Google today announced a new hospitality solution with Google Assistant on a Nest Hub tailored for hotel guests to make service requests, check out, play music, make calls, and more. It’s the company’s answer to Alexa for Hospitality, Amazon’s program aimed at bringing its assistant technology into hotels and rentals. Nest Hub for hotels is designed to be a touch-free experience in line with health expert recommendations around COVID-19.
The hospitality segment has been devastated by the pandemic, with hotel losses in the U.S. alone estimated to exceed $46 billion. Several large chains including Hyatt, Radisson, and Hilton have partnered with disinfectant brands like Lysol and Dettol and implemented highly visible cleaning, sanitation, and hygienic protocols in an effort to allay the fears of would-be guests.
Google is betting its new Nest Hub experience will lure back customers, too, with voice commands targeting hotel use cases. From a smart display, guests can say things like “Hey Google, schedule a wake up call,” “Hey Google, ask my hotel for extra towels,” and “Hey Google, what time does the pool close?” without having to place calls to the front desk. In some hotels, they can also start the check-out process, surface a survey to notify a manager if something is going poorly, or opt to receive promotions and information about upcoming specials when they ask “Hey Google, tell me about the specials.”
Google says its hotel solution benefits from Volara’s integrations hub, which connects the solution to technologies such as:
- Task management solutions from Alice, Knowcross, Amadeus (HotSOS), SynergyMMS, GXP, Hmobile, and Nuvola.
- Energy management and room controls from Interel, Telkonet, Schneider Electric, VDA Group (and soon Legrande and Lutron).
- Interactive television solutions from Innspire, Sonifi, BeyondTV, and MCOMs.
- SMS guest engagement from Zingle (Medallia), Kipsu, GoMoment, TrustYou Messaging, and Whistle.
- Staff alert technologies from React Mobile.
Otherwise, the hospitality white label version of Assistant behaves much the way Assistant does on consumer smart displays. Guests can queue up YouTube videos, connect their phones via Bluetooth, and turn up or down the volume or skip tracks hands-free. Depending on the hotel, they’re able to control blinds, TVs, and lights. And they can ask for the weather forecast, learn about local sites and pandemic-related developments, find updated hours for restaurants (making reservations where available), and get info about nearby shops.
Perhaps anticipating concerns about privacy, Google says that guests don’t have to sign into the Nest Hubs and that activity won’t be linked to personal Google accounts. (When guests ask the hotel for help — for example, by requesting fresh towels or a check-out — the hotel will have access to their room number so they can handle the request.) No voice command audio will be stored, and activities will be immediately wiped from the device when it’s reset for the next guest.
The timing of Google’s play for the hospitality market might seem ill-advised, but it’s an expansion of existing efforts — and Google’s attempt to close the gap with rival Amazon. In January 2019, Google unveiled plans to pilot Interpreter Mode, an Assistant feature that can translate between dozens of languages in real time, with Hyatt, Dream Hotel Group, and Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
Amazon launched its rival Alexa for Hospitality back in June 2018. Like Google’s solution, the Echo-powered service can be customized to provide information like checkout time and pool hours; allow guests to request services like housekeeping or room service; and control hotel room functions like adjusting the thermostat or raising the blinds. Marriott signed on as an early customer, as did vacation rental and boutique lifestyle companies RedAwning and Two Roads Hospitality.