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Hotels set the pace for consumers’ smart home expectations


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Vacations are the perfect time to relax and enjoy all the perks hotels have to offer, from immaculately decorated rooms, vibrant social spaces, world-class spas to 24-hour concierges. While most can’t bring those experiences home, they can replicate one thing: the technology.

Smart home experts Dan DiClerico and John Attala say hotels are often the first places consumers come in contact with smart tech, including occupancy sensor-controlled systems, predictive maintenance, high-tech bathrooms and smart parking.

“The hospitality industry in general, we see it as a pretty good harbinger of home features, especially when it comes to technology and energy efficiency,” DiClerico said. “Hotel management is always looking for ways to enhance the guest experience, but at the same time, control cost, and technology is a pretty good way to accomplish both those goals.”

“Sure enough, homeowners are interested in the same thing, and there tends to be crossover appeal there,” he added.

Both DiClerico and Attala point toward predictive maintenance as a smart-hotel technology trend that’s breaking into the residential space. Consumers are often unaware of these tools since they’re hidden within the walls of the bedroom or bathroom to alert hotel managers to leaking pipes or electrical issues.

But, homebuilders are integrating these maintenance tools into new builds, which is likely to raise awareness amongst homeowners, they said.

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“You hear about a single, leaky toilet in a hotel can cost hundreds of dollars over the course of a year,” DiClerico said. “So the ability to pick up on those things is driving a lot of innovation in the predictive maintenance space. Now, we’re seeing that come into the home.”

For the home, Attala says homeowners could use predictive maintenance to give them a heads-up on an impending disaster with their plumbing or HVAC systems.

“In terms in how that can be used in the smart home, a system would be looking for outliers in the data,” Attala explained. “We’d be looking for when runtime on one day in a particular season might be ‘x’ and then the next day in the same season it’s much higher or much lower.”

“What you want to do is alert the resident to the possibility that there’s an issue with the HVAC system,” he added. “It’s not necessarily known what the exact problem is, but you can alert the resident that there could be something there and the high runtimes with your unit, so it’s time to get it checked out.”

While predictive maintenance is still finding its place in the residential space, Attala says occupancy sensor-controlled systems are more accessible and familiar to homeowners through thermostat and lighting systems.

“Technology like ours — smart thermostats — that have occupancy sensors built into them that scan the space and the room constantly for motion and body heat,” he said. “Through those sensors, the thermostats are able to understand whether a room is occupied or not and then allow the temperature to rise or fall by a few degrees depending on the season.”

“That reduces the amount of time HVAC units are running and ultimately save on the energy bill by doing so,” he said.

Attala also notes that occupancy sensor-controlled lighting and plug systems have made their way into the residential space as another way of reducing energy usage and costs.

“The same information around occupancy can be sent to a third party lighting system, such that the lights will shut off when no one is in a particular room or in a particular space,” he noted.

“It could also apply to plug loads throughout the home. The plugs will shut off when no one is there, so you’re not supplying power to the microwave or coffee machine when no one is around.”

While Attala is most excited about occupancy sensor-controlled systems, DiClerico is placing his bets on smart toilets. The smart-home expert says smart toilets are a tried-and-true feature in hotels across Japan and other parts of Asia, but Americans are finally starting to catch on.

“A good one, and a kind of a funny one, is smart toilets,” DiClerico said. “The hotel is looking to give guests the most positive experience as possible and it’s a way for them to control and lower toilet paper costs.”

“So, they get that experience and the benefits of the bidet and warm air dryer, and it’s a really awesome experience,” he added. “So when they go back home, they’ll decide they want the same thing at home.”

The final smart hotel trend that’s likely to make its way into the residential space is smart parking, which is the use of technology to assign parking spots and streamline traffic in and out of a parking garage.

Attala says smart parking is truly cutting edge, with only a handful of luxury hotels offering the perk. However, Attala sees the technology eventually transferring to luxury condos or luxury multi-family housing units.

“This is something that is pretty new,” he said. “But it is something that’s up-and-coming and could be popularized in the future.”

Email Marian McPherson.

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