Imagine hotel rooms smart enough to know that an arriving guest is a hearty New Englander who likes the thermostat at a cool 68 degrees. Or a book lover who prefers the nightstand lamp turned on. Or a family from Paris that speaks only French.
Adaptive spaces are more than rooms. They’re connected environments that make us feel as though they know us.
Because they do. The spaces integrate the data and intelligence from our homes and cars and put it to work for us in the outside world. The upshot? We don’t need to make choices because the spaces already know what we like. They feel homey, welcoming, and very, very different from every other guest room out there. Adaptive spaces will change every physical space and brand experience in the hospitality industry. Most important, they’re doable today.
In guests’ homes, the future is already here
Intelligent assistants like Amazon Alexa and smart-home platforms such as Google Home play larger yet ambient roles in our lives. They learn our routines. Tell Alexa you’re home, and it can turn on your lights, close the smart shades and switch on the TV. They make our lives easier. “Hey Google, brew a pot of coffee.” More developers are embedding them into millennial-friendly rental apartments.
Next up? Adaptive spaces in our cars. Already we can ask voice-activated assistants to, say, reserve parking spaces for us. This spring, Google added its virtual Assistant to Android Auto, the company’s mobile app for cars. The result? Road warriors can tell Google to turn on the air conditioning at home, or lift the garage door.
Our home and cars are becoming personalized, connected environments. It's integration elevated to new levels.
When the places we go already know us
Now the integration movement is ready to take hold outside our homes, where the data and preferences of our personal lives are set to become the foundation for our brand experiences.
What will integration look like for hotels? We’re seeing the first steps. Hilton’s Connected Room initiative lets its mobile app users personalize room temperatures and TV settings as they travel among its different brands throughout the world.
Adaptive spaces are the logical next step: They know us — without our having to take an action.
Hotels are a natural part of the movement. To confirm arrival times, for example, hotels might reach out through interested guests’ preferred virtual assistants — Alexa, Siri, Google — to determine flight status and ETA. They might automatically check in guests, or connect to a VPN in the guest’s home country for access to local entertainment. All without us lifting a finger.
Four layers of adaptive spaces
Adaptive spaces are stories of harmony, not independence. Creating them happens in four layers:
Experience: Improving our lives.
The experience layer is the part that changes how consumers interact with our brands. Put simply, it provides meaningful, individualized experiences.
It has the potential to leapfrog the one-off technology implementations that most hotels now focus on. Don’t get us wrong. The keyless entry that many hotels are implementing or considering is a useful pilot for adaptive spaces. In a post-mobile world, however, biometrics will validate identity and grant access, replacing the smartphone-as-key wave.
The experience layer’s real strength is its ability to differentiate the customer experience. It lets brands preload guest rooms with personalized features: Temperature and light settings, preferred personal assistants (Siri, Google, Alexa), and TVs with access to home Netflix accounts.
Automatic language translation will be next. Changing language’s physical infrastructure — in signage and guest-room reading materials — is cumbersome and costly. Digital can do the job with no physical modifications, making it simple to set in-room information and telephone service for guests’ native languages. Already digital is fast-tracking translation: Google’s new wireless earbuds let users access Google Translate in 40 languages.
Operations: The building blocks for success.
In many ways, the operations layer is the key foundation for adaptive spaces.
It’s where adaptive spaces meet up with physical resource management.
Adding intelligence and modularity to operations will take hotels’ HVAC and electricity management to new levels, enabling them to conserve energy, for example, through motion and heat sensors that adaptively turn on and off in individual rooms and even entire floors.
Through integration, operations can also improve staffing through intelligent, demand-based scheduling. Real-time data on room turnovers, for example, or on the number of customers in the hotel restaurant and bar can help hotels better deploy resources.
Platform: Where real-time communications happens.
Connections are at the heart of adaptive spaces. The digital platform enables experience and operations layers talk to each other in real time. We think of it as an operating system for the physical space. — that is, on-property technologies, all in one place and locally managed.
The AdaptiveOS ushers through all communications as they’re happening. It makes guests’ choices happen as they tap and swipe through their smartphones. It loops in the front desk. And it gathers input from the sensors that manage temperature or indicate a guest has entered the dining room.
Traditional architectures might assign those feeds to batch overnight processes. Adaptive spaces require algorithms. AdaptiveOS is a system of instructions that marries organizations’ understanding of how to best serve customers with the volumes of data they typically have on hand, such as transactions, interactions, and third-party data. The system learns as it goes. It adapts. For example, if a hotel’s policy is to issue a $5 lounge credit to guests whose rooms aren’t ready on time, the system learns to do it automatically, freeing front-desk personnel to attend to more business-critical matters.
Integration: Off-property systems bring it all together.
Off-property systems play key roles in adaptive spaces. They answer important questions such as how the sensors you install in your lobby will connect to master data management (MDM). They make it possible for adaptive spaces to come together as a single cohesive whole.
For adaptive spaces to succeed, integration has to happen on four off-property fronts:
Master data management (MDM). Creating the single point of record, MDM powers the 360-degree view of the customer. It’s the part of the architecture that knows a guest has, say, three hotel stays this week and booked all of them online.
Connection to the smart-home platform. This element brings in guests’ personal preferences and is how the system knows which guests are, for instance, Siri users or Google Home owners. It’s the pipeline to guests’ likes and dislikes.
Links to loyalty programs. ERP, CRM and other backend workhorses form the muscle behind adaptive spaces. They leverage data for personalization and as a result affect the experience layer.
Reservations and global distribution systems. These unsung heroes remain the engine of hotel services. Within adaptive spaces, the role of global reservation systems (GRS) and global distribution systems (GDS) is to ensure delivery of what has been promised.
Adaptive spaces can provide the personalized experiences that differentiate your brand. The following steps will help ready your organization:
Review your current strategy and determine your level of maturity and planning for all four levels. For example, consider the experience you want to deliver. How will you enable the operations layer to support it? How will you create the necessary integration? Within your strategy, understand your strengths and weaknesses. It may make sense to pare down some of the experience to ensure you have the integration to be successful. For example, if you’re unable to execute a rebooking feature end to end, table it until you’re ready. If building strong store and IT operations is a priority, consider whether you’re reducing costs and headcount at the expense of customer experience (CX). Think first, and use technology second.
Consider whether your strategies are expansive enough to drive return on investment (ROI). With digital presenting such a broad menu of opportunities, it’s common for companies to choose modest CX tweaks that are too incremental to differentiate them in the marketplace. Take digital shelf tags. Advocates point to a better CX through more accurate pricing. But the tags’ contribution to CX is minimal. Differentiation is about standing out in a cluttered market. To grab consumers’ attention and produce the results you’re looking for, you need to create memorable experiences.
Pilot changes to demonstrate their value. Sophisticated CX changes typically require franchisees to invest in and implement the accompanying technology, which makes new advances difficult to scale. Cloud-based solutions obviate the franchise-by-franchise hard-wiring that stood in the way of past innovations. But resistance can remain a substantial obstacle. To counter it, consider CX advances that affect common areas and rely on guest-owned devices such as smartphones and smartwatches. For other advances — room-control automation, biometric authentication, and kiosk check-in — select a small group of willing franchisees to prove ROI in a pilot.