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The latest trends in IoT within your travel experience.
In travel and tourism, there’s a race to become the best, most exclusive space for visitors to want to travel to. From the smart connected hotel of the future to the smart city, and the smartphone that connects the two, the internet of things is fast making a network of interconnectivity that benefits the entire industry. Here we look at seven connected space trends across hospitality and tourism.
Connected keys, which we’ve all had a taste of in some sense, override the cookie-cutter approach to travel. Smartphones, watches and RFID-enabled keys all become the electronic pass to personalized experiences. This makes the experience about what the visitor or tourist aspires to achieve.
In a hotel, this eases arrivals, check-ins, queues and information gathering. It allows guests exclusive access to spas, restaurants and rooms. In the wider city sense, it creates a connected experience where all that is needed to explore is a smartphone.
Any business adopting a mobile-first strategy is likely to have a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting guests. People are used to managing their map, information and booking systems through the smart device or connected key. As mobile data becomes yet cheaper to use in another country and places adapt to the connected keys opportunity, this is a trend that will become even more widespread.
The quest for data is on. If there’s one thing connected spaces are hungry for, it’s data. Sure the lights, beds, alarm clocks and TV systems are all adapting to make the user more comfortable and improve their experience. Yet you can bet on the other side that every nuance of preference is being filed for future reference. Data collection points from within tourism and hospitality are invisible to the guest but super useful to the business in question. This data allows the connected space to adapt as it is used. It finds the guest’s preference and logs it for future reference, just like a really great host would.
As more and more things become connected, the number of customer feedback loops will increase, until eventually personalized travel experiences will become a standard rather than a novelty.
In some hotels now you don’t just call reception, you Whatsapp them instead. Ten years ago, the iPhone was just about coming onto the scene and Facebook was far from a mainstream business tool. Technologies that we use every day are aiding frictionless experiences across hospitality and tourism. Smartphones allow staff to respond to “at that moment” needs from visitors, as well as to alert them to safety or security issues. This creates a seamless way of always being “on” and in touch with guests, without a language barrier.
From a consumer viewpoint, the ease is in the device. New interfaces for controlling the guestroom are emerging, led by tablets and iPads—a device any three year old will happily deploy.
Perhaps the most natural and widely universal technology interface in the guestroom is the TV. Sure, in the past you may have flicked through a few channels looking for your language, but the standard TV has so much more potential.
TVs are so universal that almost everyone knows how to use one. It’s easily the focal point of most hotel room set-ups. With new digital signage technology and voice-activated TV interfaces, it’s already becoming a powerful tool for the guest to work the room, interact with staff and pull up exactly what they want to see.
User activated interfaces (like the TV and tablet) shouldn’t be sold on novelty factor alone. These devices can cut through language barriers in seconds, making a hotel room a blank canvas through which almost any guest can communicate.
How many times have you been on vacation and realized the air conditioning doesn’t work? From locking yourself out of the safe (guilty) to needing more water in the minibar, what if these “things” realized for you?
5.5 million new things supposedly get connected every day. This web of sensors will note anything in your hotel experience, from turning a light on for a midnight bathroom break to predicting potentially life-threatening failures in an airplane’s engine.
By automating personal check-in, the guest gets a good welcome regardless of how busy the front desk is. Each hotel room can provide a personal touch without causing a huge drain on staff members, such as turning the lights on for visitors or adapting the temperature of their room.
Automated maintenance, fixing and (eventually) robot-managed system checks all require less staff and manpower, as well as reducing the chance for human error.
In the wider sense, smart cities will have huge appeal for tourists. Airbnb and Uber are already creating a share storm that makes travel more agile, accessible and a “home away from home” experience. Digital signage, beacon technology and mobile-mapping of cities creates a tour with a difference and an enhanced retail experience.
The smart city, made up of a series of smaller connected spaces, roots tourism deep in data networking and smart building technologies, bringing together every building, landmark, store and restaurant through complex IoT solutions.
The “T” in IoT may stand for "things,” but the real focus here is on the people using those things. Connected spaces utilize technology as the vehicle, but the true aim is to improve the experience of the tourists using them and the people working within them. IoT-enabled spaces have the potential to provide city users (tourists, workers, citizens) with the chance to experience a much deeper relationship with the space around them.
From a shop that sends an offer update to your smartphone as you walk by, to a restaurant that customizes your order dashboard, these spaces are user-centric to provide the ultimate experience.
You can see this already unfolding within cars and homes that are increasingly becoming more user-centric; why would hotels, airports and stores not do the same?
We may find tourists annoying, but in 2016 travel and tourism generated $7.2 trillion to the global economy. That’s nearly 10% of global GDP, plus 284 million jobs to boot.
A significant investment in IoT could significantly increase this. Think about how tourism-related businesses could benefit. Restaurants could become more attuned to the needs of its guests, with self-stacking and serving products and a restaurant ecosystem that saves money at every turn.
Hotels become easier to navigate with smart keys, digital check in boards, robot concierges and more.
Smartphone apps unlock the keys to the city, allowing a tourist (in any language) to navigate their way from A to B, review information on landmarks, and even watch an augmented historical event appear before their eyes.
All of these experiences pose something more useful or exciting for the user. All encourage them to return and make travel a cheaper, easier expenditure. This leads to higher revenue, more jobs and reduced costs.
Another trend across the IoT-enabled future of tourism is where spaces become re-enactions.
Weimar, Germany, is among the cities combining IoT and AR (augmented reality) to wow tourists. By looking through their smartphone camera at, say, a town square, tourists can view photographs and re-enactions of famous scenes over the current space.
Every city has a famous landmark, historic town square or point of interest. Allowing visitors to get a deeper cultural understanding of those spots builds more unity between visitors and these towns.
The tour operator, who while often being wonderful, can usually only operate in one language, may become a personalized smart device. This device can connect with everything the city has to offer: shops, restaurants, landmarks, museums. The information is accessible by all, inexpensive, and not too difficult to expand upon.
Tourists only have to pick and point at the places they want to learn about. Not only can this type of connected technology benefit tourists, but it also becomes a city key for schools, citizens and research projects.
When we unlock the power of IoT within tourism and travel, the spaces and cities become smarter connected spaces. In these spaces, it seems that everything is possible and nothing is too much trouble for the host who knows your every preference, as if by magic. For the discerning traveler, what could create more of a perfect travel experience than that?
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