Would automated hotel check-in rock, or suck?
Would automated hotel check-in rock, or suck?
You can IoT-automate customer service all you like, but a human smile is tough to replace. Image Source: Adrian Bridgwater

Would automated hotel check-in rock, or suck?

The late spring/early summer technology conference season is underway around the planet and, for many in the sector, that means hotels, economy flights and a general lack of sleep. So would a deeper degree of IoT-driven automation at check-in make lives better, or perhaps just that little bit worse?

Red-eye routines

Picture the scene: you’ve just finished a four-day IT show slog in Las Vegas (enjoyable, but hard work) and you route via Los Angeles on an overnight ‘red-eye’ connection to Orlando for the next tech shindig.

You get into Orlando on time, but you have effectively lost a night’s sleep, most of your body’s natural  energy resources and, in part at last, the general will to live.

You make it to your hotel, but it’s 10am and most hotelier are pretty reluctant to allow people to check-in at this early hour. The friendly front desk clerk in the Hyatt Regency Orlando (we’ll call him Melvin, because that’s his name) does his best and actually gets you a room by around 11am. He offers free water, somewhere to sit, showers in the spa/gym area and his human heartfelt sympathy for a rough night.

Would any of this experience have been better if we could have automated it?

Hi there! Welcome to Hotel IoT

With the IoT pushing to extend automation intelligence into every corner of our lives, it’s natural that we should be discussing how far we bring digital management to the hotel business. We’re accustomed to using ‘kiosk’ computers at airports, so shouldn’t hotel check-ins be given a higher degree of computer control?

David Jones thinks the answer to this question is yes. Jones is founder of 2b Acting, a digital media and theater company specializing in Selective Interactive Videos (SIV). Writing on HPE’s Business Value Exchange, Jones has ‘penned’ a piece entitled 5 Reasons Why Hotels Should Utilize An Automated Concierge Service.

“As the automated concierge service is new to the hospitality industry, it is serving to push new areas of creativity, which in turn is inspiring novel approaches to how things can be done going forward. This is shaking up the day to day routine of work, leading to a re-invigoration and motivation of delivery teams,” writes Jones.

This is essentially an extension of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) theory, where hotel guest lifestyle preferences are held and hotel amenities are tuned to match each guest. Those preferences might be held within specific hotel membership schemes, or (where privacy controls allow) be accessible from wider user-profile data, such as a person’s airline or even their shopping club or banking profiles.

Jones thinks that it’s all good news and that new revenue streams will abound. “You [the hoteliers] will be able to raise income through selling advertising space, increased networking, hosting industry showcases and creating new events,” writes Jones.

Read more: IBM’s Watson delivering robot hospitality at Hilton hotels

Lack of humanity in neuromarketing?

Admittedly, Jones is talking about automated concierges, not check-in functions. But the two are close bedfellows. Would IoT data-driven automation of either of these functions leave us feeling the lack of a warm welcome? Especially at 10am on an overnight red-eye routine, surely we need a fellow human being to work on a more interpersonal level than any computer can ever provide?

Jones notes that automation at this level is at the forefront of emerging strategies introducing aspects such as neuromarketing. This is the field that applies the principles of neuroscience to marketing research, studying consumers’ sensorimotor, cognitive and affective response to marketing stimuli.

You know the answer already: Neuromarketing-fuelled IoT-connected functions are coming to your hotel experience soon, whether you like it or not.

Yeah, but can they get you an early check-in in Orlando when the maid on the 18th floor has a sore back and needs an extra 15 minutes to get your room ready?

Melvin can. We love Melvin.

Read more: HotSchedules and Kitchen Brains serve up IoT kitchens