Connectivity Is King: The Evolution of the Smart Hotel
How does a hotel create a truly memorable experience for its guests? Appreciating the need to provide a personalized, convenient and memorable stay for guests is second nature to hotel operators, owners and owner/operators. However, knowing how to deliver this, harnessing technology and finding the perfect balance of guest satisfaction and operational efficiency can be more challenging.
Smart Solutions in All Shapes and Sizes
The smart revolution is well underway and smart hotels offer excellent opportunities. Some may choose to maximize the use of technology to create truly unique and tailored experiences for their guests, while for others, the priority may be selecting technologies that focus on reducing hotel running costs and improving efficiency. For many, it will be a combination of the two, with the bottom line facing more scrutiny than ever as we emerge from the pandemic. One thing is certain, a hotel that adopts smart integrated networks connecting all mechanical/electrical/plumbing, information technology and audiovisual systems, and building management services, will be more resilient and ready to embrace future technological advancements.
Enhancing Experience and Efficiency Through Smart Technology
Tailored ambience: Allowing the guest or guest services team to be in control of the hotel environment can enhance the guest experience and help staff deliver a more tailored service. Items such as lighting, sound, temperature, digital art and even smell can be tailored to each guest through smart building design.
Wi-Fi: Quality Wi-Fi is expected to be standard nowadays and is a key part of enhancing guest experience beyond just personal use. It is essential in connecting the guest with an enhanced selection of services to augment their stay and open doors to many more possibilities. Wi-Fi and 4G/5G mobile signal is essential, with hot spots throughout receptions, corridors, external areas, bars and restaurants.
Connectivity: Ensuring cloud internet of things accessibility/capability is part of hotel design is essential to ensure smart building devices can be utilized now and in the future. With many upcoming IoT smart devices now power over ethernet capable, this means everything can be connected and powered simultaneously using a structure cabling infrastructure. This can help improve efficiency in terms of the ability for white goods such as fridges to be connected, either within a hotel’s restaurants/bars or in room, helping with hotel management. IoT provides the opportunity for real-time data analytics to improve and optimize building efficiency and maximize occupant well-being and productivity.
Audiovisual capability: Tapping into the senses of sight and sound is key. In guest rooms, the breadth of the TV/entertainment offering adds value as well as the ability for guests to connect their own devices for streaming purposes — having appropriate satellite distribution around the hotel is key to achieving this. AV can also enhance the public areas of hotels, for example, playing curated music in different parts of the building or at different times of day, or providing the option of interactive self-check in kiosks. Digital signage can be used as an adaptable way to display information such as restaurant menus, advertising hotel facilities and offers, or as a wayfinding guide to direct guests. It is also an essential consideration for hotels with conference, meeting and events spaces to ensure they can provide an adaptable, tailored environment that meets client requirements.
Occupancy sensors: Using technology that can identify where in the building people are located can be used to enhance the guest experience through empowering individuals to choose when they visit hotel facilities such as gyms and restaurants based on real-time occupancy information. It can also ensure guests are not disturbed by housekeeping if they are relaxing in their room. Sensor mapping is also useful for hotel staff as it provides a holistic real-time view of how things are running in the hotel, identifying peak use times in amenity areas, and allowing them to manage accordingly.
Mobile apps: Intelligent building apps are developing that will be used by both guests and staff to interact with the building and spaces within it. This could include welcome messages, guided building tour information, emergency situation management, building maintenance schedules, sustainability information, guest communication and interaction with guest services, and booking of facilities such as restaurants and gyms.
Digital wayfinding: Using technology to map flow and concentration of people in the hotel can help avoid overcrowding within a hotel’s facilities and enhance efficiency. This can help avoid lines at check in or in restaurants, aid emergency evacuation situations and assist people in choosing where to park on site, including how many electric charging stations are available.
Operation and maintenance: Using all the information collected from design through to handover enables operation and maintenance teams to efficiently identify issues where systems may not be operating as expected and take action before this leads to a bigger issue. It can also help in planning refurbishments or remedial works, together with providing insights into the best time, day and way to carry out these works.
Harnessing Hotel Data
Data is fast becoming an organization’s most valuable asset and all of the technology that helps create a smart hotel, collects, uses and relies upon vast amounts of data to operate effectively.
One of the key opportunities for hotel companies is harnessing this data to their advantage. This is easier said than done as unstructured data and dispersed information can be overwhelming. There are ways to store, structure, manage and interpret data which can make sure organizations get the most value from the data they have available to them. This could be from an operational perspective, where utilizing a tool such as a digital twin — a virtual representation of a building that serves as the real-time digital counterpart of the physical building — can improve efficiency and allow for scenario modelling. Analytics tools can also interpret data, identify trends, use existing data to predict trends and retain important building data to provide a clear audit-trail, all helping the building become smarter and the hotel company more informed.
Not only does the gathering of building data support operational efficiency and decision-making, in the U.K. there will soon be a legal requirement included in the Building Safety Bill with the introduction of a ‘golden thread of information.' This will act as a tool to manage building information from cradle to grave, as a holistic approach, facilitating the use of this information to safely and effectively design, construct and operate buildings.
It is important to consider the risk implications of holding such valuable data, from legal issues to cyber threats and build risk mitigation strategies into your plans. This includes considering how data is captured, stored and securely managed as well as understanding what your cyber security looks like. The more data you collect the greater the benefit but also the higher the risk, given the potential consequences of data’s security being compromised.
Are You Ready for the Smart Revolution?
Technology advancements continue at a rapid pace and future-proofing hotel infrastructure is key to maintaining convenience, comfort, service and efficiency for guests and hotel owners, operators and owner/operators. The smart revolution has already begun and having interoperable, connected systems that are adaptable to future developments in technology are essential, even if they are not being fully utilized immediately but can easily be when the time comes. Using smart technology, combined with the insight and analytics from the data gathered through this technology, will empower those in the hotel industry to be more in control of their own destiny.