Risk mitigation is crucial across various industries, but the hospitality sector faces unique challenges demanding vigilant measures. Hotel operators must prioritize safeguarding operations, protecting guests and staff, and maintaining brand integrity to ensure long-term profitability. The Internet of Things (IoT) emerges as a powerful tool, connecting people, processes, and systems to streamline risk mitigation through intelligent, affordable technologies. Here, we explore four significant ways IoT can help hoteliers manage risk.
Automate Pest Control Monitoring
In 2023, the United States pest control industry had an estimated market value of over $26 billion – a considerable increase from just over $14 billion in 2012. When pests like rodents or bedbugs invade, hotels experience dire consequences that can ruin brand reputations, pose significant health risks, spark lawsuits, and impact revenue. Bedbugs and rodents represent the most problematic pests because they’re incredibly resilient, multiply rapidly, survive for days or months without food, and often go undetected until infestations are rampant.
Bedbugs are reportedly the most difficult pests to control once an outbreak is determined, especially given that it takes about seven weeks on average for an infestation to be discovered. One study found hotels treated for bedbugs 7.1 times every five years. According to another report, bedbug infestations costs U.S. hoteliers $111,000 annually per location because of lost business, replacing soft goods, and providing treatment.
Early detection is the best way to avoid bedbug problems. Modern IoT solutions can combat bedbugs with strategic, discreet placement of wireless sensors underneath mattresses, delivering continuous, 24/7 monitoring and real-time alerts for swift remediation – helping to avoid widespread infestation, operational disruptions, and irreparable reputational harm.
Aside from posing a monumental nuisance, the consequences of rodent infestations affect operations, employees, and guests on a much deeper level. According to the CDC, they are known to transmit more than 35 illnesses and have alarming reproduction rates.
Like bedbugs, early detection is the best means of avoiding rodent infestations. Pest control initiatives like glue traps and deep cleaning initiatives simply aren’t enough, often failing to eliminate an active infestation.
The strategic placement of smart traps with remote monitoring can help hoteliers achieve rodent control with automation and efficiency. Around-the-clock monitoring provides continuous visibility for easy identification of traps that have been “activated”, resulting in a needs-based process rather than a manual one.
Enable Proactive Leak Detection
Like pests, water leaks can go unnoticed until serious damages have occurred, and financial consequences like increased utility bills, wasted resources, and expensive remediation and replacement costs arise. For context, according to research by LAIIER, the average loss in a two-week period repairing a leak-damaged hotel room in New York City is $3,300. However, damages can be significantly higher. One New York City hotel experienced $4 million in damages after a faulty fitting caused a water leak that damaged 65 units, as well as electrical risers, elevators, and several common areas.
Prevention and early detection tactics for guestrooms, lobbies, kitchens, and less frequented areas like utility rooms, storage areas, and basements are critical. Strategically placed IoT sensors designed to detect water enable 24/7 monitoring. If a leak is detected, alerts are issued through email or SMS so operators can take immediate remedial action.
By mitigating water waste from leaks, hotels can also reduce consumption, helping them meet sustainability and ESG goals while saving on utility costs. Considering 73% of travelers are more likely to choose an accommodation with sustainable practices and that water and sewer costs are the 2nd most considerable utility expense – representing 25% of all utility costs per the EPA – preventing water waste can accommodate guest preferences and contribute to a hotel’s bottom line.
Protect Employees via Rapid Response Buttons
In an industry with one of the highest rates of workplace assault and harassment at 58%, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) developed a Five-Star Promise to provide employee safety devices and resources promoting employee and guest safety. Many cities and states across the U.S. require employers to equip staff with personal safety devices such as an IoT-powered rapid response solution. These discreet wearables enable employees to trigger for help at the push of a button in emergencies or unsafe situations. This is ideal for vulnerable staff working at large, sprawling hotel properties, alone, or in low-traffic areas.
Designed to send a silent signal via text and email to a pre-set list of individuals (e.g., security teams or management personnel) with an employee’s precise location, the device will continue sending updated location data until the alert is stopped. To minimize potentially accidental or false alarms, devices may have buttons on both sides requiring a dual button press to activate. Discrete activation and silent notifications are critical since visible and audible alerts can potentially worsen the situation. Moreover, since areas like storage rooms, stairwells, or laundry facilities may lack cellular and Wi-Fi coverage, a solution spanning the entire hotel facility ensures connectivity issues don’t disrupt signal transmissions that could prevent help from arriving quickly.
Keep Culinary Environments Safe with Digital Food Safety
A big part of the guest experience at hotels is dining at on-site restaurants or ordering room service. Risk management in food operations, from storage and prep to consumption, is essential to prevent serious illnesses. This was the case for 32 people who got sick from a foodborne illness after a conference in Los Angeles. Plus, foodborne illness outbreaks can potentially cost up to $2.1 million, depending on the severity of the incident, legal fees, and fines, underscoring the need for proactive digital food safety solutions.
IoT enables remote monitoring of cold and hot storage areas and door open/close activity throughout large hotel properties – and across the property portfolio – all in real-time. Sensors automatically collect, transmit, and centralize temperature data into intelligent systems continuously and reliably while automating manual processes. Decreasing the manual processes needed for back-of-house (BOH) operations also enables staff to focus on higher-value priorities like ensuring guest satisfaction.
Beth Milano is an IoT Solutions Consultant at MachineQ, an enterprise IoT company within Comcast. She brings 17 years of experience in the hospitality industry advising hoteliers, management groups and operators on a diverse range of IoT solutions available to enhance operations and the guest experience.