Josh.ai Brings Privacy-Focused Smart Home Ecosystem to Kimpton Rowan Hotel
Smart home voice automation startup Josh.ai has begun expanding into hospitality, integrating its smart device system into the VIP suite of the Kimpton Rowan in Palm Springs, California. The privacy-focused setup offers similar voice control over the room and access to information about the hotel and area, but processes all of the commands locally, without sending any data to the cloud or other servers.
An executive at Kimpton who is also a Josh.ai client brought it up with his team and IHG reached out to Josh to set up the 90-day pilot program.Josh installed a Josh Nano smart speaker above the bed, connected to a Sonos speaker, smart lights, television, and smart shades. The Josh device controls all of the others, handling music and TV playback, shade positions, and lighting. The device also offers informational services about the local weather and activities and places to go nearby such as bicycle reservations, hiking options, and tourist spots like Joshua Tree.
Josh tech has been embedded in Airbnb homes and conference rooms before, but nothing like the integration in the Kimpton Rowan suite. It took some planning to adapt the Josh.ai system for a hotel. For instance, homeowners with Josh can program ‘scenes,’ essentially Alexa or Google Assistant routines where one command sets multiple actions in motion. Instead, Josh and Kimpton designed five template scenes, so that people staying there can issue commands like “OK Josh, Good Morning,” or “OK Josh, Relax,” and have the blinds, lights, and video and audio content adjust to match the time and mood.
“There’s a lot we’ve had to think through in terms of how to set this up,” Josh.ai CEO Alex Capecelatro, told Voicebot in an interview. “Especially for people booking hotel rooms who just want to book a room and don’t want to take a class or watch a video before. We had to think about how to let people know ahead of time what commands are possible. We want to curate the guest experience with [the Scenes].”
There’s been a boom in hospitality voice AI has particularly taken off over the last year and a half in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitality tech developer Volara has been in the forefront in reaching new properties like Washington, D.C.’s Hotel Zena, which opened in October with a Volara-powered Google Nest Hub in every room, and Village Hotels in the United Kingdom. Volara is also supporting devices in longer-term corporate hotels in New York City. Volara’s expansion has also included new features, most recently partnering with youtip to add the option to tip hotel staff by voice.
Amazon hasn’t been slacking either. The company recently upgraded the Alexa for Hospitality platform to make adding and expanding Alexa for Hospitality faster and more convenient to install and incorporate a custom version of the system. And Google has gone right to Volara in a with hotel goods provider Guest Supply. The Sysco subsidiary and Volara are working to incorporate the smart displays, customized with Google for Hotels software to Guest Supply’s clients.
The two have even spread to more thematic hotels. Legoland Florida has installed smart speakers with a customized version of Alexa for Hospitality into its Pirate Island Hotel. Meanwhile, guests staying at the Legoland hotels in New York and California will find a custom Google Nest Hub installed in their room with Google Assistant to serve as their concierge and guide. And while IHG has experimented with voice AI in Chinese hotels by adding Baidu smart displays to suites back in 2018, that trial didn’t extend to other countries. The pilot Josh is running is just the first step for the company, which has had designs on the hospitality industry, according to Capecelatro.
“We’re having conversations about new features like room service,” Capecelatro said. “I’ve been thinking of hospitality pretty much since the founding of the company, but it’s early days in terms of where it’s going to go. There are lots of interesting opportunities for pushing boundaries on software and custom hardware.”