Digital transformation is happening across every industry in every type of facility, allowing businesses to achieve operational efficiency, improve productivity, and enhance building occupant and customer experiences. Hospitality is one industry where transformation is no longer an option. Hotels increasingly rely on digital technologies to satisfy guests, reduce operational costs, and improve their carbon footprint to remain competitive and relevant. But those technologies must also be affordable to deploy, simple to manage, and scale. Thankfully, new innovations are making it easier and more cost-effective than ever for hotels to transform.
The Changing Face of Hospitality
The pandemic forced hotels to keep guests and staff safe, which prompted the adoption of digital technologies such as contactless check-in and room service and automated cleaning and sanitation processes. The hospitality industry is now showing signs of recovery, with hotel occupancy projected to reach pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023. However, the expectations of today’s travelers, inflation, and labor shortages are putting more pressure on hotels to reach a whole new level of digital transformation.
While contactless solutions adopted during the pandemic have become must-haves for today’s travelers, hotels now face an increased demand for digital technologies that provide guests with a more convenient, comfortable, safe, and secure experience. These evolving guest expectations have much to do with demographic shifts—tech-savvy millennials now comprise more than 50% of the world’s hotel guests. According to a recent hospitality report by Oracle Hospitality that surveyed thousands of consumers, 73% of travelers want to use their mobile device to manage their hotel experience, 43% want voice-activated control of room amenities, and 25% want room controls that automatically adjust temperature, lighting, and other environmental settings based on their personal preferences.
At the same time, hotel owners and operators strive to streamline operations and improve efficiency to reduce the cost of running their business and comply with sustainability initiatives. More than 80% of hospitality venues reported experiencing a staffing shortage this year, requiring hotels to increase wages and do more with less. Hotels also face rising energy prices and the need to reduce carbon emissions. With 24-hour, 365-day operations, hotels are among the highest energy and water consumers per square foot, with the average guest room incurring more than $2,000 in energy costs annually. The International Tourism Partnership says that the hotel industry must reduce carbon emissions by 66% by 2030 and 90% by 2050 to stay in line with the Paris Climate Change Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
The Rise of the Smart Hotel
Hotels are turning to the increasing number of digital solutions hitting the market to overcome the challenges of labor shortages, rising costs, global warming, and evolving guest expectations. In addition to mobile check-in/check-out platforms, keyless room entry, and automated housekeeping and maintenance processes spurred by the pandemic, more hotels are adopting smart technology to enhance the guest experience and improve operational efficiency.
Smart hotels leverage IoT-powered devices for monitoring and controlling temperature, lighting, entertainment, and other room amenities based on occupancy, daylight, personal guest preferences, and other data. Guests can easily control lighting, climate, blinds, multimedia, and other room devices from in-room digital control panels and mobile apps to suit their preferences and ensure maximum comfort. Many hotel automation systems allow guests to preset personalized “scenes” based on activity or time of day. Frequent travelers can even save their scenes, allowing them to enter a hotel room with their personal settings already applied. Guests can also use control panels or a mobile app to request and schedule services. Some hotels are even experimenting with robots, like Connie the robot concierge at the Hilton, Yobot at Yotel’s New York location that automatically collects and delivers luggage, and Dash at the San Jose Crowne Plaza that delivers snacks, toiletries, and other amenities.
Smart technologies don’t just enhance the guest experience. Hotel management can leverage smart sensors and devices to improve efficiency and reduce costs. For example, lights can automatically turn off and temperature can adjust when rooms are unoccupied to reduce energy consumption. Hotel management can even remotely access room controls to ensure the ideal temperature for guest arrival, saving time and labor by eliminating the need to send staff to rooms to make adjustments. These systems also allow hospitals to monitor, report, and regulate water or energy use for improved efficiency and sustainability. Smart technology also remotely monitors the performance and operating status of electronic devices, lights, plumbing, and other systems to improve maintenance and quickly address problems before they hinder the guest experience. In addition, data collected via IoT-powered sensors and devices gives hotels a better understanding of guest preferences, occupancy, bookings, cancellations, and other trends they can leverage to enhance or add services, anticipate guest needs on future visits, and make personalized recommendations.
Innovation Simplifies Deployment
In a smart hotel, each room requires multiple devices—sensors, controls, switches, and LED lights—that all need connectivity and power. It’s not uncommon for a smart hotel room to have as many as 25 different devices. With power over Ethernet (PoE) providing both connectivity and power, it is rapidly becoming the go-to infrastructure solution for these deployments. However, deploying and connecting dozens of nodes per room is expensive from both a material and labor perspective, requiring multiple cables and conduit. The added cables and conduit also encompass a lot of copper and steel, which is not exactly in keeping with hotel sustainability initiatives. In existing hotels undergoing digitalization, there is also often not enough existing conduit space to deploy cables to each node. As technology advances, the number of smart devices, sensors, and controls will only increase, requiring additional nodes and cables. So how can hotels overcome this challenge? Enter the Inspextor SuperNode.
Manufactured by MHT Technologies, the Inspextor SuperNode is a small, easy-to-deploy node that serves as a junction box for integrating and providing connectivity and power to multiple devices, sensors, and controls within a space. With a PoE-enabled network input, the SuperNode can be easily installed in the ceiling and connected via a single Ethernet cable, eliminating the need to install multiple nodes and cables for each room. The SuperNode features eight analog inputs and outputs for connecting and powering lights, control panels, occupancy sensors, and any other smart hotel room device via short in-room connections. Inputs and outputs can be mapped within the SuperNode to allow any input to control multiple outputs, such as one switch controlling multiple LED lights. In addition to the eight inputs and outputs, the SuperNode includes an RS-485 input to accommodate devices connected via a traditional serial bus link. As an alternative to PoE power, an additional DC power input is also available for receiving power from renewable energy sources such as photovoltaic window coatings.
While it may seem like a simple device that only provides connectivity and power, the SuperNode is so much more. The SuperNode is backed by the Inspextor smart building technology platform that provides integrated system-wide control functionality for users to adjust environmental settings and create custom scenes from in-room control panels and a mobile app. It even supports RGBW lighting controls for hotel guests to set the vibe with custom lighting colors. Through the Inspextor platform, hotels can monitor real-time variables about room conditions, occupancy, and access control to learn how people use the space. With Inspextor, hotel operations can monitor energy consumption to help identify opportunities for reduction and savings based on usage and occupancy data. They can even set and track energy goals and create policies to automatically control variables that help reach those goals and streamline operations. The SuperNode is well suited for any similar environment requiring individual room controls—from assisted living facilities and hospitals to commercial offices, university dormitories, and multi-dwelling residential units.
Sinclair Digital is pleased to partner with MHT Technologies and add the Inspextor SuperNode to AGILE-CORETM, to our complete line of advanced DC-powered intelligent building solutions for luxury hospitality venues to provide the ultimate guest experience while saving money on both capital and operational costs and helping achieve sustainability goals. We are currently undergoing trial deployments of the SuperNode in two smart hotels, with plans for a full product launch in early 2024. Stay tuned!