October 10, 2022

Hotel Technology Highlights: Hotel Concierge and Room-Service Robots

By Jeremy Pate
New and Innovative Hotel Technology Products

Overall, hotel technology products continue evolving in ways no one could foresee several years ago. Hotel technology can now truly enhance a guest’s experience, whether a smart hospitality TV packed with the latest streaming apps or voice-activated smart devices in the room. The only question is how hoteliers and property managers integrate new technology into their current IT stack.

If property managers do it well, the guest experience will improve significantly, and visitors will never know how much work went into the back-end systems to deliver the services they’ve come to expect from world-class hotels. Indeed, the idea is to enable a seamless tech experience to complement a personalized hotel experience. The guest’s experience immediately tilts into the negative if the tech doesn’t work as promised.

Whatever hotel tech must be simple to use, it’s also helpful to have a few automation tools at your fingertips. Certain hotel technology products are catching up sooner than others. Hotel concierge robots and room-service robots are now active at many properties around the world. Let’s take a closer look at these trends to give you a better idea of what’s available.

Hotel technology products evolving the guest experience

Artificial intelligence has more potential than you might assume. It’s not a technology you only see in science-fiction films because machine learning is now a reality, and the AI platforms that accomplish complex tasks are improving every day. As a matter of fact, you use AI-enabled software every day if you search Google or post social media on Facebook. Initially, the algorithms for those two platforms weren’t based on artificial intelligence. Yet today, AI tech is integral to the latest advances.

So, what’s the takeaway for hoteliers? The short answer is that there are many opportunities to enhance and optimize guest services in novel ways. The addition of robots to the hotel IT stack only makes sense since the missing piece to the puzzle was always the underlying AI software. If guests are to feel comfortable talking to a machine, the little mechanical concierge must have human-like interactions, none of which is possible without modern artificial intelligence software.

Still, the main idea is that hotel technology will improve a guest experience if it’s efficient and effective while minimizing manual tasks and limiting human-to-human contacts. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, self-service and contactless payments have stepped to the fore, but now, you can add robots to the hotel IT stack too. The challenge will always be integrating all of this new technology into a manageable system that works as intended when a guest wants to use it.

One quick example is the development of WiFi 6 technology. While 5G mobile networks have received the lion’s share of the publicity, WiFi 6 has the most potential to improve hotel technology services. Why? One of the biggest downsides of hotel-wide WiFi has always been inconsistent and weak connectivity room-to-room and floor-to-floor. Some hotel brands made the proper investments in networking hardware to embed more equipment throughout the building to improve WiFi; however, others took a bargain approach and only added minimal networking gear.

But with the advent of hotel tech like WiFi 6, faster WiFi will be available to a much broader market. The result could be that more hotels adopt the technology en masse once guests respond positively. Best of all, WiFi 6 can be implemented without tearing down the entire network, so the guest can hop from access point to access point seamlessly without losing a single megabit. The hotel’s WiFi 6 connection may actually be stronger and faster than what a guest is accustomed to having, which only makes their stay more enjoyable.

That’s a quick rundown of the type of tech products that are catching on in the hospitality industry, but hotel concierge robots and hotel-room service robots take things to the next level.

Hotel concierge robots

If you believe that robots have no place in hotels, think again because many hotels have them in service at this very moment – and guests are responding to them wonderfully. Also, think about the hospitality industry this way. How efficient could your property be if you could automate as many manual tasks as possible, especially the personalized services that guests expect the moment they walk into the building?

The answer is that the property can become significantly more efficient, and you get the benefit of creating a unique value proposition too. Hotel concierge robots may be on the cusp of widespread deployment, but the tech isn’t quite there yet. The good news is that hotel technology products are evolving faster than you might expect, and the most effective use cases are becoming clear.

One success story is the Sheraton Los Angeles San Gabriel Hotel. The property uses robots for everything from greeting guests to handling their luggage. In other words, hotel concierge robots have automated many of the time-consuming, labor-intensive tasks that humans used to perform. That’s a prime example of where the quick wins lie. At the Sheraton L.A., robots give guests directions, offer room service, and guests respond positively to the added perks.

The result is that hotel staff can focus on the activities that make a guest’s stay more memorable and pleasant. Some people may balk at the idea of communicating with a robot to learn crucial details about their stay, so there will always be the need for a human element. The concierge robots now in service are essentially high-tech automated tools, not necessarily a mechanical facsimile of a real person. But hotel concierge robots still serve a real purpose, and they’re not being deployed for the sake of deploying new hotel technology. Room service robots fall along those lines as well.

Hotel room-service robots

Concierge robots are the most visible use case since the idea is to display them in highly trafficked areas like the front lobby. Yet another type of tech is making headway, too: hotel room-service robots. It’s a great example of how you can apply similar technologies for different uses. Whereas concierge robots deal with generalized information, room service robots fulfill a very specific task.

Once again, the general idea is to minimize physical contact between staff and guests while also streamlining and improving service. From a guest’s perspective, great service is timely and accurate, so using robots to meet this need makes perfect sense. Robots don’t make the mistake of knocking on the wrong door, accidentally forgetting clean linens, or simply getting the order wrong. It’s all automated on the back end with software, so the hotel’s staff can refocus their efforts on personalized services for guests who want that kind of experience.

Housekeeping robots are great examples of how you can use room-service robots to put guests at ease while tending to their needs. Not everyone is comfortable with housekeeping staff entering their room while away, so housekeeping robots have the potential to automate basic cleanliness and minimize physical interactions. One brand of housekeeping robots uses UV technology to kill germs instead of chemicals, which is an additional benefit to consider. A housekeeping robot also doesn’t need the same resources as a human to do the job well, and it can work 24 hours a day if needed.

Similarly, food service robots are another trend to watch out for in the coming years. The benefit is two-fold since it gives you the means to offset labor shortages while also improving the guest’s experience. The Radisson Hotel in Sunnyvale, California, is one location that has already deployed “Wall-E” room service robots. The machine delivers food in a sealed compartment, so the meal arrives fresh and warm as if delivered by a real person. It navigates the hotel’s hallways and elevators using sensors and always arrives at the proper destination within the estimated time frame. The main downside is that you have to maintain the machine to keep it operational for as long as possible, which may come at a higher cost. Nevertheless, the benefits to efficiency most likely will outweigh the negatives.

What to expect in 2023 and beyond

As we head into 2023, the next evolution of hotel technology is already upon us. The tech itself is there; the missing component is the integration of the hotel IT stack. Indeed, these platforms don’t naturally coincide with one another because of their proprietary systems. Interoperability between multiple technologies comes last whenever a new tech gets popular.

Usually, you need a fair amount of customization to implement a hotel IT stack that includes property management systems, customer relationship management software, and an entire range of new online booking platforms. So, when you add robots to the equation, the challenge becomes clear: how to make all of this new tech work well to improve the guest’s experience. The honest answer is that new technology doesn’t integrate itself, and that’s precisely where hoteliers should prepare. If hotel robots offer a seamless experience, the guest will enjoy their stay like no other.

Ultimately, hotel technology keeps evolving, but hotel concierge robots and hotel room-service robots are two trends to keep an eye on as 2023 approaches. Those who do will absolutely gain a competitive advantage.