Airbnb iBeacon? The Future of the Smart Hotel

Just like retailers imagine they can reinvigorate retail through beacons, so do hotels. But while they seek to reinvent their industries, they also need to keep an eye out for newcomers and imagine how upstarts like Uber or Airbnb might reimagine the end-to-end experience of place.

The Smart Hotel

Tim Groot imagines traditional hotels in which you don’t even need a room key – using your phone and iBeacon, doors can automagically swing open and you might be able to bypass the front desk entirely.

He suggests that as people become more and more accustomed to smart homes, the logical next step would be for this to translate to hotels. By connecting the hotel app on your smart phone with Bluetooth LE powered beacons it’s the equivalent of carrying around a ‘personal concierge’ on your smart phone.

He brainstorms how an iBeacon hotel might lead to a better experience for guests:

  • The app can streamline the check-in experience by, for one, providing you with your electric room key through the beacon located at the hotel entrance
  • Beacons can help you find your room in a large hotel and provide a vibrant room service experience for guests
  • The app, if customized fully, can also help guests to truly personalize their experience by allowing them to choose room size, décor, entertainment options, etc.

Groot closes by writing that “Smart hotels will be realized. The only question is: By who?” Indeed.


Look no further than Airbnb, which doesn’t see lodging and renting rooms as a simple commodity, but as marketplaces of experiences.

Fast Company reports that the Airbnb CEO has a larger strategy to create a brand around the entire hospitality and travel experience and extend beyond matching room-holders and room-renters:

Chesky has decided that Airbnb will become nothing less than a full-blown hospitality brand, one that delivers a seamless end-to-end experience when its customers travel. “If you ask Brian now what drives Airbnb’s growth, it’s not that people want to get a cheaper space,” says Y Combinator founder Paul Graham, an early investor.

“Airbnb could’ve spread out horizontally into the sharing of power tools and cars and stuff like that. But Brian has decided the growth is in hospitality.”….Reimagining “the entire trip,” the $6 trillion travel industry itself, is an audacious goal…How do you get into those other areas of the trip, like the car ride from the airport and exploring the neighborhood where you’re staying?

iBeacon and connected devices could very well be part of that larger vision. Beacons placed in a room you’re renting could instantly connect you to a secure local social network or provide an added sense of security. For the host, a beacon can report back that the guest has arrived or trigger call-backs or follow-ups by Airbnb when the customer wakes up in the morning or checks out at the end of the stay.

Because the travel experience doesn’t just take place in a hotel, you can imagine beacons for every leg of the trip. A special Airbnb beacon that you wear on your wrist or an app that acts as a beacon when you hit a new town can alert you to “Airbnb friendly” hot spots – a local pub, a restaurant or a community center.

It’s The Experience That Matters

So like everything with beacons, they’re just a gateway to a larger question: if the physical world is being reinvented as a new digital media channel, how will entire industries be transformed by the convergence of the online with the atomic?

And how can a hotel be more than a hotel? How can we move past the old paradigms of room keys and guest bedrooms and think of hotels as media platforms, as hubs in a larger community, or as pop-up social networks…facilitated by beacons, and by the promise they hold of not just an Internet of Things or Everything…but an Internet of Experience and Delight.

Share Your Thoughts

Join our weekly e-mail list for more on iBeacons. Check out our BEEKn Google page, join the conversation on Twitter, or connect with me on LinkedIn.

And let us know what you think – what’s your craziest idea for beacons in hotels? Will beacons help reinvent the hotel experience? Or will they end up learning from innovators like Airbnb?

5 thoughts on “Airbnb iBeacon? The Future of the Smart Hotel

  1. Very insightful article Doug and I completely agree that iBeacons have the potential to revolutionise the industry. Not only will they necessarily personalise the traveler’s experience, allowing for a more streamlined stay unique to the individual but importantly for hotels themselves, they would allow for effective communication with the ‘silent travelers’ of the 21st Century. By collecting guest data based upon their location in the hotel such as how frequently said individual visited the spa for example, the hotel could then promote their spa service to this particular guests via a mobile hospitality application such as LoungeUp. The iBeacon will be an essential key for improving guest satisfaction and fundamentally for the hospitality sector, guest loyalty.


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