Booking a hotel is often the most important part of the trip planning process, but with applications such as Airbnb, which allow regular people like myself to host their homes for traveling guests, the hotel industry is getting a solid kick to the head. But what if hotels turned into something more than just a room and hotel service? What if your stay could become a hyper-personalized experience?
Major hotel chains like Marriott International and Hilton are working to make that happen. At Marriott’s IoT Guestroom Lab, for example, the team has set up a test hotel room consisting of mobile and voice-enabled technology that allows guests to set up their rooms to match the experience they wish to have during their stay.
Imagine you’re on a business trip. You most likely want a room that’s optimal for walking through dry runs of your presentation, and getting adequate rest. You probably also want to set an alarm that will wake you up on time to ensure that you make it to your meeting.
With an abundance of ways that one could go about their hotel room personalization, you would be able to set an alarm for the next morning which can wake you up with specialized, blue tone lighting to mimic the effects of sunlight. You could then take a shower with a predefined water temperature, adjusted via your phone or tablet.
Perhaps you have a eureka moment in the shower, and you absolutely must write it down. The IoT Guestroom has taken that into consideration as well since, let’s face it, most genius ideas happen in the bathtub (just ask Einstein). Mariott’s innovative glass shower door allows guests to write, draw, and doodle on the foggy shower door and email those creations to themselves at the touch of a checkmark.
What if you feel like getting in a workout before that shower? You could complete a quick, guided yoga or meditation routine in the comfort of your own room with the help of a smart mirror. If you’re more of an adrenaline junkie, however, but don’t want the hassle of dealing with a busy gym, then you can just check the app to see how many of your favorite machines are available.
While this all sounds like a dream come true, there are some major roadblocks and limitations that are going to make the switch to such a system extremely tedious.
It’s a given that it’s going to take some time for hotel chains to build, integrate, and shift their current operations to accompany these IoT solutions. The idea here is to create a user profile that recognizes the user’s patterns. This means that if, during their stay, the user decides to keep the curtains drawn at all times, and shower with lukewarm water, with a preferred yoga routine directed by the mirror, then the next time that particular guest decides to stay at a Marriott hotel, the previous settings will be set as the default mode of the room.
However, there are many technical, back-end risks that must be addressed and solved first before implementing such a solution. For one, the devices that allow you to customize your room to your liking are most likely running on unsecured firmware embedded into the device, meaning the devices that are made to make your experience more enjoyable also make you more susceptible identity fraud.
With unsecured devices, hackers can easily crawl through the network which the devices are connected to, and find a gateway into guest information and data. Talk about a major security breach!
Another limitation, as mentioned earlier, is the fact that even after integrating these devices into their rooms, hotels are going to have to completely restructure their operations. This would mean coming up with completely new gameplans for every department, redefining employee tasks, and training all of their employees from scratch. Fortunately, this can all be achieved with time and careful planning.
Finally, cost is a major issue. For hotel chains to integrate all of these smart devices into their hotel rooms, and go through the training and restructuring of all their operations, it’s going to be very costly. In order to be able to run a tight ship while also allowing the guests to feel at home without making them run for their money, the hotel industry is going to need the help of some investors.
Although we may not see hotels like the Marriott IoT Guestroom Lab anytime soon, Marriott has released a slightly more tech savvy hotel in Charlotte, NC which allows guests to have a more flexible experience for the time being. So even if you enjoy the more personalized approach that Airbnb has to offer, it might be worth seeing how these new smart hotels can enhance your experience.
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