Industry Update
Opinion Article22 September 2020

Saving Costs and Boosting Productivity Post-COVID with SensorFlow’s AI-Driven Solution

By Saikrishnan Ranganathan, Co-Founder and CEO of SensorFlow

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There is no doubt that the travel industry has been the hardest hit by COVID-19. When the pandemic hit its stride in March this year, global hotel occupancy rates plummeted sharply to historic lows, forcing many hotels to adopt drastic cost-cutting measures or cease operations entirely. Now, as countries are gradually reopening their borders and resuming tourism opportunities, only hotels who can cater to post-pandemic guest needs like contactless service and heightened hygiene standards will be able to capitalise on this restart.

With reduced staff headcount and increased workloads, hotels can embrace technology to optimise their operational efficiency and boost staff productivity in the new normal. Hotels that employed SensorFlow's artificial intelligence (AI)-driven solution enjoyed the flexibility of remote property management and lower energy costs; once these hotels reopen, SensorFlow's solution will continue to support them by helping them increase service efficiency and productivity despite having fewer hands on deck.

Improved energy efficiency and remote room management

The core of the SensorFlow solution revolves around using AI-driven automation to automatically reduce room heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) consumption when the in-room occupancy sensors detect that the room is not in use.

Instead of invasively installing additional in-room control units, SensorFlow's discreet wireless sensors can take less than five minutes to install per room and are connected to a proprietary Internet of Things (IoT)-based network. They can detect and collect data on live room environmental changes such as occupancy, temperature, humidity, HVAC energy consumption and air-conditioning performance status. Once this data is transmitted to a consolidated dashboard, the AI software automatically adjusts the HVAC settings to reduce energy use when the room is empty and restores them when the room is occupied again.

This intelligent energy optimisation minimises energy wastage and saves energy costs by reducing both HVAC consumption and keycard usage. Hotels will no longer face the issue of guests leaving cards in the keycard slot to keep the room excessively cooled in their absences, which also reduces wear and tear on the HVAC systems as their on-demand use leads to less frequent maintenance. Additionally, reception staff can identify and resolve guest complaints on air-conditioning without entering the room, thereby enhancing the hotel's contactless service proposition.

At the height of the pandemic, many hotels closed entire floors or temporarily shut down operations to limit movement and save operational costs. Closed floors and properties often risk mould developing on the walls from unchecked humidity fluctuations, which would normally be managed with the HVAC system. However, staff members were able to remotely control the air-conditioning through SensorFlow's online web-based dashboard to keep the floors well-ventilated without being on-site.

Boosting productivity through data-driven decisions

Labour has historically been the highest cost category in the hospitality industry, representing more than half of operating expenses. To offset the sharp decline in revenue during the pandemic, many hotels downsized their staff and only maintained a skeleton crew on the premises. The remaining staff have had to juggle multiple new responsibilities, which may lead to a drop in service quality as travel activity rises. This will negatively affect already-tentative customer confidence.

Technology can shoulder some of the burdens by helping hotels optimise their operational productivity and performance through data-driven decisions. The SensorFlow dashboard consolidates information from various data sources in the hotel to present a comprehensive, real-time overview of the hotel's condition on a single platform. Enhanced accessibility to live information improves the hotel management's problem resolution capabilities and speeds up the property's emergency response time.

Smaller housekeeping teams can use live occupancy data gathered by the wireless sensors to plan efficient cleaning routes and avoid accidental guest contact. This data can be further analysed and transformed into more extensive long-term guest insights, which helps management plan more targeted promotions for in-house restaurants and monitor the usage of hotel facilities to prevent overcrowding.

Engineering teams can monitor and review HVAC performance with the support of the SensorFlow team to identify malfunctioning or underperforming HVAC systems. The frontline service staff will be able to avoid assigning potentially faulty rooms to guests, allowing hotel engineers to perform timely maintenance without being disruptive. Over time, the big data collected allows the hotel to move towards predictive maintenance strategies instead of scheduled maintenance, which is more proactive and minimises the labour force required to maintain even large properties.

Leveraging technology to meet new hospitality demands

While a definitive cure or vaccine has yet to be found for the novel coronavirus, we are seeing countries beginning to restart their travel industries and our hotel clientele are reopening their properties in response. Expert outlooks on the hotel industry's future growth range from optimistic to cautious, but most agree that technology will be a key enabler for hotels to rebound quickly from their losses - especially if they use it to maximise their available workforce and enhance guest experiences.

Business sustainability will be a key strategy driver for hotels in the next normal post-COVID, and technology has already demonstrated its worth with proven results in cost-saving and advancing crisis recovery. Moving forward, we expect to see a higher rate of adoption of technological innovations among hotels to ensure business adaptability and resilience in the event of future crises. Optimising resource consumption and boosting operational productivity will be high on the wishlist, and SensorFlow is constantly innovating to support hotels with the best post-pandemic solution to drive future growth in this respect.

Saikrishnan Ranganathan

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    About SensorFlow

    SensorFlow Pte. Ltd. is an award-winning Singapore-based, proptech startup combining the use of smart wireless IoT solutions and AI to help buildings monitor, analyse and automate energy consumption for better productivity, sustainability and energy efficiency. It was founded in 2016 by Saikrishnan Ranganathan and Max Pagel in response to the pressing need for energy optimisation worldwide.

    In addition to heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) management, SensorFlow's solution offers real-time data insights on energy consumption, occupancy trends and guest behaviours. These can be used to enhance the overall guest experience at the room and create better management at the property and portfolio levels as building managers get prompt alerts on faulty equipment. Housekeeping routes can also be optimised in real-time based on room occupancy data.

    SensorFlow's retrofit solution, which comprises sensors and proprietary networks, are quick and easy to install in less than 5 minutes per room and with no operational disruptions. Its Pay-As-You-Save model means there are no upfront costs. Alternative agreements can also be provided with a one-time upfront payment for increased savings over time. Hotels are expected to save up to 30 percent in total energy savings and up to 40 percent in maintenance costs.

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