Turn your hotel into a five-star experience with 5G
by TORE S. WICK
5G networks are starting to pop up in many places, with the expectation that the technology offers powerful, high-speed connections – not just for individuals streaming video or playing games – but for businesses of all kinds. And one of the industries that is set to be profoundly changed by 5G is hospitality.
A good part of that change will be due to 5G’s super-fast speed and super-low latency. When deployed in the context of a private 5G-based network, these factors will enable hotels to automate and streamline many of their operations, increasing the level of personalization guests receive while providing better business services and enhancing their guests’ stay.
SIMPLE, SEAMLESS, PERSONALIZED EXPERIENCES
Because of its speed and many options for customization, a connection to a super-fast 5G network can make everyday activities simpler for guests. Fully-outfitted advanced 5G connections are as much as 20 times faster than their 4G predecessors. For example, hotel apps could include features that unlock room doors, schedule services or activities (like checking how crowded the gym or pool is in real time), and enhance safety through voice or face recognition at property entrances to ensure that only legitimate guests have access.
When it comes to services that hotels currently offer, 5G connectivity could make the experience more efficient. Guests could use the app to check-in (prior to arrival, so they can head straight to their room), quickly modify a reservation, adjust their room blinds, climate, and lighting, and chat in real-time with hotel concierge. The app also could connect guests with external services, allowing them to order an Uber, reserve a tee time at a nearby country club, or connect to outside streaming services. Additionally, connections with smart devices will be more seamless with 5G. For example, using the hotel’s app, which can communicate with the smart in-room espresso maker, guests could prepare a hot cup of coffee that will await them when they return from an activity.
5G also can enable hotels to introduce guests to entirely new experiences using augmented and virtual reality. For example, guests considering a visit to a hotel’s pool or spa, can use a VR program to quickly view the amenities without leaving their rooms. In addition, AR could transform the dining experience. When dining at a hotel restaurant, guests could fill their plate through augmented reality and place their order instead of reading a menu and selecting what they would like to eat.
Last, but certainly not least, 5G will allow hotels to provide more personalized offerings. As more guests use connected services, hotels could benefit from a flood of customer data, as sensor-outfitted devices – in-room fridges, air-conditioners, showers, and many more – collect data on usage. This data can be used to build individualized profiles of guests. Super-fast 5G data collection enables advanced AI technologies like machine learning that can allow hotels to provide more personalized services. For example, if the system identifies a guest as a wine aficionado, it could present a coupon that gives them a discount on their favorite wine at dinner. In addition, customers connected to a property’s app could see personalized messages on digital screens as they walk through the property. The messages could provide tips on excursions, activities, or upcoming events at the hotel or in the area that would be of interest to that specific guest.
STREAMLINED, SMARTER OPERATIONS
On the operations side, maintenance will become much more efficient with 5G. Sensors can indicate when a room is empty, automatically turning off TVs or air conditioners, saving on power expenses – lowering water usage when a leak needs to be fixed, or determining optimum times for room maintenance and cleaning. Data analysis also could be applied to common areas of hotels, such as determining the ideal lighting in restaurants, the ideal temperature in the pool and sauna (balancing both customer experience and maximum savings), turning off cooling or heating systems in areas that aren’t always in use (conference rooms, gyms), and much more.
Advanced data technologies also could help hotels make more efficient use of their limited staff in the wake of a major personnel shortage, even deploying automated systems like robots to clean rooms, provide room service, and other functions. Sensor-equipped devices or fully equipped robot systems could significantly reduce hotel operating expenses, as well as provide consistent, predictable results. And data collected and analyzed by machine-learning systems could provide for automated, customized cleaning services based on room size, location, or guests – for example, using specific brands of cleaners based on sensitivities or allergies, whether the guests include infants, and more.
The technology to outfit hotels with these systems exists right now, but properties will need to significantly upgrade their infrastructure to take advantage and make security a priority. In some ways, private 5G networks will be more secure than the current WiFi-based communications systems in use, which make hotels notoriously vulnerable to hackers. On the other hand, a hacker who infiltrates a 5G network will be able to more easily take over crucial functions on the network, requiring a robust security system.
One income “loss” for hotels in the 5G era – at least for the ones that charge a fee – will be WiFi. With a ubiquitous 5G network basically running all aspects of a hotel stay, it won’t be practical to require a separate service fee just for device connections, both from the customer experience and property management sides. But the money properties will save by deploying 5G – along with the loyalty they can build with a superior customer experience and the customized marketing they will be able to provide for guests – should more than make up for that “loss.”
Tore S. Wick is a senior director in the dining, travel and hospitality practice at Publicis Sapient, which is the digital business transformation hub of Publicis Groupe. Tore has more than 30 years of industry experience, having worked for industry leaders such as United Airlines, Choice Hotels and Pegasus Solutions.