COVID-19 has made contagious diseases – and the spread of that contagion – top of mind worldwide. For the hospitality industry, this will no doubt result in changes to the way surfaces are cleaned, the amount of times they are cleaned, and other similar measures. However, it is also possible that businesses such as airlines, hotels, restaurants, theme parks, trains, busses and the like – that encounter a large, diverse and constantly in-flux population of clientele – will be tasked with implementing technology that could test humans for possible signs of sickness and perhaps even track their movements to help find contagious individuals and those with whom they’ve been in contact.
To better understand this idea of “asset tracking” and how it applies to the hospitality industry, Hospitality Technology spoke with Nadir Ali, CEO of Inpixon – an indoor data intelligence company, who is working with several government agencies to offer their technology and data to allocate potential threats.
HT: What is asset tracking and how does it work?
ALI: When most people refer to "asset tracking," they're talking about locating and monitoring the movements of physical goods. For hotels, that's commonly luggage carts, wheeled dining tables, rollaway beds, etc. You can count how many you have and where they are. This is typically accomplished by attaching a transmitter, a.k.a., tag, to the asset. Sensors pick up the transmission, algorithms perform trilateration (positioning), and the customer uses their computer to see count the number of items and to see their position as displayed on their facility map.
"Asset tracking" is sometimes used to reference people, because if a person is carrying a transmitting device (a cell phone, a Bluetooth name badge, etc.) then people can be located using the same process.
Put another way, Inpixon’s asset tracking is a combination of hardware and software, which is delivered in a solution that integrates everything from sensors, such as Wi-Fi access points, transmitters in different tags, multi-layer digital interactive maps, software, and APIs and SDKs. Asset tracking can position any asset in a space with accuracy between a few centimeters to a few meters (depending on the type and density of sensors and the building environment).
HT: Why might asset tracking be a top of mind tech for the hospitality industry after the COVID-19 pandemic?
ALI: Governments may start mandating technologies that can perform crowding analysis or contact tracing in order to protect both employees and visitors, so it’s important for facilities to be ready with the tech on hand that can help.
Hotel management should consider solutions that can mitigate new security risks, such as infectious outbreaks. Contact tracing technologies can be deployed in times of high alert to identify who has come into contact with whom. This type of technology can be used in times of high risk, and IT departments can turn the technology on or off as necessary. It is the hotel’s responsibility to train staff correctly and use the tech wisely based on the situation.
HT: Why should the hospitality industry look into asset tracking as a means to improving the customer experience?
ALI: Asset tracking in the hospitality sector will come in phases. People want to go to establishments that have taken measures to make it safer, and this includes having technology that can accurately protect employees on the ground. Hotel owners will have to look at technology that can count people in crowded zones, as well as pinpoint potential risks of contagion. Guests will favor locations that have technology that can mitigate risk. For example, contact tracing is what the medical community uses to track the contact history of people that are infected, and the same technology can be applied in the hospitality sector in order to increase public health and safety.
We can expect potential hotel guests to want a “touchless” service as a way to minimize exposure. Visitors will want to reduce the amount of contact with objects and won’t want to touch keys or pass through the front desk reception. From the moment a guest enters a hotel, everything can be virtual, from room service to an upgrade. This is where we’re headed, and the hospitality sector should be working on these upgrades now.
HT: How can hospitality establishments leverage location-aware technologies to quickly win back visitors?
ALI: The new pandemic-sensitive traveler may be drawn to hospitality establishments that offer:
- Touch-less, low-staff-interaction services such as touchless app-based check in, room upgrade, keyless entry, room temperature adjustment, room service order, directions/wayfinding, event schedule, and checkout.
- Maps that show preferred paths to avoid congestion areas.
- Smart parking: navigate to best lot and entrance, potentially avoiding the crowd-filled lobby altogether.
- Proximity-based marketing: offers, messaging
- Automated tracking of assets such as luggage carts, wheeled dining tables, rollaway beds, laptop computers.
- App-based facilities management (maintenance requests, health monitoring of IoT devices, etc.)