FlyZoo – Alibaba’s futuristic hotel

While Flyzoo is the first complete, fully AI-equipped hotel, there are other players in the hospitality sector that have ventured into the field before. Beijing’s InterContinental Hotel partnered with Baidu using voice-controlled assistance to redefine customer experiences and Henn na Hotels in Tokyo mainly added robots and other AI-functions to reduce costs

The 290-room hotel in Hangzhou, China, called FlyZoo, aims to use updated technology to fix a number of typical hotel annoyances, such as long lines to check in, losing your keycard, and dealing with rude staff members. The project was a combination of efforts from Alibaba’s online travel platform, Fliggy, as well as other businesses from Alibaba, such as its artificial intelligence (A.I.) arm and its cloud arm.

“It’s all about the efficiency of the service and the consistency of service, because the robots are not disturbed by human moods. Sometimes, we say we are not in the mood, but the system and the robot will always be in the mood,” said Andy Wang, CEO of Alibaba Future Hotel Management, the unit that oversees the hotel project.

Guests will be welcomed with softly-lit white panelled walls in the interior like what is seen in Hollywood-movie spaceships. Customers can check into the hotel at a podium that scan their faces, as well as passports or other ID. For Chinese nationals, they can check in ahead of time by scanning their faces with their smartphones.

Going to the rooms, guests’ faces will be scanned again by elevators to check which floor they can access. No worries about room keys and cards, as the face-recognition software opens hotel doors.

Here are three innovations at FlyZoo that stand out:

1. Using an app to choose your ideal room

You probably guessed that FlyZoo has a savvy app for the booking process. However, you might be surprised by some of the specific room options. Not only can you choose the floor you want to stay on, you can also choose which direction your room faces.

The app also cuts down on guest-staff interactions because most guests can check in and out through the app. But if you’re a foreign passport holder, you will also need to visit a kiosk at the hotel as part of the check-in process.

2. Facial recognition replaces keycards

Perhaps the most common inconvenience at traditional hotels is having to keep a keycard or key to get into your room and other areas of the building. And if, as in some cases, the keycard malfunctions, you must return to the check-in desk for a new one.

FlyZoo does away with this issue by installing facial recognition systems to allow guests easy and secure access throughout the hotel. Even the elevators are accessed through facial recognition.

The system recognizes you as a guest based on the photo taken of you during check-in. This updated form of a keycard should help guests feel safer, as well as less anxious about whether they left their keycard in the room or car.

3. Your own Tmall Genie acts as a personal assistant

Each room in FlyZoo also comes equipped with a complimentary voice-activated home speaker called the Tmall Genie, Alibaba’s version of the Amazon Echo. The device acts as a personal assistant with the ability to perform simple tasks, such as adjusting the temperature; operating the lights, curtains, and TV; playing music, and answering simple questions about things like the weather or WiFi code.

The Tmall Genie also further reduces time spent interacting with staff. Instead of calling the front desk for water or fresh towels, guests can give the simple request to the Genie. The water and towels will then be delivered by an Alibaba-branded robot.

Alibaba has always quickly adapted to trends in order to take advantage of surging markets. China’s hotels made almost $800 billion in 2018, according to a report from the China Hospitality Association and Shanghai Inntie Hotel Management Consultants. Alibaba has taken note of the booming travel industry and wants to be sure its hotels stand out from the crowd. And with robots and facial recognition software, FlyZoo seems to do just that.

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