When it comes to hotel rooms, the Internet of Things (IoT) is more than just a universal remote.
Nearly a decade ago, smart tablets began popping up on the nightstands in hotel rooms, giving guests the ability to control room functions such as lighting, curtains, and temperature all from one place (and from the comfort of the bed.) In 2009, a major roll-out of these tablets occurred in Las Vegas at MGM Resorts’ City Center hotels, using Control4 technology.
UPDATE: (After publication, we learned that Enseo’s hardware, such as remote controls, and its software can be found in every room at City Center hotels. Enseo integrated with Control4 to manage controls like curtains, temperature, etc.)
Today, the connection of previously ordinary devices to the internet has evolved further.
Hotels are installing devices that let guests not only open the curtains and turn up the thermostat from a single remote but also use a home-away-from-home network where they can stream their favorite binge-worthy TV shows and listen to their painstakingly created musical playlists -- as well as order up their favorite hotel comfort food from room service.
In some hotels, guests can sample this high-tech self-pampering from their own smartphones, without needing to learn to use a special device.
Marriott Hotels is one such major hotel brand that’s upping the guest room experience through IoT by recently giving Enseo, a hospitality technology integrator, its Global Property Network System (GPNS) certification. (Marriott requires that its hotels use internet providers that meet their GPNS standards.)
Enseo, a Texan company, was one of the first providers to license and deploy Netflix, the streaming TV and movies service, in hotel rooms, something Marriott began offering to its guests last year.
Enseo isn't the only company to help hotels get powered up by IoT, but it is one of the more successful ones -- having contracted more than 300 hotels prior to the Marriott deal.
Guests typically use Enseo through the in-room TV but the platform is equipped with Bluetooth, thus allowing guests to stream content from their phones if a hotel opts to include that functionality.
Last year Enseo generated more than $25 million in revenue, and the 63-person company expects to double its revenue again by 2017. (Toward that goal, Enseo has also been patenting technology -- a lot of it media and IoT-related -- at a steady pace.)
But some hotels are doing the IoT thing for themselves, typically the smaller brands and individual properties.
When Virgin Hotels opened their first US hotel last year, they also launched their mobile app, Lucy.
The app allows guests to check-in, order room service, control the thermostat, order movies on demand and even get to know other guests through a guests-only chat room. Available in the iTunes store and Google Play, it’s free to download and just requires guest registration.
Peninsula Hotels, the luxury hotel brand is in the process of rolling out their own proprietary tablets which allow guests to control room functions, order room service, message the concierge, arrange transportation, make free VOIP calls, and select TV stations and movies to stream onto the hotel room television.
No longer a remote idea
However hotels choose to employ it, IoT could also be responsible for better hotel stays on a regular basis.
Because the business side of IoT technology is data gathering. The implication is that hotels might actually be able to anticipate a guest’s needs without them having to call down to the front desk.
Or, as Vanessa Ogle, CEO of Enseo for the past 16 years, put it:
“IOT in the guest room is not about technology in the guest room, it is about IOT as a platform or a Room Operating Center that can tune the experience of your room into the highest level of comfort and communication with the world you want to be in contact with.”
Earlier: An IoT in travel discussion