Creating the Hotel of the Future with Nordic Choice & Speeron

Partnership with Tele2 IoT is transforming the hospitality industry

If you isolate a hotel it’s like its own community, its own little city: people are living there, they need service, things happen behind the scenes, someone is taking care of the house – but at the same time, there is a commercial layer that needs to be interesting to guests so that they want to book the hotel. Now, if you look at what is happening in the IoT industry, smart cities cover what hotels need. And when you combine IoT with 5G, it’s clear that new technologies are ready to take hospitality into the future. Nordic Choice Hotels has long been the kind of hospitality player that looks for new opportunities to enhance guest experience and deliver a superior guest journey – and with the help of hospitality technology integration experts Speeron and Tele2 IoT, they’re already bringing their guests the hotel of the future.

This summer, Nordic Choice Hotels’ Comfort Hotel Xpress in Stockholm became the first hotel in the Nordic region to offer new smart solutions and enhanced guest experiences, with 5G and IoT moving into twenty of the hotel’s 257 rooms for testing. This is an important move for a company that is continually pushing the envelope, finding out what is possible in terms of technology, business modules, and partnerships.

When it comes to 5G, Nordic Choice was already talking internally about it four years ago, and while they didn’t know exactly what they wanted to do with the technology, they did know it would be more than just fast WiFi – and they knew that the expert team at Speeron, who they had been working in partnership with for ten years, would tell them about the opportunities and possibilities with not just 5G, but also IoT.

 

We are just waiting for the possibility to implement 5G in all of our more than 210 hotels across the Nordic and Baltic countries. For Nordic Choice, technology is about being at the forefront and giving our guests the best experiences. Digitalizing our services has for many years been a part of this, and 5G and IoT will enable us to do much more than we can currently imagine.

Petter A. Stordalen Founder Nordic Choice Hotels

How it came together

“I got a call from Oscar Lindh at Speeron but couldn’t take it, so he left me a message that said, ‘Hi Christian, long time. I’m just wondering if you would like to be the first in the world to do something. Call me.’ And I called him back maybe 22 seconds later,” laughs Christian Lundén, Director of Innovation and Customer Journey at Nordic Choice. “Oscar told me the news I had been waiting for: Tele2 was going to be the first to launch 5G in Sweden and Speeron was ready to help us jump on this opportunity.

When it comes to IoT, we’ve seen quite a lot of things that will be enhanced with 5G. Guests who have 5G phones can of course use 5G onsite, test new services, download and share, but it’s also about guest enhancement: how can we use technology to improve guest experience? We chose to start our IoT journey with measuring air quality because it’s a bit of low hanging fruit, but we are looking at everything from a lot of different angles to see how we can improve things for the building owners, the guests, the employees.

Christian Lundén Director of Innovation & Customer Journey Nordic Choice Hotels

5G-enabled IoT offers any number of possible applications for the hospitality industry, but it can be difficult to test new technology when operating a full house. So, while Covid has certainly had an impact on hotel occupancy, there was a silver lining to this cloud: being in the middle of a pandemic meant lower occupancy and thus an ideal time to test the benefits and new ideas IoT brings. Working in partnership with Nordic Choice’s IT team and Tele2 IoT, Speeron started with installing IoT sensors to measure air quality.

“We have built a platform that can, among other things, aggregate and store data. We can install sensors where needed in the hotel to measure a wide variety of things and link them to our platform, which is connected to the Tele2 5G backbone, and which can also be connected to the hotel booking system,” explains Andrej de Godzinsky, Chief Technology Officer, Speeron. Our initial focus is on air quality measurements in selected areas, meaning hotel rooms and perhaps bars and meeting rooms, to ensure that air quality is within the threshold set, that people are safe, and that they stay healthy and fresh on the premises – but that is only the beginning.”

The second stage of IoT implementation will be how to optimize hotel operations while being more cost efficient, something that is particularly important in light of the challenging environment brought on by the global pandemic.

“It has become more difficult to get staff in the wake of Covid, but with the help of IoT you can optimize employee’s time,” says Karl Söderberg, Partner, Speeron. “Take the breakfast buffet: IoT sensor-based solutions could monitor the level of scrambled eggs or bacon or anything else offered and send an automatic alert to the kitchen when items need to be replenished. This saves waitstaff or other from having to constantly monitor levels and it also ensures guests won’t have to wait for food.

Learning how the air moves or behaves in the hotel lets us know what kind of actions we need to do in the building to keep quality levels. For example, it may be as simple as learning the filters in the air conditioning systems are not cleaned often enough – but this information can lead to both enhanced guest experience and cost savings.

Karl Söderberg Partner Speeron

Söderberg says he sees a paradigm shift right now, where everything Speeron delivers to hotels will be wireless, 5G-enabled, super-fast, and barriers like expensive and disruptive cabling will be removed.

