While we had collectively hoped that the COVID-19 pandemic would be behind us by now, we find ourselves approaching what will be a very different kind of holiday season, with many having to make difficult decisions. Despite the advisories against travel this year, some individuals are still planning to travel during this trying time. Whether it’s families vacationing or traveling to be closer to one another or students returning home from school, many of these travelers may choose to stay at a hotel rather than with their families or friends in order to try to keep the season as safe as possible.
For those that are traveling this holiday season, health and safety is undoubtedly on their minds. The task now falls to hotels to keep their guests and employees safe and to do everything they can to prevent the transmission of the virus within their facilities. There is the added concern of liability, as facilities who have not taken precautionary measures are starting to face the risk of increased public criticism and the possibility of legal action.
It is therefore in the hotel owner’s best interest to leverage all of the tools available to keep safety and compliance at the forefront. In committing to this mission, hotel operators can not only address health and safety concerns but also promote their adoption of indoor intelligence and location technologies to attract guests and maintain employee morale during a period of unprecedented stress.
Internet of Things
Indoor location-aware technologies that harness the connective power of the Internet of Things are a potential solution being explored and adopted by many leading hotels. By having an indoor intelligence platform that leverages digitized facility maps and indoor positioning systems, hotel management can make traveling safer and lay the groundwork for the hospitality industry’s healthy recovery.
Indoor intelligence and IoT technology span a wide range of connective systems that make buildings smarter and provide valuable insights into the way facilities are being used. It all starts with knowing the location of people and assets and placing them on a detailed, dynamic, digital map of the facilities using indoor positioning technologies. From there, the opportunities are limitless, as guest services and specific applications can then be layered on top.
Asset tracking to identify the location of all electronically tagged luggage carts is a familiar use case, and that same technology can help mitigate viral spread in a facility. Indoor intelligence technology can be used to show both historical and near real-time visualizations of how people are moving through indoor spaces, helping you to make informed decisions about health and safety.
For instance, hotel operators can view building zone health scores which are estimated by looking at number of wireless devices in a given area, device density (e.g., devices per square foot), and other factors. These measures can even be compared across properties. Building usage data can also be used to help identify high-traffic areas with a greater risk of congestion. By using intelligent wayfinding solutions, location-aware mobile apps can guide both guests and employees to less congested areas, facilitating social distancing.
In a world of contactless delivery and curbside pickups, IoT technology is of critical importance to the hospitality industry. For those hotels that have not already implemented contactless check-ins, the time for adoption is now. In their search for safe accommodation during this stressful season, guests will opt for hotels with touchless services, such as app-based check-in, keyless entry and app-based wayfinding to avoid touching potentially contaminated surfaces. These touchless services can reduce the potential for cross-contamination and are likely to become standard in hotels, in order to make these spaces safer for both employees and guests.
Establishing contact tracing capabilities will be essential this holiday season and beyond and may even become mandated by government regulators. Digital contact tracing uses the same location technology infrastructure as previously mentioned and has the added benefit of mitigating some of the inherent issues with traditional interview-based contact tracing—chiefly human errors or omissions which arise from a heavy reliance on personal memory.
With digital contact tracing, if a guest or staff member reports an infection, location technologies can then be used to see not only with whom that person was in contact, in order to do possible exposure notification, but also to identify the areas and assets that may need to be deep cleaned. There may be no need to shut down entire wings or hotels if there is evidence that the infected individual never ventured to some parts of the building.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 won’t be gone for the holidays, and with many people still planning on traveling in spite of the warnings from officials to stay home, the stakes are undeniably high. A hotel-based outbreak could mean further lockdown measures and threats to employee and community safety. At this time, a COVID-19 resurgence could lead to permanent hotel closures that would cripple the hospitality industry. In times like these, it is a steadfast commitment to safety and the adoption of indoor intelligence technology that will set hotel operators apart and establish a foundation for a healthy recovery.
Nadir Ali is CEO of Inpixon, which provides a suite of IoT-enabled tools as part of its Indoor Intelligence platform.