New DC Hotel Zena Integrates Google Nest Hub Smart Speakers in Guestrooms
Washington, D.C.’s new Hotel Zena opened this month with a Google Nest Hub smart speaker in every room. Integrated with voice tech developer Volara’s platform for hospitality businesses, guests in the 191 rooms will be able to control the environment and entertainment in their room using Google Assistant through Google’s Hotel Solution platform and ask the smart speaker about local recommendations and ideas for activities. Hotel Zena continues the spread of smart speakers and smart displays in hotels, although Google is not the only competitor to be the underlying voice assistant.
Hotel Zena is specifically dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments of women and the fight for gender equality. Entirely designed by women, the hotel includes interactive art and exhibits curated to extend that message. The Google Nest Hubs in Hotel Zena rooms allow people staying there to control their entertainment and communications by voice and even request toiletries via the ALICE Hotel Operations Platform. They can call restaurants, reserve hotel amenities, and otherwise treat the voice assistant like a concierge/smart home controller. Hotel Zena is the fifth Viceroy hotel with voice assistants in the guestrooms using Volara, and the second to use Google Assistant. The company first added Alexa-based smart speakers at Viceroy Los Cabos in 2018, then expanded the system to Hotel Zetta San Francisco and Viceroy L’Ermitage Beverly Hills in 2019. Zena follows in the footsteps of the Viceroy Washington DC, which added Google Assistant in August.
“As an early adopter to the Volara product suite, Viceroy Hotel & Resorts is a proud partner of Volara — the leader in voice-activated technology,” Viceroy Hotels & Resorts CEO Bill Walshe said in a statement. “We are even more grateful now to have technology in place to provide contactless hospitality to ensure guests and colleagues are as safe and comfortable as possible. We are thrilled to introduce the recent iteration of the Google voice assistant powered by Volara at our newest addition to the brand, Hotel Zena, to meet travelers’ demands for touchless room controls and services. With Google undoubtedly a household fixture, we look forward to providing a safe, innovative solution that guests are familiar with when they choose to stay with us.”
Enticing guests with smart hotel rooms makes sense as people become more comfortable with the technology in their homes and on mobile devices. Once you get used to controlling your lights and thermostat by voice in your house, it might seem a bit of a downgrade to need to go back to controlling it by hand when you’re at a luxury hotel. In turn, hotels benefit from lower costs as fewer resources are needed to interact with customers via AI than with employees. Voice assistant developers are expanding into hotels more quickly than ever.
Over the summer, Google announced it would work with hotel chains to incorporate Nest Hub smart displays and Google Assistant to hotel rooms with its hospitality benefits program. Like at Hotel Zena, the program sets the voice assistant to access hotel databases to answer questions about what’s available, including any special deals. Depending on the hotel, the smart display can handle check-outs so the guest can just leave directly from their room.
Volara is often part of the experimentation after it became the exclusive holder of the Amazon Alexa for Business Service Delivery Designation for the hospitality industry in 2016, as well as the launch partner for Alexa for Hospitality and Google Assistant Interpreter Mode. That’s helped cement the company’s central role in bringing both Alexa and Google Assistant to the hospitality industry. Along with Google, Volara partnered with CIRQ+ to add voice controls to its hotel management platform. Meanwhile, SoundHound is integrating a version of its Houndify platform into JBL smart speakers at hotels worldwide. Google is also racing to get ahead of Amazon, whose smart speakers were used in a successful Marriott pilot program. The Westin Buffalo then became the first hotel to offer to link its smart speakers to guests’ personal Alexa accounts. Voice assistants are going to be a mainstay of hotel rooms everywhere, eventually. It’s just a question of which assistant and which features it will offer.