The IoT for a Smarter Hotel Stay

Editor’s Note: A huge thanks to our guest blogger, Beth Kotz, who wrote this outstanding piece about how the Internet of Things is transforming travel. Beth Kotz is a freelance finance and tech writer with a strong interest in artificial intelligence and its vast potential for society. A graduate of DePaul University, she is currently based out of Chicago, Ill.

The Internet, and its vast potential for all types of connection, has already ushered in a new era of travel. Disrupting both the industry and the experience itself, online services continue to profoundly impact everything about the way we work, vacation, and use new technology devices.

The Internet grew up as a linking force between individual people. It created the possibility of speaking with someone across the world about a hotel room, or spotting a couch to surf, without ever moving from home.

Now, however, the game is changing again. Today the Internet is beginning to extend from people into “things” – formerly analog devices like televisions, microwaves, even cars, are starting to join the conversation. As the fledgling Internet of Things takes off in popularity and functionality, it will change the travel landscape all over again.

The IoT refers to the growing network of interconnected devices that can “talk” to each other, automatically exchanging information without having to be directed by humans. While the number of flesh-and-blood people who use the Internet is capped by the size of the global population, about 7.5 billion, there’s no such restriction on the number of computing platforms that can do so. In fact, a report from Business Insider estimates that there are already 10 billion pieces of hardware using the internet of things, and this number is predicted to jump to 34 billion by 2020.

The widening web of “smart” things will open the door to more personalized, custom-tailored services than is possible or practical today. While this may first sound like a mechanical or dehumanizing development, what the IoT primarily does is promote the formation of stronger person-to-person connections and higher levels of customer satisfaction. Just as many personnel work industriously at hotels, airlines and cruise ships right now to make guests’ experiences relaxing and rewarding, so too will the new crew of Internet-enabled software in the future.

We’ve already begun to see cutting-edge technology at work in this effort. Keyless door entry frees people from having to fiddle with small plastic cards while making it a breeze to replace lost keys and move guests to different rooms. Conveniences like this are merely a foretaste of what is to come.

As vacationers get their bearings in their new surroundings and sample the various amenities provided by the house, the facilities will take steps to fulfill their desires. If you’re on the paleo diet and you sit down to enjoy a meal, you may be presented with a special list of menu items that comply with your dietary restrictions. After a day spent checking out the local attractions, you could return to your rooms and discover that your favorite television program from home is able to be automatically streamed in-room.

But the IoT is also important for other reasons. In the travel industry, going “green” and promoting sustainability is a major concern. When building infrastructure and devices are able to share data between them, they’re able to alert managers where power is lost and wasted. Energy optimizations driven by connected smart thermostats, motion sensing lighting systems and centralized monitoring panels are causing big changes behind the scenes, helping to reduce electricity use and utility expenses.

More automatic room service and luggage handling, as well as shipping and logistical processes, also stand to benefit from new machine-to-machine interactions. And smarter security systems, including surveillance cameras capable of analyzing images and faces in real time, have a growing role to play in discouraging theft and other criminal activity.

Thought leaders in the travel sector are still in the midst of discovering new ways to benefit from the increasingly sophisticated technology propelling the growing Internet of Things. As the landscape continues to shift and change, one thing remains certain: the availability of greater knowledge – be it from humans or machines – will always empower us to make better decisions about our future.

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