Connected Hotels: How Bluetooth Tech Can Improve the Indoor Guest Experience
More than 135 years ago, janitors had to enter every classroom to verify the temperature of a specific room and then manually adjust the damper in the basement. How was it solved? At the end of the 19th century, the pneumatic thermostat was created to regulate room temperature which resolved this issue, freeing up time for janitors and providing room temperature consistency for the occupants in the space. Since then the thermostat has evolved into powerful and sophisticated systems that improve energy efficiency, reduce operations costs and make buildings including those in a hospitality setting more comfortable.
Where Are We Today?
According to Forrester, “the HVAC system is one of a building's largest operating costs, accounting for about 40% of business energy usage” (Forrester, Extend IoT Smart Building Solutions To Transform The Workplace, Look Beyond Efficiency For Opportunities To Enhance Worker Experience And Productivity, February 2018).2 In a hotel with several hundred rooms, it becomes easy to see how technology innovations by way of occupancy detection and controls can help to reduce costs and provide energy usage efficiency.
The invention of the thermostat at the time was considered a cutting-edge invention, but now we want and have come to expect more – improving on what’s already out there with what we know and expect will come. We see what technology can do in our lives and have a desire to use even more of it at home, in our cars and where we work. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American spends 93% of their life indoors (87% of their life in a building and then another 6% of their life in automobiles). That means that only 7% of your entire life spent outdoors. Since we are spending most of our lives inside of a building, occupant well-being in the hospitality industry is an increasingly important consideration.3
The same technologies that help make our lives better at home are now entering the building space and can be adapted to hotels with the same objectives: make our lives better: more efficient, more comfortable, more secure. A recent IDC Infographic, Challenges of Implementing Connected Building Projects, (sponsored by Acuity Brands), reports that almost 30% of building management companies have deployed a connected building solution, with another 60% also considering it.4 And according to the Bluetooth Alliance, there are more than 10 Billion Bluetooth devices installed. 5 Other studies forecast that the number of IoT devices that are active is expected to grow to 10 billion by 2020 and 22 billion by 2025. 6
Let's take a look at how the hospitality industry is or could be using these devices to improve the guest experience.
Smartphone, Tablet, PC
The same devices we use daily to interface with the digital workspace can be used to interface with building infrastructures and guest/occupant services. Just like when you pair your smartphone to receive a call in your car using Bluetooth, you’ll be able to do the same in a smart, connected hotel or resort room to set the light to the preferred level or adjust ambient temperature to the preferred level.
Bluetooth is a standard for the short-range wireless interconnection of devices. The sensory network solution is ideal for reducing the installation cost associated with sensors in hard to reach spaces and helping to accelerate project delivery. Once placed, the sensors can be used to collect information to optimize energy savings and for space occupancy utilization needs, such as changing room temperature and diming lights once all occupants have left a room. This makes the system install very flexible and future-proofed: sensors can be easily moved around when the space is remodeled, and new sensors can be easily added to monitor additional information within the space.
Just like Bluetooth can be used to collect data from a sensory network, actuator networks can be used to control a variety of devices in many configurations of space such as relays used for switching between voltages, shutting off water valves and connecting LED luminaires, etc. This provides similar benefits of flexibility as mentioned in the other network examples but offers a more customized approach or one specific to the tasks these devices need to perform for the business. The capability still exists to future-proof the space for a remodel and the addition of new devices as needed.
Indoor Positioning Solutions
Bluetooth is best suited technology for indoor positioning solutions (IPS), which can be used in a variety of situations, such as helping someone find their way around a building or location using a mobile app. It is a wireless communication protocol that uses radio waves to transmit data. The strength of waves lessens while going through open air, walls, windows, the human body, and other surroundings. With this unique characteristic, if the signal strength is measured when coming from multiples sensors at a point, the x, y position of an object can be determined. This is similar to a GPS system, but works well for indoor use where GPS doesn’t have good coverage due to low signal strength.
Not Sure Where to Start?
There are different preferences for comfort within a building, and for some hotel and building operators, the goals and objectives for creating more connected building spaces may vary. However, optimizing the hospitality space and providing occupants in those spaces with greater control is probably easier than you’d expect. A bonus is that you don’t have to be an expert on your own to implement these tools as there are qualified system integrators that can help you achieve your goals. HVAC, lighting and sun blinds are the most commonly automated assets within a building. You can choose the level of connectivity based on the needs of your business, with the ability to expand well into the future as the standard technologies and devices of our day to day lives continue to evolve. Afterall, the greatest portion of our lives in spent indoors. So why not make hospitality spaces more efficient and enhance guest experiences in those spaces?
About the Author:
Charles Pelletier joined Distech Controls, an Acuity Brands company, in 2002. Today, as Director of Product Management, he is responsible for leading Distech Controls efforts to develop innovative products and solutions for the building automation and energy management market including the ECLYPSE® Sky Ecosystem platform, which provides Bluetooth® enabled occupant controls for offices and hospitality spaces as well as healthcare and educational buildings. With over 16+ years in BACnet, LonWorks, BACnet IP and other modalities, he empowers customers with modern technology that continuously and successfully delivers value for their facilities.
- Satish Meena, Forrester Blog, The Data Digest: Forrester Forecasts Single-Digit Growth For Global Smartphone Unique Subscribers For The First Time in 2018, March 2018.
- Forrester, Extend IoT Smart Building Solutions To Transform The Workplace, Look Beyond Efficiency For Opportunities To Enhance Worker Experience And Productivity, February 2018.
- Amy Florence, EC&M, Smart Spaces: Electrical contractors partner with integrators to infuse IoT technology into hotels, February 2019.
- IDC Infographic, Challenges of Implementing Connected Building Projects (sponsored by Acuity Brands), 2019.
- 2019 Bluetooth Market Update: https://www.bluetooth.com
- Knud Lasse Lueth, IoT Analytics Blog, State of the IoT 2018: Number of IoT devices now at 7B – Market accelerating, August 8, 2018.