Room Service by Robot and Other Ways Tech Is Changing the Hotel Stay

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wine that is somehow $50 a bottle,” he says. “Or you’re waiting 45 minutes for room service.”

In May, Plum raised $10 million in a Series B funding round led by Las Olas Ventures, with plans to use the investment to place the device in as many as 50 hotels in 2018.

At a growing number of hotels, guests placing a housekeeping request might be answering their door to a robot. Companies such as Savioke (with its robot, Relay) and SoftBank (with Pepper) are working with hotels to deploy service robots to meet a number of customer needs. Savioke, which raised $15 million last year from investors such as Intel Capital, first rolled out its Relay robot two years ago in California. (In addition to the hotel market, Savioke last week announced it is partnering with Swisslog Healthcare to use the robots in hospitals.)

As my colleague Bernadette Tansey wrote then, a Relay dressed in athleisure wear roams halls at the Rising Star Sports Ranch in Mesquite, NV, while Relays named Cleo or Leo make deliveries wearing black tails.

And Chinese tech giant Alibaba announced it is launching a robot designed for the hospitality sector next month. Like its other robotic siblings, the Alibaba robot features innovations such as autonomous navigation and sensors in order to mimic human abilities. “The robot will be the ultimate assistant for hotel guests who want everything quickly and conveniently at their fingertips,” Lijuan Chen, general manager ofAlibaba A.I. Labs, said in a press release.

While hotel companies have begun to embrace tech innovations, AT&T’s Colaneri says one big obstacle to making the most of these tools is the fact that most of these disparate systems don’t talk to each other, and there is no way to bundle these products into a turnkey service. Therein lies a big opportunity.

“There is no standard in the industry,” Colaneri says. He points to the myriad of vendors he saw at the HITEC conference, a gathering for hospitality technology professionals, in Houston in June. “The smarter ones will be sharing a booth in the next year,” he adds.

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