Contactless technology solutions continue to appear within hospitality technology as hoteliers and guests seek to reduce the spread of germs. One way to implement a contactless solution is by allowing hotel guests to do everything, from holding valet tickets and controlling elevators to changing the television channel and ordering room service, via their cell phones. One company enabling this type of technology for the hotel industry is Minfo, whose app uses audio technology. Minfo assigns unique audio files to every button on every Minfo-enabled device, so when someone presses a button in the Minfo app, the app sends that audio file to the device to tell it what to do. To learn more about this app, HT talked with Roland Storti, CEO, Minfo.
Where did the idea for Minfo come from?
The idea for Minfo was conceived on a dark, wet afternoon in Melbourne, Australia in 2011. I was driving home in heavy traffic, listening to the radio. I heard an advertisement and wanted to buy the product, but couldn’t write the number down while driving. I was stuck in traffic and a call or two later, I could not remember the brand. For me, it was annoying, but for the advertiser it was a lost sale. With that, I thought: “What if I could press a button or use voice commands to get more info sent to my phone?” I immediately contacted my would-be co-founder, Geoff Gwillim, and we launched Minfo to give people the ability to communicate immediately with products and services touchlessly. The name Minfo comes from a combination of: more info, mobile info, and my info.
The app’s capabilities have expanded since then and it now serves as a convenient universal app, letting users control devices from their phones. The world has been transitioning to contactless interactions in recent years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for touchless technology to reduce hygiene anxiety and the spread of germs.
At many points of sale, you can already make contactless payments with smartphones and smart watches or contactless debit and credit cards. However, these transactions are done within an inch of a device and touch is still everywhere, including at almost every point of the hotel journey. Valet, check-in, elevators, door keys, room lights and thermostats, TVs and remote controls, and phones all require physical touch and can be sources of germ transmission, but Minfo aims to address that, plus you can pay for anything from socially-distanced safety, unlike near-field communication (NFC).
How can Minfo help hotels offer a contactless experience?
Minfo is designed to operate as a standalone app that guests download and use on their phones, which hotels and brands can very easily integrate with. To enable guests to interact with and control points of sale, elevators, door keys, room lights and thermostats, TV remote controls, phones and room service, and valet or luggage tickets with the Minfo app, hotels partner with Minfo to integrate their devices. Minfo will work with partnering hotel groups to deliver their branding along with the Minfo user experience. It currently integrates with Oracle micros and others we can’t name yet.
Using Minfo to deliver guests touch-free functionality means hotels are able to derive network benefits by interacting with and cross-promoting other local businesses who also use the Minfo app, meaning you can deliver additional value to your guests during their stay and potentially generate new revenue streams.
How does it work?
The Minfo app uses sound, both audible and inaudible, to achieve connection and interaction between users and content. Think of it as an Audio QR code or dog whistle that lets people connect with the Minfo App to control Minfo-enabled devices and/or instantly access More Info. When a user approaches a Minfo-enabled device, also known as a Minfo Zone, employing inaudible sound, they simply open the Minfo app to connect to it and control it.
The process of integrating hotel devices with Minfo is simple. A tiny MP3 player is installed in each device, and each button on that device is assigned a unique audio file. When a guest presses a button in the Minfo app for a particular Minfo-enabled device, the app sends that unique audio file to the MP3 player inside the device to tell it what to do.
Contactless payment standards like NFC, used by Apple Pay and Samsung Pay and widely adopted, will help reduce the spread of germs in the “new normal” world but have a maximum range of 10 centimeters. This is a widely used payment process outside the U.S., however, there are issues with credit card and NFC skimming using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. Minfo’s audio technology, unlike NFC, allows customers to pay from up to seven feet away and only opens up a secure connection when they want to make a payment, providing greater security and opening a host of social distancing possibilities.
This reduces hygiene anxiety and keeps guests and staff safe by reducing touch points and potential contamination points. It can also reduce physical damage or maintenance costs incurred by guests using pens, steel gadgets or other new devices being created to help people avoid pressing buttons. Best of all, it makes guests’ stays more comfortable and convenient.
Does Minfo have any hotel clients yet?
Hotels recognize that reducing the spread of germs will be a huge part of re-attracting guests as the world enters its new normal. With that in mind, interest in and demand for the germ reduction and convenience offered by Minfo has grown significantly since the pandemic began, and Minfo is in advanced talks with several global hotel brands to integrate their devices with its technology. There can also be significant cost savings and positive impacts on the environment with small behavioral changes that would have been extremely difficult to implement prior to COVID-19.