IMAGINE a future where you don’t have to physically hunt for your hotel light switch. Well, maybe that future is already here.
Voice-enabled assistance and voice-assisted devices are gaining momentum in the hotels and hospitality industry, and agents are scrambling to learn about and sell the idea amid growing demand.
At the ITB Asia 2017 trade show in Singapore, Rajat Nagpal, vice president of global supply and data aggregation strategy and Asia Pacific sales at Mystifly, said that hotels must keep up to the emerging trend of voice-assisted devices.
He predicted that hotels (and potentially, serviced apartments) could see guests using voice assistance – with a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) – across an entire day’s worth of work from the moment they rise from bed.
This is kicked off with a voice-assisted morning alarm followed by an automated coffee machine that brews coffee before you even wake up. On the way out, your voice-assisted device can determine your route around town or to a business meeting based on traffic.
As you get back back to your hotel at night, your washing machine can be timed as you go about your night or upon immediate return from a stressful day, and as a bonus, your favorite music can be automated to waft from the speakers.
Two platforms that are being introduced in hotels to assist with this romantic future are Google Home and Amazon Echo (paired with the Alexa operating system), both which are quick, easy and hands-free. Forbes reported that “voice search allows consumers to verbally input their query into devices like smartphones, tablets and voice assistants”.
On top of that, the industry is toying with the idea of virtual voice concierge service, thanks in part to Amazon Echo’s sophisticated voice recognition technology.
Ben Sauer, user experience strategist at Clearleft, said, “Things are changing. Amazon Echo is selling millions… voice recognition is getting much better and it is possible to interrupt it too.”
However, there are challenges when it comes to localized context and diction. “Recognition of words is not the same as understanding the meaning though. With travel, around 80 percent is based on answering basic questions, and 20 percent on complex needs.”
One hotel brand that’s known for being ahead of the game is Starwood’s Aloft. Last year, the brand unveiled voice-activated hotel rooms that allow guests to turn up the air conditioning or dim the lights with simply a verbal command to Siri.
In what was called an industry first, the new technology is the result of Aloft’s top-secret “Project: Jetson” experiment, aimed at providing guests a new way to interact with Siri.
The new feature is complemented with an iPad running a customized Aloft app for controlling the in-room guest experience, as well as HomeKit-enabled accessories to control room temperature, lighting and more.
Eric Marlo, Aloft’s global brand manager who has been spearheading the effort, said, “This seemed like an obvious one. How many times have you come out of a hot shower at your hotel and felt super cold? Now you can adjust the AC just by saying, ‘Hey Siri’.”
As a bonus, the system also acts as a concierge if guests need recommendations of bars, restaurants and attractions. In a bid to keep up, Hilton Worldwide introduced a collaboration with IBM to pilot a smart robot – named Connie – to front their concierge desks and interact with guests at selected properties.