By Dean Minett
The supercomputers we carry in our pockets are easily taken for granted. They’ve become deeply engrained in everyday life, replacing a multitude of other objects and devices. Many of us already use our phones as house keys, wallets, light switches, garage door openers and thermostats, among other things. Oh yes, and we sometimes use them to call people or send messages.
It makes sense that hotel rooms would come next. Recent surveys conducted by Expedia and Hotels.com suggest that taking a mobile device, for the average traveler, is now more important than taking a toothbrush. If this is true, why should guests use a special remote or control panel when they can use their own devices to control just about everything in the room?
Let’s start from the beginning: You’re on your way to a hotel during the evening rush. You tap your mobile device and check-in using the hotel’s app. A digital key is delivered to your device, which you hold up to a scanner at the guestroom door. All of the waiting and chaos associated with checking in has just been eliminated.
Mobile check-in addresses one of the most common complaints in our industry: Guests don’t like queuing up for those room keys. The only way to offer mobile check-in, however, is to upgrade each individual lock in your hotel. (Salto and Miwa are two of the leading manufacturers of next-gen room locks, but hotels have been slow to adopt.)
Once you’ve dropped your bag and kicked your shoes off, it’s time to order some dinner. Using the hotel’s proprietary app (or a third-party app such as Mi-Room, which uses robust PMS integration to facilitate a wide range of services from guest devices), you browse the menu and put your order in. It’s even possible to change your order, or chat with kitchen staff to request extra napkins.
Now that your food has arrived, a bit of entertainment is in order. And if you’re like most guests (this is according to a 2015 study by eHotelier), you prefer to access content through your own digital devices, rather than using entertainment portals provided by the hotel. It’s true that smart TVs allow guests to sign into their own streaming services – but even this is clunky compared to screen mirroring. Only when guests can broadcast from their own devices to the in-room TV screen have we reached the most natural and fluid solution.
There are many companies offering this technology to hotels, including Teleadapt, whose Roomcast solution allows guests to use Apple or Android devices to broadcast from their own screens.
So you’ve got your dinner, and you’ve got your favorite show – but it’s getting a little cold in the room, and the curtains are still open. What to do? Unfortunately, your mobile device probably can’t help you here. Companies like Evolve have compelling solutions that make it easy to control everything from room temps to lighting – but for the most part, in-room automation still relies on dedicated control panels and special tablets. The challenge for these manufacturers is to design automation solutions that 1) are affordable for everyone, not just luxury hotels, and 2) are easily controlled from the guest’s own device.
As with many things in the digital age, the BYOD revolution is less about adding and more about subtracting. The supercomputers in every guest’s pocket are powerful, and by leveraging them in the right ways, hotels can theoretically trim their own technology spending while giving guests more of what they want.
Screen-mirroring and hotel service apps (like the aforementioned Mi-Room) are affordable and effective, and there’s a great case for getting on board. The realm of digital check-in and room automation, however, is more expensive and varied. For discerning hoteliers, it may be worth doing some things the old-fashioned way – at least until the argument for upgrades is stronger and clearer.