Will human hotel employees be replaced? Stay tuned

Advances in technology create efficiencies as well as redundancies, but predicting these results ahead of time has proven difficult. Photo credit: Getty Images/lexaarts (Ongoing investments into technology may eventually lead to displaced employees in the hotel sector, and industry experts are examining the areas most at risk for disruption.)

All hotel departments share commonalities when it comes to technology. These might include theft of materials, physical security of staff and customers, doing more with fewer employees and contributing to the profitability of your organization. In this column, we are going to examine some recent technology innovations and how they affect hospitality.

The first one is biometrics, the technical term for body measurements and calculations. It has long been used as a form of identification and access control. But with the proliferation of voice-recognition devices (think Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant), biometric technology has moved into guest services and Dream Hotel Group is currently attempting to use this as a big competitive advantage.

At the recent Hospitality Upgrade CIO Summit, I spoke with Christian Cooper, the head of technology for Dream Hotel Group, which uses Google Assistant. “Voice recognition is in its infancy, but it is a platform that ultimately will pay dividends,” he said. “If you are an early adopter, you do take a risk, but also get big rewards. This technology is already increasing staff efficiency and will soon have the capability to offer both the company and the guest a better experience.”

If you want to be amazed by a Google Assistant combined with artificial intelligence, check out the YouTube video titled, “Google Assistant Calling the Hairdresser for an Appointment.” This is a powerful video that can actually illustrate the advantages of a marriage between these types of devices and artificial intelligence. During the video, the Google Assistant calls the hairdresser, interacts with the operator to determine what the guest wants, negotiates an appointment time, provides the guest’s name and then signs off.

The next technology that has gotten a lot of attention from the general public is robotics. Typically, robots are thought of as some kind of metal-skinned creature that is either like the goofy C3PO in “Star Wars” or a creepy robot like the one portrayed in “The Terminator.” But let’s take a look at the much heralded “Rosie” by MaidBot. Rosie, the world’s first housecleaning robot, is neither goofy or creepy, and in addition to her cleaning duties she also functions as an indoor mobile data platform that collects and analyzes invaluable actionable business data. By using Maidbot’s systems, hotel operators may increase profitability and have higher guest satisfaction.

One of the most up-and-coming types of robot in the hospitality environment today is security robots. Knightscope, a Mountain View, Calif., company, has created security robots that eventually may cause current security to become extinct. Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, Calif., is one of the first U.S. resorts to deploy 24/7 robotic surveillance. It has a stationary robot that is nearly 6 feet tall installed outside its main casino valet entrance, while a 400-pound robot rolls around the hotel’s lobby and massive glass atrium looking for suspicious activity, packages and quirky sounds. It also uses thermal imaging to look for hot spots—potential fires and even food spills. These images are transmitted in high-definition quality around the clock.

There are many exciting technologies coming to the hospitality industry, some that are home-grown to hotels and some that have been borrowed from other industries. These technologies cause us to ask the question that begs to be answered, “Will we be replaced?” Stay tuned for the answer to that question.

Frank Wolfe is the CEO of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals. He can be reached at [email protected].