tapping the potential of IoT

When it comes to deploying new technology, it seems that all we ever hear about is how the hospitality industry is far behind other sectors.

So it was refreshing for me to read a recent Phocuswright report about how hotels – and the travel industry in general – are leading the way in the use of so-called Internet of Things, or IoT.

According to the report, which quotes a study by Tata Consultancy, travel, transportation and hospitality are the top three industries when ranked by IoT spend per company, as well as spending as a percentage of revenue.

I guess it makes sense, given that so much of IoT revolves around automating at-home tasks like room temperature controls, lighting and television commands. That translates well to hospitality, the report notes, and is behind the move by hotels to use voice-activated devices like Alexa and Echo to help guests more easily navigate all of their in-room controls.

“For the accommodations industry the growth of IoT represents both an opportunity to provide more self-service options to the guest and gather data on behavior, which in turn can improve efficiencies and drive greater guest satisfaction through personalized services,” the report states. “Behind the scenes, hotels and resorts are using the IoT to improve the efficiency of housekeeping and maintenance and to track hotel assets.”

In the cruise industry, we are seeing wearable IoT. Carnival, for example, has begun using a bracelet that opens travelers’ staterooms doors, controls their embarkation and disembarkation experience and acts as a payment device.

At airports, IoT sensors are being used to track baggage, even make the boarding process smoother for frequent travelers in Dubai, according to the report.

This is all great for improving the traveler experience. But what’s really intriguing are the longer-term implications and the ability to integrate this new technology into new and existing systems for tracking traveler data and actions to be able to deliver that Holy Grail of personalized services, whether that is on property or earlier on in the booking process.

After all, IoT is still in its infancy. According to International Data Corp., worldwide spending on IoT will grow 16.7 percent to just over $800 billion in 2017 and nearly double to $1.4 trillion, by 2021.

That explosion will create both promises and challenges, from cybersecurity and privacy to other issues I’m sure no one has even considered yet. And, of course, there is that same issue that dogs the industry at every turn: Figuring out how to merge all this information into legacy systems and then being able to turn it into business intelligence.

But, as the report states, this is one more technology that “hopefully … will lead to more seamless and personalized experiences benefiting both travel suppliers and travelers.”

– CEO Toni Portmann