InterContinental partners with Baidu to introduce ‘AI hotel rooms’

By Li Xuanmin Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/5 21:23:01

Aiming to gain an edge in a technology-driven era and attract young consumers, China's hospitality industry has been beefing up efforts to provide guests with AI-oriented smart hotel rooms, where almost everything is connected and controlled by artificial intelligence (AI).

But the rising tide of the AI hotel room has also led to some privacy concerns as well as questions from industry observers regarding how "smart" this room could truly be.

On Wednesday, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)announced that it has cooperated with Baidu Inc to launch several AI smart rooms at its hotel in Sanlitun, located in Beijing's Chaoyang district.

The Global Times tested out the AI-activated speaker placed in the hotel room - developed by Baidu's DuerOS Platform - and found that guests can ask the smart assistant for basic information, such as the current travel time to the airport, as well as other types of room service like ordering food.

Another feature of the speaker is controlling hotel room facilities like lowering the temperature of the air conditioning, turning up the lights and drawing the curtains.

"Compared with traditional hotel suites, the AI smart hotel room could save a lot of time thanks to voice control features," Lin Wang, vice president of marketing, IHG Greater China, said at a press briefing to launch the AI room.

As the millennial generation is particularly intrigued by technology, Wang also noted that the strategy could further attract young people and lead a new round of consumption upgrades at the hotel.

Regarding future plans, Wang said that the program will be carried out in 100 suites in IHG's hotels across China.

However, some visitors of the AI smart hotel room seem to be unsatisfied with the experience. "Calling it an AI smart room is an exaggeration. [Its smart speaker] is similar to the virtual assistant of Apple's Siri… I'm disappointed because the smart room's interaction with hotel facilities is limited and still at an early stage," a hotel visitor surnamed Wang told the Global Times.

Another concern shared among visitors is privacy. "The room's smart device has a microphone and I don't know how much information it is recording. What if such information is being leaked or stolen by hackers?" Wang asked.

Liu Dingding, an independent industry analyst, told the Global Times that a mature AI model should not only just answer questions, but more importantly should be able to identify guests' preferences based on big data.

"For example, the moment you walk into the hotel, the AI system could know which type of room you prefer and what temperature and lighting conditions you like. It could also identify your tourist habits and recommend food to cater to your tastes," he said. "Therefore, the hospitality industry's AI-themed development is very primitive right now."

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