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07/14/2021

Google, BlueZoo Partner to Provide Telematics for Hotel Buildings

Once only the domain of car insurance, telematics is now being used by hotel insurers to more accurately assess building occupancy-based risk.
Michal Christine Escobar
Senior Editor (Hotels)
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In a recent blog post, Google announced that it is transforming property insurance for hotels by partnering with BlueZoo, a company that has built a new and more accurate way of measuring building occupancy that will reduce insurance costs and improve hotel safety, especially as conferences, meetings and events resume.

Most importantly, privacy is at the foundation of the new technology. Using anonymized WiFi signals from mobile phones and privacy-protected optical sensors enabled by Google Cloud, the company can measure with 99% accuracy things like lighting usage, foot traffic, areas of congestion, and many other risk metrics. While insurers send risk engineers infrequently to assess any particular building, BlueZoo measures risk continuously, making it possible to more accurately price risk or work with building owners to mitigate risk -- all while maintaining privacy. Additionally, the company is able to do this using a device that is approximately the size of a deck of cards.

This technique, "telematics for buildings," is new.  Traditionally, "telematics" was only used in auto insurance where sensors have been used to characterize driver safety. Measuring occupancy is valuable both to measure space utilization and occupancy-based risk.  Technologies from Google are just now making possible the sensors to measure occupancy in a manner that is GDPR-compliant.

To learn more about why hoteliers may be interested in this technology, Hospitality Technology spoke with Bill Evans, CEO of BlueZoo.

Why should hoteliers care about this technology from a revenue standpoint?

Hoteliers care about this technology for two reasons: (1) space utilization and (2) risk management/reduction.  If a common area in a hotel (e.g. recreation area) is not showing high utilization, the hotel can/should repurpose the area to be something that the guests find useful and will contribute to revenue.  If ballrooms or bars are overcrowded at the risk of safe occupancy, hoteliers should mitigate these risks to reduce risk to guests. 

Insurers care about occupancy data because hotels that have overcrowded conditions (e.g. surging crowds in the bar late at night, or in ballrooms during Thursday-night bingo) are higher risks. If a hotelier can demonstrate that their properties are not high-risk, they can qualify for reduced insurance premiums from their insurer which goes direct to the bottom line.

Consider this, insurers today rely on proxies like "number of rooms" or "annual revenues" or "floor area" to price premiums.  Risks like slip-and-fall and limited egress closely correlate to human occupancy than to these traditional metrics.  Insurers are looking for ways to better measure their risk so they can distinguish low-risk properties from high-risk properties. 

Once low-risk properties have been identified, insurers can offer lower rates to owners of such properties...and still gain market share and improve margins.  When high-risk properties are identified, insurers can (a) raise rates to match the risk, (b) work with owners to mitigate risks, and/or (c) leave owners to be insured by carriers with less information.  When risks are more accurately measured, insurance rates will decline for most properties.

Currently, BlueZoo sells to insurance companies that install these sensors in hotels. However, it thinks the process can be inverted, where hotels install the sensors, collect the data to demonstrate that their properties are well-managed and that risks are low, and then shop around for better insurance rates using occupancy data as leverage.

Why should hoteliers care about this technology from a guest experience standpoint?

Hoteliers, insurers, and guests all want a safe environment. Often, hotel management does not know when a space is overcrowded.  Banquet supervisors, motivated to sell more food, may not be ready to report over-capacity conditions in banquet facilities. BlueZoo sensors allow hotel management a mechanism to consistently measure occupancy, comparing measurements over time and across properties.