The hotel experience over the last decade or so has seen the travel-bound hospitality industry evolve into a revolving door of deals, promotions and brand negotiations that all are vying for engagement and money from guests. With the addition of sponsored WiFi hotspots, Netflix exclusivity, and the use of hotel issued iPads, hotels are becoming a battleground for brand awareness and technological familiarity.
This week at HITECH, Microsoft is throwing its hat into the hospitality ring with a concept called Connected Rooms. At the conference held in Austin, Texas this week, Microsoft is demonstrating how hotels might look in the future with the use of its connected technology. Connected Room is a two-pronged approach to offering the best experience for both guest and the hospitality staff. Beginning with the 'customer journey', Connected Room examined how hotel guest spend their first 12 minutes in a room. The findings show that most visitors spend their first few minutes figuring out the thermostat, light switches, TV controls and acquainting themselves with other hotel amenities. According to Microsoft, “Connected Room is designed to streamline that process.”
Microsoft’s vision for the future of the hotel experience goes beyond just using tablets; PCs and handheld devices to facilitate in a guest experience. Connect Room developed in partnership with Teknikos, Technovation, and Intel, is intended to make use of the voice-activated solutions built into Windows 10. The Connected Room display at HITECH, combines room service menus, information about the property, in-room entertainment as well environmental controls into a single system that can be operated by a visitors voice.
Granted, the display in Austin, Texas is only a prototype, Microsoft is already seeing their building blocks being implemented in hotels today. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group uses a solution called iRiS that utilizes touch-enabled apps on a Surface Pro tablet in each room. iRiS provides guests with information about the facilities spas, exercise rooms, room service, restaurants, hotel requests and what the local areas have to offer, all at their fingertips. Caesar’s Palace at the Hyatt in Bellevue, Washington is another establishment making use of the first phase of Microsoft connected devices in hotels. The Hyatt Hotel uses a digital lobby space that incorporates touchscreens into the tables that offer guests a new user experience. Holland American Line is now using BI tools to surface data to implement real world personalization. The data complied covers guest preferences on food, wine, room settings or services, and Holland American Line is using it to quickly surface the company's offerings abroad their ships.
Beyond delighting residents, Microsoft’s Connected Room was developed to empower the staff at hotels as well. As for the staff, Connected Room will combine the use of mobile devices and the IoT with the cloud to offer a truly scalable approach. Devices linked to Microsoft’s cloud will offer establishments better insights ranging from financial reports to energy use in individual rooms. Microsoft is endorsing enterprise-class tablets and mobile phone use with staff to get them from behind a desk and into more personal interactions with customers. Using enterprise-level tablets also puts collaborative tools at the staff's fingertips while on the move. Software such as Sharepoint, Skype or OneDrive for Business can help a mobile staff remain on the same page while also being in very different places.
Ultimately, Microsoft sees the landscape of hospitality evolving with data, the date that will eventually allow hotels to offer a more personalized experience for the guest.