Controlling the Room
Over the last few weeks I’ve been taking a look at changes to digital strategy for hotels post COVID-19. We’ve already highlighted the requirement for digitising huge parts of the guest journey. Solutions such as digital key and online check-in will move from being the preserve of the few, to the requirements of all. Taking forward the idea that successful digital strategy is led by integration we’re going to move on from the booking and check in phase of the guest journey, to in-stay. I have of course touched on TV systems before, looking at some of the options for replacing those oft handled remote controls. This time, I’m going to take a deeper dive into some of the other controls within the room.
Just to recap what I said in previous weeks. In hospitality like many other industries, systems integration is important. For a joined-up guest experience we must have joined up systems, of that we are sure. By hopping on the service bus, as I explained it, we can use middleware to allow once disparate systems to communicate with each other effectively, regardless of location. If you would like to read a little bit more about systems integration and enterprise service bus architecture, check out the previous article here.
The Smart room, or room of the future has existed in Hospitality for some time. The rush to implement smart room features has increased in pace over recent years, but nothing with ‘put the pedal to the metal’, like the impact of Coronavirus, COVID-19. Where once smart room features were the preserve of the most luxury hotels, or those perhaps targeted at Millennial guests, COVID-19 will cause this to shift. As I’ve said many times before, the new normal, when it returns, will be one of caution amongst even the most seasoned of traveller, regardless of age or experience. Now, with a desire to reduce physical touch points at each part of their everyday life. Those luxury rooms used to focus on technology that would go above and beyond expectation. A/C that could be set on the TV, electronically controlled drapes or blinds, and mood lighting. The shift we are experiencing here though, will see us making the most ordinary of controls smart. Also, when it comes to cleaning, is the average cleaner really focusing on the switches and controls? After all, in the post COVID-19 world of travel, hotels will have the most stringent cleaning and sanitation procedures in place for sure, but will these stretch as far as cleaning every switch, dial and socket? Or will they be more likely used on carpets, bedding and the bathroom? I can hazard a guess!
The Smart Room of the Future
The smart room of the future is perhaps a misleading sub-heading. The smart room of now would be better. The smart room of now must focus on reducing the physical touch points, and any area that can harbour bacteria or a virus. This means we must replace traditional controls with those that offer multiple ways to control, wipe clean surfaces, and flat panels. In this article I bring you a few of my ideas. In the coming weeks I’ll share some even more advanced ideas that take the room from smart, to intelligent!
Light switches are a common physical touchpoint in a hotel room. So, moving them to a smart solution is obvious. However, in my opinion, there’s nothing as easy to use as a simple rocker switch for controlling lights. The problem with rocker switches is not only the number of times they are contacted, but also the fact they have small gaps, in which bacteria can survive. As a result, any smart implementation for lighting must give the guest options. Point one is a flat panel touch sensitive switch, with a wipe clean glass surface. Number two is to integrate this with smart features using the service bus architecture we have been discussing. Number three, as always, is having that packet of alcohol wipes near to the switch! By going with those 3 options you satisfy many types of guest. I for one would be very happy to control lighting via an app on my smartphone, however this isn’t for everyone. Those flat panel switches with no gaps that are easily cleanable, and with the provided wipes, will make even the least technically inclined guest happy, along with allowing housekeeping staff to apply a high level of cleaning practice to them.
Smart Heating & Air Conditioning
Smart heating & air conditioning require the same approach as the switches. I won’t recap everything we just said, but you can be sure that points one, two and three all apply here. However, combining the heating and air conditioning controls with a central system, using service bus architecture, allows your hotel to avoid physical touch points, and be environmentally friendly. For the guests that wish to use it, integration enables the room to be set just how the guest would like it, when the guest wants it and without having to hunt for the thermostat. The same app or page that grants digital check in and digital key could also allow the room to be set just so. With an arrival time, and preferred temperature, the room can lay dormant until the guest requires it but be just perfect for when they arrive. This way of working not only reduces physical touch points but reduces energy bills. Happy guests, greener environment. That sounds like a win-win to me!
The Bus Journey is Longer
As I said over the last few weeks, this is just another small application of service bus. In future articles I will be looking at many more applications that can help hotels get the most from technology. Most importantly, keeping that personal touch and high level of communication which keeps your guests coming back. Until then, take care and stay safe!