Tech traveller: Smart hospitality

When we can run our homes from the touch of a button, or command of our voice, hotel rooms have some catching up to doSaturday, 24 June 2017

By Kate Russell
Smart hospitality

The world is being bombarded with high-tech gadgetry to help us run our lives. Internet of Things wearables, AI voice assistants, smart lighting… The list goes on, and adoption is really taking off. Not to be left behind, the hospitality industry has leaped onto the bandwagon.

Stepping into the wearables camp, Starwood Hotels' Apple Watch app now lets guests use their smartwatch to open their hotel door. Walt Disney World Resort, in Florida, is now issuing guests with a MagicBand, which, as well as providing access to their room, acts as a pass to get into the park, go on rides and buy food and drink.

Meanwhile, out at sea, Carnival, which operates 10 cruise lines, is trialling the Ocean Medallion. This small wearable disc connects with onboard sensors and acts as an ever-present digital concierge. As well as guiding guests around the ship, it can also arrange for food and drink to be delivered wherever they are, and can help create a personalised entertainment programme. Expect to be able to book cruises with this feature from 2018.

Speech recognition has improved vastly in recent years — Google's, for example, has gone from an error rate of 25% two years ago to under 8% today, while Amazon's Echo, featuring smart assistant Alexa has been embraced in homes across the globe (I love telling mine to turn off the lights and play some music while I'm tucked up in bed).

At the end of last year, Wynn Resorts installed these smart assistant speakers in nearly 5,000 of its Las Vegas suites and a number of other big players, including Marriott, are developing their own solutions. It won't be too long before voice assistants like Alexa, Apple's Siri and Google Home are a standard feature in the guest rooms of big hotel chains.

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Published in the Jul/Aug 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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