Take a selfie for automated check-in at hotel among technology to improve productivity in the sector

At W Singapore Sentosa Cove, guests can unlock their rooms with a smartphone thanks to the Starwood Preferred Guest Keyless feature. The Singapore Tourism Board has announced a plan to identify technology that hotels can adopt to become "smarter". PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A hotel guest can in future skip the administrative hassle of checking in just by taking a selfie using a new all-in-one mobile phone app.

The process is automated and there is no need for paperwork. The guest does a self-check-in using fingerprint and facial recognition technology.

Reducing the administrative tasks performed by hotel staff helps raise productivity in the hotel sector.

With the same app, the guest can enter his room, and also control the lights, air-conditioner, and television.

Developed by AI-solutions firm GTRIIP, it was one of the eight innovations showcased at an annual conference organised by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) on Thursday (Nov 23) to help the hotel industry, which faces challenges such as changing consumer demands and a continued manpower shortage for repetitive tasks.

STB also announced on Thursday a plan to identify technology that hotels can adopt, such as facial recognition at check-in and the use of e-payment wallets.

Called the Smart Hotel Technology Roadmap, it will be charted by STB and the Hotel Innovation Committee, led by the Singapore Hotel Association (SHA). Work on the road map is expected to begin late next year.

Ms Margaret Heng, SHA's executive director, said: "Nowadays a lot more of the younger generation travel, and many of them use mobile phones. Many of the technologies on display here use (mobile) apps."

Ms Ong Huey Hong, director of hotel and sector manpower at STB, said the idea behind the road map is to paint a vision of what a smart hotel is, regardless of size.

"We want to let hotels know what are all the technologies available, so that they can pick and choose for their own use - this is how we envisage the guide to be," she added.

Other technology on display at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre included a robotic arm that cooks eggs for guests in three minutes, whether sunny-side up, scrambled, or omelette-style.

One of the collaborators for the project, Mr Ng Yu Lik, a principal lecturer at RP's School of Hospitality, said the solution was developed to help hotels during their breakfast period.

"Four hours (during breakfast period) for a highly-trained chef to just keep on cooking eggs is a waste of talent and resources," he said.

There is also a delivery robot solution to automate the transport of laundry within hotels.

Developed by dry-cleaning company Laundry Network, RP and Starhub, it takes over menial tasks such as packing and counting linen, contributing to a 15 per cent reduction in storage space.

On Thursday, STB also gave an update on the Hotel Industry Transformation Map, which outlines strategies to help hotels adopt technology and address the manpower crunch, among other goals. This was launched in December last year.

One highlight of the plan so far is the Hotel Innovation Challenge that was held in May this year. It aimed to crowdsource innovative solutions to raise productivity and enhance customer experience.

STB chief executive Lionel Yeo said: "We strongly encourage hotels to participate in the Hotel Industry Transformation Map's initiatives and push ahead together with us on this journey of transformation to meet guests' evolving needs in an era of change and disruption."

STB will also work with a hotel operator at the group level for the first time to improve hotel productivity, by partnering Far East Hospitality Management in a four-year commitment to implement a programme across the entire hotel group.

The plan will cover three new properties slated to open in Sentosa in 2019.

Some of the ideas being explored with the operator include the use of smart technology and artificial intelligence in hotel operations, self-check-in processes and an in-house talent grooming programme.

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