Travel and hospitality industry has always remained at the forefront of the Global Economy. For India alone, this industry has created millions of jobs annually, it is one of the largest service industry and the third-largest foreign exchange earner.
In times of COVID-19 pandemic where almost every industry has experienced a slowdown, this industry has witnessed the hardest hit. With mandated lockdown guidelines across the country, zero international & domestic transport, and limited movement of people, Hospitality Inc has seen the mass shutdown of hotels, lowest occupancy, and rising concerns of future uncertainties.
To ensure a speedy recovery and long-term sustained growth, hospitality industry may need significant improvements to transform services in-line with changing consumer behaviour, limited budget of tech-savvy guests, and growing health & safety demands. Can the cutting edge technological advances play a role in bounce-back in these difficult times?
Hospitality today and tomorrow
In the year 2019, the Tourism industry alone accounted for 8.1 per cent of total employment in the country. Its contribution to India’s GDP will reach Rs 32.05 lakh crore, by 2028.IBEF–Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India
PwC report 2019 states that the future of hospitality & leisure eyes significant benefits in leveraging emerging technologies such as IoT in providing different hospitality services, primarily for better customer insights, product innovation, improve security, boosting revenue and so on.
AIoT & VR Applications for Hospitality 4.0
Scope of tech-based future services in hospitality & tourism is huge. Let’s discuss some of the applications that can help transform the future services of this industry.
To know more about AIoT – Internet of Things & Machine Learning and how it is a hot recipe for new-age solutions? read here.
Touchless Smart Washrooms
Ensuring the health and safety of guests will be of utmost importance in the coming days. Touchless IoT based connected intelligent dispensers can help to ensure hygiene regulation. Sensor-based centralized management can make tasks automated and prevent sudden malfunctioning. Usage insights of who used washroom since last clean can further assist in ensuring safety compliance.
Hotels 4.0 will not just provide a place to stay; they’ll connect guest with a broader world beyond.
Enhanced Virtual Experience
Virtual Reality is a digitally created simulated environment that gives a new dimension to user experience by mixing Reality and virtuality. It provides an impression that a person is physically present in that place, can touch it, change it and navigate through the digital environment. VR can be a game-changing marketing tool, allowing a customer to try, to have a deep-dive into a hotel room and facility, to look into what they will experience, before making a booking. Marriott hotels are among the first international hotels that launched virtual reality-based room service using the Samsung Gear VR headset, back in 2015. Some of the luxury hotels in India such as Taj Hotels already showcasing eye-catching 360 virtual tour experience of the hotel exterior, guest rooms, recreational, dining area and so on.
- Google Tour Creator – Can help you create free 360-degree immersive virtual tour experience, right from your laptop. One can choose from provided templates to get started.
Human-like AI-powered Virtual Agent
Virtual agents or chatbots are already revolutionizing the travel & hospitality industry as more and more people prefer online channels to book their travel and hotel reservations now. In fact, it has now become a necessity to have a virtual agent on the customer-facing website or mobile app. AI-based virtual agents not only provide round the clock support but can make a more informed decision based on user behaviour and booking pattern. They can recommend best-deal, can quickly answer common questions (FAQ’s) and can assist in making the payment of the purchase. Voice assistants inside hotel room can make a positive difference in customer comfort, in-room voice assistant—powered by Houndify is one such solution by SoundHound.
- Google Dialogflow – one can create a lifelike natural language conversational interfaces for both text and voice talks. It provides an option to select from prebuilt agents for everyday use cases such as hotel booking, navigation, etc. One can create multilingual agents based on locale and can even train an agent for casual talk, for better user experience.
Location Awareness – IoT Beacons
Location-sensing is widely getting traction in the hospitality industry, with more and more hotels adopting it for safety and guest experience. Beacons are wireless transmitters that use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to send signals to other smart devices nearby. Beacons can be easily integrated with a Mobile App. iBeacon is a location-aware protocol developed by Apple back in 2014. Beacons can provide indoor navigation similar to GPS (and without needing GPS signals). It can assist hotel staff in finding a way to a guest’s room. ‘Push notification’ by ‘hotel beacon device’ can provide a rich hospitality experience to guests by facilitating queue-less check-in and check-out. Beacons can assist in numerous other ways such as smart temperature & lighting controls, intelligent air conditioning control, digital door locks, smart access control, smart TV, smart curtains, and so on.
- Google Beacon Platform – built on Eddystone, provides tools for beacon deployment and integration. Developed beacons can be detected on both Android and iOS-based devices.
Use Case Implementation
AIoT-based Face Recognition System at Hotel
AI-based Facial Recognition systems are touch-free, intelligent security solutions. You might have noticed such smart solutions at major airports, or at a company. When installed at hotel-reception, they can help in personalized guest experience and hotel services, specially tailored for the guest. Let’s discuss how we can create our own functional AI and IoT based Intelligent Face Recognition system for visitor entry at the hotel.
- To build such an application we would need an edge device – Raspberry Pi Camera.
- Install AWS IoT Greengrass Core on this camera. AWS IoT Greengrass software extends AWS cloud capabilities to edge devices so they can act locally on the data they generate, in our case input data is an image captured of visiting guest at the hotel.
- Once the image is captured we need to first detect a face in it, this can be done using OpenCV based haar cascade frontal face classifier or using a more robust deep learning-based dlib face detection model.
- Next is face recognition by comparing the extracted face with expected guest’s face (the one he uploaded at the time of registration). Open source dlib based pretrained Face Recognition model is very handy to compare actual and expected faces, with high accuracy. One can also train their own custom face recognition model on their own dataset.
- Trained face-detection and recognition models can be uploaded to binary object storage – AWS-S3. ‘IoT Greengrass Core’ will keep the latest models available to Rasberry Pi Camera.
- To kick start the camera and recognition process, we can have a voice-controlled smart speaker such as Amazon Echo, echo device will listen to the command.
- “Alexa, open the door, please!”, Alexa will send message to AWS IoT Core, which will further invoke recognition lambda function installed on Raspberry Pi Camera, it will capture guest’s image, recognize and identify guest, and finally open the gate.
With new technological advancements, the industry has noticed a fundamental change in its adoption pattern as well. It’s not just the Big Brands that acknowledge new technology and adopt them early. New-Age startups, micro organisations, small scale business chooses to take advantage of tech innovations first and remain ahead of the curve!
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