Entrepreneur and philanthropist Jason Hope may well be correct in his assertion that the hospitality industry needs the Internet of Things, but those who are not aware of the latest developments in interconnected technology likely have no idea what he's talking about, let alone what it could mean for the industry.
The Internet of Things(IoT) is the term that has been coined to describe the linking up of embedded computer-like devices to existing Internet infrastructure. The "Things" in the IoT could be, for example, a heart transplant monitoring implant, sensors in cars, biochip transponders in farm animals or devices to help firefighters in search and rescue operations.
People already use applications on their smartphones or tablets for tasks that were unthinkable just a few years ago, or even last month! The development of wearable computing devices, such as Google Glass and the iWatch – or their equivalents – provides the possibility to interconnect with almost anything.
According to the market intelligence firm ABI Research, more than 30 billion devices will be connected to the IoT by the year 2020. Another survey by the Pew Research Center Internet Project showed that 83 percent of technology experts and Internet users believe that the IoT will have widespread and beneficial effects by 2025.
Now, these figures are very interesting, but what do they have to do with the hospitality industry?
"As the Internet of Things becomes more pervasive, and consumers get more used to having these amenities in their homes, they will invariably end up demanding these same amenities be made available to them when they're on the road," says Jason Hope. "For example, simple things like being able to hook their smartphone up to the heating and A/C unit in their room. These are things that people are going to be expecting."
Moreover, the applications will extend way beyond that. The minibar in the room, apart from automatically charging items used, will also order refills and store the information on a customer profile to ensure that, on the next visit, the minibar is stocked with the guest's favorite drinks and snacks.
The large refrigerators in the hotel kitchen will not only control temperature, but also monitor items that have run out and re-order them automatically. If the temperature should rise abnormally, the chef would be notified immediately via smartphone or another device.
Carl Weldon, writing on the HOSPA website, says that the aforementioned wearable technology could identify a returning guest by using facial recognition. This would instantly provide information about the guest to the front desk receptionist, such as:
With the appropriate amount of investment by the hospitality industry, there are virtually no limits to the potential improvements in guest service. A phone application will open the door to the room, control the blinds and the TV channels, and communicate with room service. If your guest profile is up-to-date, your food could arrive before you even order it!
Jason Hope, an entrepreneur and investor based in Scottsdale, Arizona, has a passion for technology and believes it has the potential to provide benefits that many hotels are not yet fully aware of.
As Hope explains, "The hospitality industry is going to be changing dramatically as technology changes and progresses. The more technology that comes as a result of innovations related to the Internet of Things, the more the hospitality industry will be forced to adopt some of them."
Of course, the increased efficiency and improvements in the mechanical elements of the hospitality industry will benefit guests in a variety of ways. But hotels will need to take care not to lose the "human touch" and the concept of personal service.
In the future, this may prove to be the the greatest challenge to the hospitality industry. Only those hotels that manage to strike the right balance will ultimately succeed.