The internet of things, also known as IoT, has made quite a buzz over the last few years. While some devices are obviously a thing of the internet, it may surprise you to learn about other things that are slightly obscure yet still internet-connected. This article will delve into the basic concept of IoT, talk about some of the current uses in gaming and hospitality as well as make some predictions about how the technology might impact the casinos of the future and the far-reaching applications of IoT.
First: What is IoT?
IoT is the extension of internet connectivity into physical devices and everyday objects. Embedded with electronics, internet connectivity, and other forms of hardware (such as sensors), these devices can communicate with others over the internet, and they can be remotely monitored and controlled. The definition of IoT has evolved due to the convergence of multiple technologies, real-time analytics, machine learning, commodity sensors, and embedded systems. Traditional fields of embedded systems, wireless sensor networks, control systems, automation (including home and building automation) and others all contribute to enabling IoT. In the consumer market, IoT technology is most synonymous with products pertaining to the concept of the “smart home,” covering devices and appliances (such as lighting fixtures, thermostats, home security systems and cameras and other home appliances) that support one or more common ecosystems and can be controlled via devices associated with that ecosystem, such as smartphones and smart speakers. However, businesses are starting to leverage the technology in a big way as you will see in this article.
What’s in it for Hotels and Casinos?
Although gaming operators are slow to adopt new technologies, especially ones that connect them to the outside world, one thing is for certain; if they (meaning you) want to entice the “smart consumer,” things will need to change because your customers demand it. The operators who conform the quickest with the best guest experiences will win the prize, which comes in the form of revenue. All sarcasm aside, this represents a gigantic opportunity for you. Just to get the juices flowing, here are some great examples of IoT that operators are deploying as you read this.
Connected Smart Thermostat
By providing hotel guests with an app on their phones to monitor each of their IoT devices in their room, hoteliers aim to make creating a smart hotel room simple and easy. Both Google NEST and Honeywell have rolled out products to make this all possible, and there are a few early adopters out there. We will see more and more operators make the leap as well. These are simple products that guests have come to expect. Everyone knows the best hotel stays are the ones that make you feel at home, and this is exactly the type of technology that hotel guests have come to appreciate.
In-Room Digital Assistant
Think of Amazon Alexa or Google Home, and you can easily imagine where this next concept is going. As a matter of fact, Wynn in Las Vegas has rolled out dozens of Alexa units, and word on the street is that the experience is amazing. One of their top Wynn execs said, “I have never, ever seen anything that was more intuitively dead-on to making the guest experience seamlessly delicious, effortlessly convenient, with the ability to talk to your room and say, ‘Alexa, I am here, open the curtains, lower the temperature, turn on the news.’ She becomes our butler at the service at each of our guests.”
This is a technology that is just beginning to get deployed in the hospitality realm. Soon, it will be standard in every hotel room. Remember, you can buy an Echo Dot for $39, so it’s not going to break the bank. Word to the wise, next time you submit your budget, include at least a handful of devices for your suites. You won’t be sorry.
Smart Locks on Hotel Room Doors
Smart Locks are already being deployed at many hotels across the country, however, they will continue to innovate the technology as hotel operators automate the check-in process and continue to leverage the smartphone as the main point of service. If you use your imagination, you could see a hotel guest giving friends and family a virtual key to their room by the press of the button on their phone. Plastic hotel room keys will be obsolete very soon.
“Mirror, mirror, on the wall…” Smart Mirrors are not magic, but they have some very cool functionality. Coupled with Amazon Alexa, new smart mirrors can answer questions, tell you about the weather, and show you notifications right on the mirror. With the popularity of voice already dominating the market, this makes sense as a next step. Although this product is considered a luxury at this point, as the technology progresses and new development occurs, the wider usage of this device in hotel rooms seems to be the obvious next step. Eventually, all the walls in the room will become LED screens allowing the guest to immerse themselves in any environment imaginable. Visualize waking up in the Amazon forest or on a Hawaiian beach just by giving a verbal command on which theme you would like to have loaded in the morning. This is real stuff and not just a fantasy any longer. These technologies will likely be adopted by high-end properties, and they will be deployed in the VIP suites at first. Eventually, they will be seen in the standard rooms once the hardware prices normalize.
Autonomous Robots Securing Casinos
You’re probably thinking that this concept is farfetched, but as you read this, you should know that a robotic security guard is currently roving at The Pechanga Resort & Casino. A nearly 6-foot-tall stationary bot has been installed outside the main casino valet entrance, while a roving 400-pound, 5-foot-6-inch-tall, R2-D2-like machine autonomously wheels around Pechanga’s hotel lobby and airport terminal-sized glass atrium. The robots are programmed to continuously capture and transmit 360-degree HD video and photos, scanning for suspicious activity, unattended packages and sounds, while also using thermal imaging to detect literal hotspots, like a fire in a wall or even spilled coffee.
“Humans pick up only so much and after a while, you might miss something. Robots don’t miss anything.” Robert Krauss – Security Director at Pechanga
The Future – Drones are in the Air Monitoring the Property
Drones have been causing problems for gaming operators due to unauthorized pilots crashing into casinos like the incident that occurred at Caesars Las Vegas last Fourth of July. There will be more and more incidents like this as more legal and illegal remotely controlled drones take flight. Soon operators will need to harness the technology themselves, and they will be forced to use them for surveillance purposes. As more devices and vehicles enter the airspace, there will be an increased need for casino operators to monitor the outside of their buildings more carefully. There are situations that most people have not thought of yet – like, what if someone uses a drone/robot to rob a casino? Although this seems hard to imagine, it is totally possible, and the person perpetrating the crime doesn’t even need to be highly intelligent, they just need to watch a few YouTube videos to learn how to build and operate the device to get the job done. So yes, casino operators will need to consider new ways to defend against new technological threats. Many of these devices will rely on the internet to get the latest threat intelligence and communicate with other friendly systems to provide a hardened layer of protection. If you are in IT or have a cyber/physical security role, you should be considering your options.
Monitoring Devices and Gaining Insights
There are companies who are completely dedicated to improving the IoT experience for the hospitality market. IoT device management and data analytics companies, like Sympler, have created cloud-based gateways to bring in IoT data from devices to offer operators insight into the productivity of their customers, products and systems and provide virtual controls to manage their operations from a single GUI. As an increasing number of devices are brought online in business environments, these IoT devices and data management companies will simplify the exponential growth of device deployment, provisioning and data analytics.
Putting It All Together
A statement that most would agree with about IoT is that “IoT puts it all together.” This means that regardless of the industry, IoT device monitoring and data analytics are pervasive and growing across all sectors. In mining, operations are monitored from the pit to the port, airlines track every nuance of aircraft performance from departure to destination, security operations track movement from entry to exit and device manufacturers track their device usage and performance from the cradle to the grave. IoT device proliferation and data analytics continue to generate the most valuable output: insights on customers, patients and products that allow for more tailored experiences and JIT (just-in-time) decision-making. The final points on tailored experiences and just-in-time decision-making are invaluable for casino operators who are focused on timely player experiences and building brand loyalty.
Christopher Swanger is a technology veteran in the gaming industry and has worked both as a vendor and an operator. He is a Go-To-Market expert who helps companies establish relevance and value within the gaming and hospitality sector. As a proponent for innovation, Chris writes for Gaming & Leisure Magazine to help tell the stories that his technology partners and colleagues deem important to the betterment of the gaming industry. You can learn more about Chris at http://www.christopherswanger.com.