The hospitality industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. From hotels to restaurants, everyone is scrambling to figure out reduced contact or contactless solutions. These often revolve around technology integrations, which can completely transform an experience. While many of these solutions were already on the market, the pandemic has expedited digital transformation in the restaurant industry, and we’ll see rapid deployment of technology adoption for hospitality continue throughout 2021. Here are a few predictions to keep top of mind.
Contactless payment and kiosks
To reduce interactions, IoT solutions in contactless payment and kiosks will see a surge in adoption. While things like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and ordering/check-in kiosks are already in place, more restaurants and hotels will start offering these options. You’ll see integration from both the customer and service provider side. More customers will install payment services on their phones to avoid touching payment consoles or handing their credit cards to another person, and hospitality providers who had been holding out on upgrading their technology will take the opportunity to do so now. The raise of minimum wage may also impact headcount, and kiosks may be tapped to pick up the slack in those situations.
Camera technology will see a boom as we try to minimize contact across the board for both customers and workers. 3D camera technology will become more relevant, and solutions such as Intels RealSense will be implemented to help reduce crowding in storage areas and keep track of stock. Facial recognition software may be utilized to control access to certain areas as well as remove the need for a physical person to check IDs. Gesture technology will also be integrated to enable swipe-without-touch solutions on menus, kiosks, in the kitchen where order displays will become touch-free and even via restaurant bump bars.
Hotels and restaurants alike are looking for ways to create and maintain an experience. Customers aren’t just looking for food or a place to sleep, they are looking to return to a sense of normal and a return to the experiences they miss. IoT connected wake phrase technology, saying a phrase to engage with technology, will become one way in which we return to experiences. Many are already familiar with the ability to ask a question with phrases such as, “Hey Google” and “Hey Alexa.” This type of hands-free wake phrase technology could be used in hotels to assist guests, instead of having them pick up the phone to call the front desk or venture to the concierge counter. These voice-activated assistants could help guests with everything from check in/out, room service orders and even be programed for local sight-seeing information. Hotels will likely want their own private network, so look for them to move away from services like Amazon Cloud and to create their own cloud-based network solutions.
Cold chain solutions
Supply chain issues will likely continue into 2021. Delays are to be expected but can cause problems when transporting cold items. Food for restaurants needs to travel from the supplier to the distribution warehouse and finally to the restaurant. They want the freshest ingredients in the shortest amount of time. For cold items, there’s additional parameters to consider as the food must be kept at safe temperatures. IoT gateway devices that monitor truck refrigeration will become more common. To reduce head count in trucks and prevent waste, these devices will allow transportation companies to set cooling and temperature parameters, with an alert to the driver if there is a change. This automated solution will eliminate the need for someone to constantly go back and check temperatures, as well as make sure there is no waste from spoiled food.
IoT drives trends
All of these technology solutions come with the ability to also collect and analyze data. Not only do these technology integrations help us keep guests and workers safe, but they allow us to tap into predictive analytics, helping the hospitality industry better service and anticipate the needs of guests individually and as a group. This might mean having a standard order ready at a restaurant kiosk, anticipating the needs of guests or simply preventing food waste which lowers operating expenditures. These devices will help restaurants and hotels intelligently reduce costs while also improving customer satisfaction with a return to the experience. From contactless payment and kiosks, camera technology, wake-phrase integrations and cold chain solutions, they all offer something practical, as well as provide deeper insights into the hospitality model.
About the Author
Russ Embree is a senior key account manager who supports the retail/hospitality vertical at Advantech. With over 30 years of industry experience in both the medical and retail, Embree understands the business challenges unique to these industries and how to provide solutions to their ever-changing demands. At Advantech, Embree supports the retail space by driving business in the hospitality and restaurant verticals, which include platforms and solutions for KDS, Kiosks, POS, Signage and Edge AI.