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10/10/2016

Voice Command Key to Frictionless Hotel Experience

I love to try new interactions, whether it’s with a person or a new operating system. However, I know that’s not what our guests want. Guests want room interactions to be simple and consistent. When we create barriers to these experiences, we drive guests to frustration.

Before investing in in-room technology, we should first look at what is happening with device loyalty in the market. People are fiercely devoted to their smartphones and often have developed a personal technological ecosystem around that device. If people are unwilling to switch smartphone operating systems does it seem likely that they’ll want to spend time figuring out how to order room service with their TV remote or use a proprietary tablet to change the thermostat?

Voice is the key  
Star Trek predicted the solution to in-room technology upgrades in the sixties. When Captain Kirk wanted to use a computer, he added the voice prompt “computer” and the Enterprise listened and responded. Hotel guests need to talk to their room and the room needs to listen.

It’s difficult to see where the voice revolution began. However, we know that Google phones have had some level of voice recognition for most of this decade. Apple added Siri soon after, and now we have Cortana and Alexa. Every iteration of these services is getting better at communicating with people and responding with pertinent information.

Imagine walking into a hotel room and with the simple voice prompt of “room,” the lights turn on, the TV turns to ESPN, and the thermostat changes to 68 degrees. With a voice-activated setup, a guest could order room service or a wakeup call, all in their native language without having to learn a new operating system.

Bots could make this even better, as they are being built to replace some of the standard interactions that would require a staff member.

Integration & connectivity
For voice-activated in-room technology to work, the hotel’s infrastructure is going to need some upgrading. The HVAC system will have to be on a network so it is able to change on command. Entertainment systems will need to be able to talk to the voice control network in order to change channels or volume as requested. Point of sale systems will need to plug into the bot that is taking orders. Everything will need to be connected. There will need to be a hub in the room that will talk to systems and further connect to the systems in other areas of the hotel and likely the cloud.

This connectivity means that hotels can now control rooms. Imagine being able to close all of the south-facing window shades in Phoenix at 10 a.m. to conserve air conditioning, or having the ability to detect once the guest has left the room. Adding personal device interaction and other features can make this even more robust. Now a room knows a guest is gone because their cell GPS just pinged outside the corridor, or knows a guest is coming back because they just got off the elevator. The possibilities are endless.


What was your first job?
Posting those annoying fliers on cars in supermarket parking lots.

First “real” job — cook at Kentucky Fried Chicken

Who inspires you?
My boys

What are your hobbies?
Beer: brewing, history, tasting, collecting.
Tailgating

What technologies excite you?
On a personal level: voice automation and untethered solutions for tailgating.

Sage Advice:
In everything you do make sure it is either improving the guest experience, reducing costs, or increasing revenue; otherwise it is in vain. 

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