What Exactly is a Chatbot? And Will This Benefit My Hotel?

By Adria Levtchenko CEO & Co-Founder, PurpleCloud Technologies | July 22, 2018

Certainly, for quite some time, there has been a strong technological underpinning to the management and delivery of guest services in hospitality. This includes all of the computer-controlled technologies that drive our physical plant; the communication systems we rely on to reach guests and strategic partners, or work with each other; and our revenue management and other operational systems.

Moreover, it wouldn't be out of place to note not just how reliant we seem to be on technology (try leaving home without your smartphone in hand or doing without a computer at work) but also that the "technology conversation" seems to being getting louder and louder with each passing day.

A whole new vocabulary has arisen, as we keep hearing, even if only in vague terms, about artificial intelligence, machine learning, neural networks, blockchain and the like. The Internet of Things and The Cloud have almost become passe concepts.

Just what are some of these technologies and how might we demystify them, as we consider the future role of technology for the hospitality sector?  In this article, we will consider some of the forces behind the adoption of advanced technologies by hospitality organizations; what issues they might be solving, as well as what issues they may be provoking. Clearly, there are implications for our work force, the everyday life of a hotel, strategic planning or, even, what it means to be a leader in the hospitality sector.

Beginnings

Interestingly, many of the concepts just mentioned have been around for quite some time. The concept of Artificial Intelligence grew out of the Dartmouth Summer Research Project in the mid-1950s, one of whose members, Arthur Samuel, is known also for coining the term "machine learning."

Broadly speaking, artificial intelligence is about having a computer complete functions such that we "might" not be able to distinguish its performance from that of a human being.  Historically, the idea was to achieve the Turing Test, which would fulfill that mandate. British mathematician Alan Turing, now also famous for helping lead the Bletchley Park Enigma decoding teams during World War II, proposed this Turing Test in a 1950 academic paper. From there it was a hop, a skip and a transistor to conceiving of machines that could think on their own, and, maybe, function beyond our control like HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.