Chinese Smart Hotel Tech Startup Xiezhu Raises $37M
Chinese hospitality tech startup Xiezhu has raised 258 million yuan, around $37 million in a Series A funding round. The company develops and manufactures AI-powered locks, smart displays, and other tech for hotels in China.
Funding AI Hospitality
Xiezhu’s technology is already embedded in about 8,000 hotels in China and the company plans to use the funding to expand that list. The AI developed by the company, whose name translates to approximately “Assistant” is used to run voice assistants on smart displays as well as to manage guest experiences such as room doors that can be opened using vocal or facial recognition. Xiezhu’s devices and software have been added to more than 350,000 hotel rooms since it was founded in 2015.
According to the company’s announcement, the funding is the largest ever in China’s hotel tech industry. The money will be used to create new tech, extend the company’s footprint, and set up a potential IPO this year.
The hospitality industry is integrating voice and AI technology at a growing clip. Xiezhu already has strong competition in China after Baidu partnered with InterContinental Hotels Group to bring AI-powered smart displays to suites in several hotels in the country.
And while voice and AI are more prevalent in Chinese hotels, U.S. hotels are slowly starting to experiment with the technology. Marriott ran a successful pilot program putting smart speakers with Alexa in a few hotels and is now building out the program to more of its properties. The Westin Buffalo, meanwhile, became the first hotel to offer to link its smart speakers to the personal Alexa accounts of guests last year. Voice assistant developer SoundHound is integrating a version of its Houndify platform into JBL smart speakers at hotels around the world.
As people become more comfortable and familiar with using voice assistants, their presence in hotels will start to become as expected as a TV or phone. People will start to think of a voice assistant as the default rather than an exotic luxury. For the hotels, there are budgetary benefits to incorporating AI into their features. Attracting more guests means more income, but it’s also just cheaper and uses fewer resources to have an AI handle customer interaction, freeing employees for other tasks. The initial costs are also dropping rapidly as smart speakers become cheaper and devices to network multiple smart devices continue to roll out.