Kas Mohammed, VP Digital Energy at Schneider Electric says shouldn’t just prepare for guests, motivate them.

For over a year now, hotels have sat largely dormant. Some have felt pressure to downsize while others have shut for good.

While much remains uncertain, some realities are crystallising. Quite rightly up to this point, the hospitality sector has focused on safety. From room design to ventilation, managers must ensure their hotel is capable of meeting new requirements and new expectations of their guests.

While safety will remain key, the next phase of hospitality goes beyond updating the design to make it a viable option. It requires a fundamental shift toward making the environment as enticing, engaging and interactive as possible to motivate people to return.

For both phases, building technology provides the key. From access control and space management, to understanding needs and ultimately creating a happier, more connected space, building developers and operators must understand the role of technology in the future of hospitality.

Phase 1: Safety First

Building controls integrated with other smart building technology and applications are key to simplify, improve, and automate safety, as well as risk management. These technologies can play a central role in monitoring the environment to ensure it is as safe and comfortable as possible for both guests and staff.

Critically, building environmental sensors can monitor air temperature and humidity, circulation of fresh outside air, as well as water temperature and flow, to understand the risk transmission in buildings. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) sensors connected to building management are fundamental to ensuring those conditions are maintained throughout the building.

People flow counters, area counters, and occupancy sensors can be used to detect a different type of threat: occupancy patterns that are in violation of site guidelines or policies. Today, building operators need to know the number of people on site at all times and maintain proper spacing between occupants. These technologies can be used to ensure occupants are adhering to social distancing requirements or staying away from areas that haven’t been sanitised after use or are at risk of having been contaminated with a virus or bacteria.

Phase 2: Creating demand

If building developers utilise and integrate smart building technology, the public will soon realise it is safe to use hotels. However, this will not detract from both the comforts of home, or an Airbnb. More space, more autonomy, and fewer interactions – these advantages cannot be displaced by simply meeting safety concerns. To motivate people back to hotels, real estate professionals need to fundamentally rethink the hotel environment and experience.

This starts with individual control. At home, we are used to technology making our lives easier and more comfortable. We must begin to recognise that smart systems – connecting Internet of Things enabled devices – are fundamental to improving the hotel experience, both for guests and staff.

In the future, building apps will create a more productive environment. Much like in our domestic lives, virtual assistant applications could be used to check if conference rooms are free, order a drink from the ground floor cafeteria, change the temperature, call a lift or order a meal to the pool. Such apps would improve control and act as the motivating factor to getting people back to hotels. Having true, live insight into air quality, hotel capacity and being able to control your personal environment cannot help but provide reassurance and motivation.

We must go further than mitigating risk if we want to create the optimal environment. Building developers and managers must push the boundaries – whereas a pool and a comfortable bed may have once passed for a top hotel, modern guests demand flexibility and control in every aspect of their visit.

Hotels of the future are connected

Today, many of our buildings suffer from one key issue – the building data produced is siloed to the extent that actionable insights are almost impossible to gleam. When room occupancy, lighting, heating and ventilation data is captured, it lives in separate data environments with no connecting thread between them. For our hotels to achieve their full potential, all systems need to be connected across the building infrastructure. By doing so, guests can benefit from a comfortable, controllable, and safe environment, while hotel managers can manage power quality and consumption, understand building performance, and save energy and costs.

For such change to come into effect, there must be buy in across the business spectrum, from company heads and real-estate managers to facility and hotel managers. A central building management system functions as the ‘brain’ of the facility – connecting all devices and assets to create a single source of truth to be drawn from. This critical smart building technology can no longer be an afterthought but must be included as a fundamental element in hotel construction and design.