AMSTERDAM—Hoteliers face a lot of challenges when it comes to effectively utilizing technology. Some systems are new, while other legacy systems were developed years ago, creating a patchwork ecosystem in which the parts don’t always speak intuitively with each other. How can hotels fix this? Middleware.
“In hospitality, there are a lot of systems; it’s becoming more tech savvy in that you almost have to be a technology company to run a hotel nowadays, but there’s still very old systems and a very poor way of connecting them,” said Jan Jaap van Roon, CEO/founder of Dutch technology company Ireckonu, a middleware solution that is flexible enough to glue all of a hotel’s disparate information systems together.
“If you look at all of the modern companies out there—from Google, to Facebook, to Uber—they all heavily invest in middleware solutions to manage integrations and manage data flows,” he continued. “When I entered this industry, I saw it didn’t exist. That was very surprising to me.”
And so, the company built a middleware solution with multiple purposes in mind. “I’ve been a data scientist since day one. If you start connecting systems together via an essential layer, you can manage your IT infrastructure way better, and you can change your business processes without changing those systems,” the CEO said, noting that hotels can’t run without a PMS, CRS and a system that opens the door. “You can’t just replace any and all of them. In order to modernize, you put a layer above them; that’s what we do well.”
This also enables hotels to start interlinking data to improve guest satisfaction and loyalty, as well as enable hotels to do preventative maintenance. “Take a room control system where you have the temperature, the lights, the blinds, etc.,” he said. “If they collect the data themselves, then it’s just a bunch of data on temperature; it’s not correlated to any guest or anything. If you want to do something with all of that, it’s very hard to get that out of the silos and into a data warehouse.
“With middleware, all of those different events are connected to each other, so if someone changes the temperature, we immediately know it’s being done or been requested, and for whom, and you can monitor that and put all kinds of different things around it,” he continued. “For operations, let’s monitor the set vs. actual, and if they start deviating a lot, let’s put in an alarm that somebody needs to check the filter on the air conditioner because that probably needs replacing; from a guest and marketing perspective, every time the guest returns, let’s make it so the temperature is the one they like it to be. And to take that one step further, let’s assign a room to this guest that it’s already at that preferred temperature, so that you don’t have to heat or cool the room, saving energy. The opportunities are almost endless.”
He added, “From an operational perspective, you can really optimize performance of the hotel, becoming proactive instead of reactive, meaning you know something is wrong prior to the guest coming; usually the hotel only knows something is wrong when a guest starts complaining. You can now very often solve it before the guest sees it. You can become guest-centric.”
And the proof is in the numbers. According to Ireckonu, hotel clients on average see profit increases of 5%, and guest satisfaction is up by 14%.