Welcome to the Future of Hospitality, Powered by IoT
New “screenless” interfaces have enormous potential to transform how we interact with technology and with the businesses that are powering these digital experiences.
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When we think of the Internet of Things (IoT), we often call to mind impersonal machines and automation — in many cases, sacrificing service for efficiency. However, IoT can enable experiences that are both personalized and fast, creating opportunities to provide value in new ways. In the retail industry, for example, smart technologies in stores, combined with web and mobile interfaces, enable intuitive, omnichannel experiences for consumers.
These types of technology interactions are becoming popular in industries as diverse as banking and hospitality. As mobile is now a key business-driver, the range of devices supported by modern enterprises is expanding from smartphones to connected technologies like Amazon’s Alexa. These new “screenless” interfaces have enormous potential to transform how we interact with technology and with the businesses that are powering these digital experiences.
IoT Checks Into the Hospitality Industry
Typically, when one tech giant makes moves into a new industry, it’s a good sign that there is a significant opportunity for technological disruption. Just last week, Amazon announced its foray into hotel services with Alexa for Hospitality.
Alexa for Hospitality integrates Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant with hotel chains, vacation rentals, and other concierge services. The program is being rolled out at some Marriott hotels, where Alexa devices will be installed in guest rooms and integrated with various hotel services.
Through voice interaction, hotel guests can control connected technologies in the room such as thermostats, lights, blinds, or smart TVs. They can also receive information or services from the hotel including checkout times, facility hours, room service, and housekeeping.
Hotels will have the ability to customize these features and develop unique Alexa “skills” to match their brand or the needs of their guests. The in-room devices will also support approved third-party apps, such as those for entertainment, news, or weather. For example, Marriott partners with the TED Talks platform and will make this content available to guests on Alexa devices.
APIs Power IoT Experiences Behind the Scenes
The appeal of these new experiences in hotels is that they are “invisible” to guests — requests are fulfilled seamlessly and there is minimal friction in the process, but the backend integration required to support these connected services is fairly complex and raises considerable security and data management concerns.
Digital experiences are powered by APIs, which allow Amazon’s Alexa to “talk to” IoT devices like thermostats and lights in hotel rooms. Through APIs, the hotel can control which devices and third-party services will be supported and thus can ensure the security and suitability of outside integrations. A centralized console enables hotels to manage and connect hundreds of Alexa devices and control or reset devices remotely, all powered by APIs.
Additionally, the Alexa devices integrate with hotel front desk, housekeeping, and concierge systems through APIs to fulfill guest requests that originate by voice. For example, a hotel guest can ask Alexa for more towels and the request will be routed to and fulfilled by the housekeeping team. While exposing their internal systems to a new platform, hotels must monitor and control the flow of data and ensure APIs are protected against compromise.
Is This the Future of Hospitality?
In most customer-centric industries, significant importance and investment is being placed on creating better experiences through technology. Enabling screenless, IoT experiences in hospitality is part of a larger strategy to use data to drive guest engagement. For Amazon, Alexa for Hospitality creates an additional touchpoint to reach consumers, and the company plans to enable hotel guests to temporarily connect their personal Amazon accounts to hotel devices in the near future.
Through APIs, companies are increasingly taking a cross-vertical, cross-platform development strategy. This emphasis on integration provides a clear opportunity for developers to build next-generation solutions that drive customer loyalty.
But as always, these solutions must provide a greater benefit than they do security or privacy risks to consumers. API Management with end-to-end security, authentication, and access management will be the path forward for IoT in every industry.
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