June 19, 2018.
The next time you order something from a hotel’s front desk you won’t need to worry about getting dressed when it is delivered to your room. After all, a robot won’t care what you wear when you open the door.
The Savioke Relay is being deployed in hotels around the world, where it autonomously delivers items to guest rooms. Guests can order snacks, coffee, toiletries, or anything a hotel offers. The chirping robot has an internal map of the building so it knows where to go, and it uses radar technology called LIDAR to move through crowds of people.
“When I first heard about it, I was a bit skeptical,” says Jukka Salmikuukka, head of KONE’s Ecosystem Business in its New Services and Solutions unit. “But as soon as I did more research and saw it operate, I realized it worked very well. At our first customer installation with the Savioke team, the feedback was fantastic.”
Helping robots and elevators communicate
Savioke (pronounced “savvy oak”) is a company based in Sunnyvale, California. Robots have been used in industrial settings for decades, but Savioke is taking the Relay out into the public.
“Savioke contacted us when they wanted to sell the robot to a hotel with KONE elevators,” Salmikuukka says. “Of course, to navigate through a hotel the Relay needed to be able to use our elevators.”
There are different methods for making this work. One way is to retrofit a building with all the necessary equipment and hardware, but KONE has a much better way.
“Using the cloud is an elegant, future-proof way to do it,” Salmikuukka explains. “In the future, we will use our Flow Connectivity and cloud services so the Relay communicates to our IoT platform. The platform calls the connected elevator for the robot. This means there is no need for extra installations on site.”
First, let us take a selfie
At Hotel EMC2 in Chicago, Relay robots called Leo and Cleo regularly pose for selfies with guests. The little helpers are part of the 195-room hotel’s unique approach to integrating art and science.
When the front desk receives a notification of a customer’s order, Leo and Cleo are loaded and then sent on their way. The robots use KONE elevators to navigate the route all the way to the room door.
“We find that our guests have higher expectations now more than ever, especially in this technology world where everything’s connected to social media,” says Alexander Foster, director of rooms at EMC2 Hotel. “When they get here, the robots and their relationship with the elevators blow their mind.”
Foster emphasizes the importance of quick and reliable customer service and continued innovation in the hotel’s collaboration with KONE.
“At the end of the day, our happy guests make us happy clients.”
New innovations for the digital age
KONE and Savioke have worked to continue their cooperation, offering Savioke’s robots and KONE’s connectivity solutions to their customers.
“We will see many more service robots in the future, so we need to learn about them,” says Salmikuukka. “We need to understand how they will be used and what it means for our solutions.”
Additionally, KONE is always interested in exploring relevant new innovations, and service robots certainly sets them apart from the crowd. It is also a new revenue channel, as KONE will soon begin sales of the service with Savioke.
“This collaboration is also valuable for customer communications,” Salmikuukka says. “By offering these robots we open up an entirely new dialogue with the customer. We can talk about how they run their buildings, and how we can bring more value to our customers and their businesses through new technology solutions.”
Embracing the future
But now for the important question. Does the Relay turn around to face the doors when it is riding in an elevator, as is proper etiquette for people?
“Actually, yes, I think it does, because it gets ready to exit,” Salmikuukka laughs. “But it is funny that you ask about people riding in an elevator with the robot. I was just in a hotel in Singapore with the Relay, and it was great to see how everyone was so positively surprised and excited by it. This ‘wow factor’ is one of the benefits it creates.”
KONE and Savioke are busy putting the Relays into operation in several new locations, and Salmikuukka says we should keep our eyes out for them.
“Service robots will be a big part of our everyday lives sooner than we might expect,” he says. “It is important for KONE to get hands-on with them now because it helps us to think how robotics can be used in other ways to benefit our customers. This is a great example of our partnership ecosystem in action, and it is an exciting journey for us.”