Is This the Year of the Hotel Internet of Things?

The Hotel Internet of Things revolution could be here.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has long been a hot topic in the technology industry as the next progression in our digital era, but the hotel Internet of Things may finally also be realized. The simple definition for IoT, if there is one, is the increasing connectivity of the physical world around us.

We’re seeing regular items going online and becoming “smart,” from cars to refrigerators to keys. Even our bodies are now being fitted or embedded with smartwatches, sensors, and devices that allow biological data to be collected and transmitted.

This interconnected network of not just devices, like computers and mobile devices, but physical “things” is what composes the Internet of Things. Research conducted by International Data Corporation (IDC), anticipates the worldwide Internet of Things market to grow from $655.8 billion in 2014 to $1.7 trillion in 2020 with a compound annual growth rate of 16.9%.

With this amount of money at stake, the buzz surrounding the Internet of Things has rapidly picked up speed and discussions are revolving around the potential benefits of the Internet of Things.

All this talk leaves us to wonder, is 2016 truly, finally, the year hospitality technology meets the Internet of Things?

In 2013, approximately one device was connected to the Internet per person on earth. By 2020, with the world’s population estimated to reach 8 billion, the expectation is that this will increase to around 9 devices connected to the internet per person. As of now, the number of ‘things’ connecting to the internet every second is 80, but by 2020 this could increase to more than 250 ‘things’ connecting each second.

Major technology companies, including Apple, Samsung, and Google, have all taken strides to create products that leverage the best of what IoT has to offer. For instance, the HomeKit App, a project Apple is working on, is designed to link all products in your home to your smartphone, allowing you to control all aspects of the home environment with voice controls.

With such substantial growth envisioned for the future of IoT, hoteliers have begun to take hold of various elements of it by embracing a number of innovations, particularly in the arena of mobile technology, such as hotel apps. The recent hospitality technology trend of allowing guests the opportunity to check in and unlock guest rooms via mobile devices is one such example. Other notable hospitality technology upgrades include room control systems that allow guests to perform automated tasks such as adjusting lighting and temperature in a hotel room using a smartphone, in-room tablet, or panel.

Last year we also saw the introduction of robot hotel technology, such as Aloft Hotel’s Botlr, a robot butler being tested at select California hotels that communicates with other machines to perform basic guest service.

There are still potential impediments to the widespread growth of the Internet of Things. For instance, the lack of a universal coding language for communication between devices from different companies or on different operating systems is currently limiting the opportunity for complete interconnectivity, although some are saying JavaScript is emerging as a potential component for just such a framework. Boo Keun Yoon, Samsung CEO, stressed the importance for technology companies to cooperate in creating one language for all devices to talk to each other.

“The Internet of Things has the potential to transform our society, economy and how we live our lives. It is our job to pull together.”

– Boo Keun Yoon, Samsung CEO

But while there are still limitations yet to overcome, it can be expected to see guests bringing more connected devices or “things” to hotels, as well as more aspects of hotel rooms becoming connected or automated. This year will likely bring continued innovation in how the hospitality industry is able to use connected hotel technology and guest devices to improve its ability to increase guest engagement and operational efficiency.