This summer, you might want to add “unplugging Google” after checking for bedbugs to the list of tasks to complete when you settle into a hotel room.
Two hospitality-focused companies, Guest Supply, which focuses on special amenities for hotels, and Volara, which provides voice assistant options for the same industry, announced they’re partnering up to offer the Google Assistant in hotel rooms. The program enables hotels to install the 7-inch, camera-less, first-generation Google Nest Hub in every guest room.
Each smart display is programmed to work as a digital concierge of sorts. You can say, “Hey Google” to set up a wake alarm, speak with the front desk, ask for restaurant recommendations, or request extra pillows. The hotel can also configure the Nest Hub to allow you to control devices in the room, like smart bulbs and automatic drapes.
Google initially piloted the program with Volara last summer, when it introduced Google for Hotels. The experience was available at several hotel locations in the U.S. and Britain, but this latest news suggests the program is ready to deploy for any hotel or resort that wants it.
Placing the Nest Hub in the hotel room is like setting up a personal demonstration station, with the hopes of inspiring people to try it. Hotels adopting this would be a boon for Google, which has been chasing Amazon’s lead since the first Google Assistant smart speaker debuted in 2016.
Amazon also has a history with Alexa in the hotel room. The company announced Alexa for Hospitality back in 2018, with one of the most prominent hospitality players, Marriott, included as an initial partner. However, the program spawned concerns after other partners brought to light the polarizing nature of sleeping with a hot microphone in your room.
As reported by Travel Weekly in 2019, Best Western Hotels & Resorts CEO David Kong, had told attendees at an industry summit that introducing Alexa into the hotel room had not gone well.
“We [tested] Alexa as a means for guest requests,” Kong told the ALIS audience during an executive panel. “If someone wants an extra towel or to say a light isn’t working, they can use Alexa to communicate with us. But what we found out was when most people got into their hotel room, they disconnected it, presumably because they didn’t want Alexa listening to them in the room. We didn’t see any lift in satisfaction scores, and the usage was minimal.”
Kong added that he also received complaints about Alexa activating unprompted in the middle of the night and waking guests.
When asked by a panel moderator if he would unplug a voice-activated virtual assistant device in his own hotel room, Kong said he would.
Google in the hotel room might not necessarily inspire the same response. Out of the gate, Google promised that users wouldn’t need to sign in to the Nest Hub in their hotel room and that no activity would be linked to a personal account. It also said no audio would be stored and that the software would wipe all activity from the device after being reset for the next guest. Also, the hardware mute button remains available on the Nest Hub devices, and you can always unplug them if you don’t want to consent to the experience.
Google has an opportunity to take over where Amazon’s Alexa for Hospitality program may have faltered. The presence of a small screen makes the Nest Hub look a little more like a traditional hospitality gadget. And despite the microphone, hotel guests might be more willing to say “hey” since Google is reportedly one of the top trusted companies in the United States.