Challenges

While 5G is still being rolled out and coverage is not universal across Sweden, IoT technology has matured, which means for Speeron, implementation has actually been rather simple when it comes to hardware.

“Good hardware is now available,” says Andrej de Godzinsky. “The challenge – if you can call it that – is more about understanding the needs of the customer. What does the hospitality industry need and what is the first thing to do? This became obvious when Covid-19 hit. We knew we had to make the hotel as safe as possible and to make sure the owners felt safe and secure with what they were offering guests.

“The challenges were in creating links to the software in order to understand what we can and need to do, what kind of data we are receiving, so that we all become experts in air quality. That means that we understand what TVOC (Total Viable Organic Compounds) means, what the particles per millimeter mean, etc. So, it’s getting the team to understand what we need to deliver for the future, and then making that message as clear as possible for everybody to understand the benefits. So far, the cooperation between all the parties has been tremendously good and fast. We’ve been very happy working with both Tele2 IoT and Nordic Choice.

“I must say, also, that our development team doing the back end and gathering all this information – they are ecstatic, because they’re part of something new. There will be some challenges during the implementation periods to get everything working, making sure the coverage is good enough and that we get the sensors to the right places, but everything is coming together nicely.”

The data

For Nordic Choice, historical data is as important as real time data. While real time data allows for real time response, it’s the historical data that helps the hotel to compare and contrast – and as a result improve processes and optimize operations.

“It’s important to look at what we have tested back in the day and what we’re doing now,” says Christian Lundén. “If we go back to the breakfast buffet, the sensors will not just be sending alerts to the kitchen when restocking is needed, they will also be gathering data that will help us predict what is happening at specific times of the morning, or specific times of the year or during different seasons. It can be tricky right now due to Covid but when we return to normal times, we will be able to see that on a Tuesday at 8AM in mid-October, these are the patterns: the eggs are empty or coffee will be low, so we can be proactive, rather than reactive when it comes to ensuring the buffet is always stocked and understanding our staffing needs. And importantly, this will help reduce food waste.

“This first step we’re looking at things internally, because we want to understand the possibilities, but we also want to share this information with guests. It may not when the eggs are empty, but certainly when the breakfast times are better, for example: both if the breakfast area is busy right now and when it is likely to be less busy. It’s the opportunity to put real data into the hands of the guests to enhance their stay that has us really excited.”

Security

Security is always of utmost importance when you’re talking about data. No one wants to be hacked and no one wants to run afoul of regulations such as GDPR.

“We’re using private VPN, so data is going to secured links to secured closed environments, where only carefully selected parties have access – and that access is only available from certain locations, so if I’m not working in the office I can’t log into the system,” says Andrej de Godzinsky. “Secondly, when we’re working with guest data we work with it in an anonymized way, meaning the guest cannot be identified, only a general guest profile type, such as a one-night single room traveler or a weekend leisure double room type can be identified. There is no personal data involved. Rest assured – the data is secured and safe.”

Industry impact

Like anyone else working with buildings and building automation, players across the hospitality industry are keeping a close eye on how new technologies like 5G and IoT are going to impact their business – and what the benefits are.

“When hotels notice they can save money with IoT they will then start implementing it,” says Andrej de Godzinsky. “Monitoring room environment will help you gauge air quality – and it will also help you monitor energy usage, which will in turn help you save money, as well as help with your sustainability efforts.”

Cost efficiency will be a big thing, but also in the long run air quality will be mandatory, either due to customer demand or even regulations. Being able to measure a lot of things and save energy is important from a cost perspective, but also for customers. Additionally, wireless connectivity means installation is simple, cheap and easy – something that can be a huge benefit when you’re talking about hotels that are in historically important or protected buildings.

“This technology is here to stay and it’s going to spread quickly. Someone just needed to be the first. What we can do with this technology for the hospitality industry is we can take down the costs of running the buildings. And when it comes to renovations, there are a lot of older protected buildings housing hotels – doing any kind of internal cabling, new wires, etc. can be really difficult or very expensive. There are still hotels we call ‘bad WiFi hotels’ because it’s so hard to do access points in them. With this technology we can connect the hotels much faster, and actually not touch much of the actual building itself, which means cost savings and also respecting the property.”

The future

IoT and related technologies are paving the way into the future because increasingly everyone wants to measure things and understands the value of doing this, especially around energy consumption and air quality. But even understanding how people are moving around the hotel can open up opportunities for things like advertising – if you know where there will be the most people at what time, you can adjust your digital signs accordingly. When it comes to smart buildings, the possibilities and benefits are nearly infinite.

If you would like to learn more about how IoT can enable your business, please get in touch.