NATIONAL REPORT—Luxury is no longer about white-glove service; today’s luxury is about convenience, comfort and speed—having everything at your fingertips.
DigiValet is an iPad-based guestroom solution, but that’s not the way its executives see it. David Goldstone, president, the Americas, DigiValet, said, “We are the complete Internet of Things (IoT) to the hotel, not just merely a tablet provider.”
Rahul Salgia, the company’s CEO, explained, “We’re not in the business of selling technology; we use it to solve a problem or some need of a hotel.”
This philosophy goes to the very core of the company and its solutions. “In 2008, a passionate hotelier, a friend of mine, challenged us to do something for hotels, to design something for the guestroom that will excite the guest and which people have never seen,” Salgia said.
Of course, it all goes back to the end user. “We always try to realize what does he want from that product,” Salgia said. “One can always look at features, but what’s his real problem? When we started analyzing the problems of the guest in a guestroom and how we could make the stay more comfortable, and then add light and charm and animation and suspense, that’s how we started building the DigiValet philosophy.”
The result is an iPad solution that can do a lot to control the room experience. By integrating with the property management system, point-of-sales systems and other back-of-house solutions, DigiValet enables guests to control the lights, air conditioning, shades and television; order in-room dining; have access to both video-on-demand and music-on-demand; stream music via their own device, made possible through an integration with platforms such as iOS, Android, Microsoft and Blackberry; read the newspaper; connect with hotel services like the concierge and housekeeping; access the internet both on the iPad and the TV; visit stores virtually, make purchases and have the items delivered to the hotel room; verify visitors and lock or unlock the door; check the room bill status; and check out of the hotel.
And, with IoT, the sky is the limit. Goldstone noted that the company is launching a hotel in Paris later this year where, at wake up, “guests will be able to turn their shower on from the iPad to the temperature they want.”
He added, “It’s really listening to the hotelier. When we go in on a call, the first thing we do is ask a hotelier, if they don’t tell us, ‘What are your problems that you’re facing from a technology point of view in the room and property-wide?’ We have the unbelievable ability to take those problems and solve them.”
Ease of use is important to consider. “The various things you see in a room were not designed initially or even today from a perspective of collaboration in a way they can actually coexist,” Salgia said. “Televisions work in silo, lighting controls, motorized curtains, etc. They’re very different and disparate. Because they’re not connected, you find a guest getting confused in terms of various interfaces.” By connecting all of these systems and creating one place for the guest to go, it gives them an easier system to use.
It also enables hotels to create experiences. “The door lock is intelligent and knows that the guest has arrived, and can differentiate if it’s the guest or the maid,” Salgia said. “When the guest opens up the room, why can’t a lock whisper this to everyhing in the room and orchestrate a welcome scene? Use the intelligence there and make some excitement, whether it’s about a welcome experience, a wake-up experience, ordering food, watching a movie and being delighted that you automatically get popcorn delivered to your room—because the system knows.”
It’s all about uber-personalization. For instance, Goldstone said, “Let’s assume that a hotel has a wedding party in house of 100 rooms. Those 100 rooms are all going to the wedding and taking photographs. We have the ability to allow just those guests to upload those photos to TVs in those 100 rooms, so everyone can see them and the hotel can do a Dropbox file and send that to the bride as a gift.”
The entire guest interface of the device—including labels, hotel information, descriptions and the menu—can be adjusted to different languages via the touchscreen.
There are numerous benefits for the hotel, the executives said: energy savings on unoccupied rooms; TV viewership data; improved efficiency and reduced manpower; advertising revenues through promotions, as well as promotions on spa, food and beverage or entertainment; engineering and maintenance alerts; and auto-reporting of equipment failures.
“Our back-end reporting system, which the guest never sees, but the hotel operations team is fully aware of and trained on, helps cut down on problems before they arise,” Goldstone said. “In the luxury space, guests are more discerning than in other segments. Stuff has to work and work right, and when they want it to work.”
So, for instance, say a guest sets the temperature in the room to 68 degrees, but it doesn’t reach that temperature. “With DigiValet, we send an alert to engineering the minute that thermostat is set to 68. Two things happen: Our profile recognizes that’s the temperature you like and will remember it in the system, and engineering is alerted that room 401 set it to 68 degrees,” he said. “In 30 minutes, if it hasn’t reached 68, a message is sent to engineering on the system, which can be tracked on text or call. Engineering will call the room and apologize, and ask to come and see what the problem is. If the guest is not there, engineering can go in and sort out the problem. It’s a huge operational efficiency. That’s just one example.”
“While the key message/definition of DigiValet is all about the guest—which means it is to enhance the experience in the guestroom—at the same time, we don’t forget that money is being paid by the owners and is being recommended by operators,” Salgia added. “We are mindful of that; DigiValet is not just a cost to the hotel but is actually bringing a lot of returns to the hotel; there are a lot of hotels and customers that have recovered the cost of investment of DigiValet in nine months. We understand owners who put in the money will always need a return on investment.”
While DigiValet works primarily in the luxury space, Salgia added that this type of product could work for many segments. “For now, our focus is on luxury because our strength is to customize things and deliver solutions. When you do these types of boutique approaches, you probably cannot look at the entire market because each will have a different set of price points they will accept, different set of requirements in terms of the operating costs, etc.,” he said. “We are more suited to the luxury end of the business, but I think there could be a product that could use similar concepts for the rest of the market also… I truly believe there is a need in each of the segments.” HB