I attended HITEC in Houston this past week. For those of you not familiar with the event, it is our industry’s leading trade show devoted to technology. According to the HITEC website, this year’s show included 397 exhibitors. Many of those exhibitors featured new guestroom energy management technologies. There were a few other companies at the show with products fitting into the health and wellness space—air and water purifiers, sound masking systems, etc. I will be writing an article summarizing the numerous HITEC announcements in the coming days. Watch for it on the Green Lodging News website.
Most of my attention at HITEC was on guestroom energy management systems. According to the 2016 Lodging Survey, a joint production of AHLA, STR and AHLEF, 48 percent of respondents indicated having energy management sensors in the guestroom, up from 28 percent in 2014. I suspect the real number is lower than 48 percent. Hotels closer to the luxury end of the market are most likely to have them (80 percent in luxury according to the survey). Only 15 percent of economy properties have them. Interestingly, one of the vendors I spoke with at HITEC told me his company still chats with hoteliers who do not know guestroom energy management systems even exist.
If you walked into HITEC and happened to be one of those people who knows nothing about guestroom energy management technology, you would be quite overwhelmed. The good news is that these sensor-based systems are becoming “simpler,” more user-friendly, smarter, less intrusive, can more easily be integrated with other systems in the guestroom—everything from the clock to the lighting to the drapes—and thanks to devices such as the Amazon Echo, can be spoken to in order to change temperature, lighting and other systems that consume energy.
Voice Activation Systems
During HITEC, Amazon introduced Alexa for Hospitality using the Amazon Echo. It is available to hospitality providers by invitation, with Marriott International introducing the new Alexa experience at select properties in Marriott Hotels, Westin Hotels & Resorts, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, Aloft Hotels, and Autograph Collection Hotels starting this summer. With technology like Alexa for Hospitality, a guest can request just about anything using voice.
Voice activation is certainly one direction the industry is going, and Alexa for Hospitality is a perfect example of a system that is built to integrate with existing hotel technologies. Amazon is not the only company offering voice-activation systems.
An ongoing trend within guestroom energy management technology is the expansion of available data from sensors throughout the building—sensors talking to one another and providing a “live” view of HVAC, lighting and other activity at the property or enterprise level. This information, provided in “dashboard” form, shows deviations in activity that could negatively impact the guest experience. It also provides timely details to assist with preventive maintenance, asset management and other tasks. Enhanced guestroom energy management systems introduced at HITEC this year also provide more robust reporting capabilities.
At HITEC I was struck by how the ongoing evolution of guestroom energy management and related systems is changing and will change guestroom and building design. Thermostats certainly have classier designs and bedside tablets and voice activation systems are eliminating the need for switches. How a building is wired is certainly changing thanks to sensors and wireless technologies.
The smart guestroom is certainly here. How hoteliers and travelers will keep up with it all will be interesting to follow.
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