How smart technology is changing how hotels operate

Smart technology, encompassing a broad spectrum of innovations from the Internet of Things to robotics and artificial intelligence, is not just reshaping hotel operations; it's redefining the guest experience. The integration of smart technology in hotels is creating seamless operations and enriching guest experiences in ways previously unimaginable.

"Depending on the type of technology, there are many benefits. On guest apps and technology, guests see a more seamless experience without having to wait in a line. They can also communicate more easily with the staff on site and get their needs met more quickly," said Micah Estis Green, founder and CEO of Tailos.

Meanwhile, he said, other smart devices in rooms can enhance the guest experience, "even mimicking their home life to provide a 'home away from home' experience." Additionally, he pointed to how robots can provide major operational efficiencies while also boosting the guest experience.

"For example, Rosie, the floor-cleaning robot, can provide up to 20 percent savings in room and 90 percent time savings in public areas. This allows staff to focus on higher-touch areas and to interact more with guests," he said. "Rosie can also drive higher guest satisfaction scores through increased cleanliness and consistency. Also, Rosie collects actionable operational and environmental data on what is happening within the property."

Marianela Nanninga, CEO of ToDo Robotics, agreed that robotic servers and cleaners are revolutionizing hotel operations. "With advanced AI and 360-degree lidar sensors, our cleaning robots meticulously navigate and clean for up to 20 hours a day, ensuring exceptional cleanliness. The key benefit lies in job retention within a high-turnover industry. We train our clients to see themselves not just as cleaning staff but as technicians, ensuring the robots succeed and eliminating tedious tasks such as vacuuming and floor scrubbing."

Sustainability and Cost Efficiency

Smart technology can contribute to significant cost savings, Nanninga said. "The hourly cost of a robot is around $2.50 compared to a minimum-wage worker, making them a cost-effective solution in both the short and long term," she said. "Additionally, our robots optimize their cleaning paths, learning to perform tasks more efficiently over time, contributing to sustainability efforts."

Smart technology opens up hoteliers to a world of data about their operations and properties. Richard Twilley, group VP, vertical markets, Spectrum Enterprise, pointed to smart tech that includes cameras and environmental sensors. "To understand how different areas of the property are utilized, hoteliers can add cameras that provide heat maps and motion capture of areas inside and outside at various times of the day," he said. "Cameras with intelligent motion search provide video recordings for peace of mind when hoteliers need to have insights into incidents across their property from a centralized location."

For example, IT managers can implement sensors to monitor temperature control, indoor air quality and equipment in data centers to detect water leaks and humidity. Hoteliers can also incorporate sensors to monitor lights, door access to restricted areas, detect intrusions and create smoke-free environments. Additionally, hoteliers can use sensors to minimize business interruptions, reduce unnecessary costs and maximize resources.

Perhaps the most common challenge to implementing such technologies is skepticism among hotel staff. "However, once the robots are in full operation, employees gain confidence in the technology, realizing that it makes their jobs easier and more efficient," Nanninga said.

Estis Green agreed. "The biggest challenge we see is around change management. It is critical for property leadership to message new technology in a positive way with their team and to get buy-in at the team level.

"When teams are on board, the rollout becomes much more seamless and successful," Estis Green continued. "If the team is resistant, it likely will not succeed."