (IoT) i.e. connected appliances. Along with this the brand will also innovate with the appliances keeping in mind the consumer pain-points.

Energy efficient technology
The ambience of a hotel plays a central role in determining how guests feel. By setting the right mood and creating an appropriate atmosphere – everywhere from reception areas and restaurants to corridors and rooms, hotels can help guests feel relaxed and comfortable. Lighting plays a key role in creating the right ambience as it can be easily adapted to suit different occasions and moods.

“LED lights can offer up to 50% energy savings potential as compared to traditional lighting solutions, which can increase up to 80% with connected LED lighting whilst also having the flexibility to change colour and intensity to create different moods in different parts of the hotel,” commented Harshavardhan Chitale, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Philips Lighting India.

He added that there is a demand for integrated control systems where lighting, HVAC, TV, Wi-Fi etc., all can be controlled through mobile devices. With connected LED lighting it is possible to remote control, monitor and analyse all these services. Sensors embedded in LED lighting fixtures – that are themselves connected and powered by the hotel’s IT network – enable lighting systems to become pathways for information, delivering updates on everything from room occupancy to temperature and humidity, he elaborates.

Security & privacy of guests
Privacy is today’s digitally connected world is a thing of past. Salgia highlighted that the government agencies, telecom companies and technology companies such as Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., are tracking us all the time. The information they collect at every touchpoint is being used to profile people, send targeted advertisements and read our usage patterns. This is not a revelation everyone knows it and lives with it.

“All that a guest expects from a hotel is that his information, his profile will not be sold or misused. Hotels on the other hand must be aware of companies that are offering subsidised guest facing technologies where the subsidy is actually coming in from selling their guests profiles,” he asserts.

Investment by hotel brands
Talking about investment by hotels in guestroom technology, Sharma agreed that as long as the technology can enhance guest experience and is reliable and user-friendly; most luxury hotel chains are very willing to invest in this segment. Standalone and budget hotels however, are also interested but they care much more about return on investment and easy installation in order to minimise the disruption to daily operation and avoid the need to close down certain sections of the hotel for renovation.

It isn’t a choice anymore, stressed Salgia. In his opinion this is probably as important as water, air-conditioning and bed in a guestroom. “Hotels that are realising the need of a transformation will tend to gain while others will keep wondering why. Technology is a means to achieve so many things - be it improving manpower efficiency, creating more opportunities to up-sell, cross-sell or deliver better guest experience. I think the select service hotels must focus their energy on using technology as a means of reducing cost over every full time employee,” he said.

Way Forward
IoT i.e. Internet of Things is the future of in room technology and is all set to disrupt the way we live and work, feels Srivastava. Speaking on the future of in-room technology in India, he asserted that it is a roadmap we must work on, however, it is yet to have the basic infrastructure to set the framework and set the ball rolling.

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