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Hotel Robots Transform the Guest Experience

autonomous mobile robots

Guests arrive at a hotel filled with positive expectations. Awaiting them is a freshly made bed—and maybe a nice meal or a visit to a local attraction. But one experience that no one enjoys is maneuvering luggage into an elevator and hauling it down narrow corridors to their room.

At one forward-thinking hotel in Taiwan—which could be a harbinger of the future—guests don’t need to lift a finger to transport their luggage. A robot does it for them.

In an era when hotels are severely short-staffed and eager to distinguish themselves amid fierce competition, having autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) that haul, store, and fetch guest luggage on command just might be a ticket to success. If so, they could catch on at other venues, transferring suitcases across airports and train stations, or delivering medicine to hospital rooms.

“Created to sort goods in warehouses and #factories, #AMRs increase efficiency and improve #safety by eliminating the need for humans to perform rote manual tasks” – Hoe Seng Ooi, NexAIoT via @insightdottech

Autonomous Mobile Robots Rolled into Hotels

Created to sort goods in warehouses and factories, AMRs increase efficiency and improve safety by eliminating the need for humans to perform rote manual tasks, says Hoe Seng Ooi, Chief Technology Officer at NEXCOM International subsidiary NexAIoT, a developer of IoT solutions. After nearly a decade of providing factories with industrial automation and robotics solutions, NexAIoT turned its attention to the hotel industry, which was struggling to attract and retain labor just as post-pandemic tourism surged. Tweaking and experimenting with its technology, the company hit upon a way to solve the problem of luggage storage and delivery with its NexMOV Smart Hotel Autonomous Mobile Robot.

“By using NexMOV, hotels can streamline operations, optimize staff efficiency, and deliver an unforgettable personalized experience for their guests,” Ooi says. The system swings into action as soon as guests check in, and they can use it at any time during their stay.

At the Taiwan hotel where NexMOV is deployed, no employees work in the lobby. Guests check in at a kiosk, where they receive a QR code for a container the robot will use for transporting their luggage. The container locks automatically after a guest deposits a suitcase, which can then be delivered to their room by a robot or lifted by a robotic arm into a storage area.

Because the hotel is near a tourist-hotspot market that’s open at night, many guests choose the storage option. Being able to set off immediately for the market—or to a restaurant or a night on the town—and receive their bags later is a convenience guests greatly appreciate, Ooi says. They can also use the system to dash to the market after checking out. And guests who arrive early have a secure place to safely store their bags before their room is ready.

Once guests arrive in their room, they use a screen and a voice-based virtual assistant, similar to Amazon’s Alexa, to request their luggage. A NexMOV robot then retrieves the container holding the guest’s suitcase from storage, travels to an elevator bank, and calls for a car. If it arrives with passengers aboard, the robot says, “Please come out and let NexMOV use the lift.” When the car is empty, the NexMOV slides into the close-fitting space and electronically chooses a floor. While a robot is inside, the elevator won’t stop to board other passengers.

After exiting, the NexMOV robot makes its way along hotel corridors to the correct room, where the virtual assistant notifies the guest it has arrived and provides a code for unlocking the container. Its mission completed, the NexMOV retrieves the empty container and navigates to a charging station, where it plugs itself in to be ready for its next job.

Coordinating with Hotel Automation

While NexMOV is simple for guests to use, its underlying technology is complex. Within each Intel® processor-based robot, edge AI and computer vision software serve as its “brains,” maintaining a seamless connection with hotel infrastructure, including the check-in system, the storage area, and the elevators. The Intel® Distribution of OpenVINO toolkit streamlines system development—enabling NexAIoT to bring the hotel AMR to market more quickly.

Robots are pre-programmed with a map of the hotel’s interior, using Lidar and ultrasound for navigation to avoid people and obstacles along the way. An Intel® RealSense computer vision camera mounted on their “head” enables them to detect people inside the elevator. NexAIoT’s software also monitors robot movements to ensure there are no glitches.

Hospitality and Beyond

AMRs don’t just move luggage—they can also entertain people. At the Taiwan hotel, if a guest arrives on their birthday, a NexMOV robot might play a Happy Birthday song or dance to music in the lobby. Robots are also decorated with colorful, cartoon-like graphics, making them a hit with kids.

Advertising the NexMOV has helped the hotel attract business, especially from families. “Competition in the industry is rising, and this allows them to offer something unique,” Ooi says.

While NexAIoT created the birthday feature as part of an all-inclusive package for the hotel, systems integrators could add different customized functions for other properties. “We partner with systems integrators around the world,” Ooi says.

As AI capabilities improve and robots learn from their experience, they will be able to tackle more advanced tasks. Ooi expects to see them vacuuming rooms and cleaning toilets. “Because hotels are so short-staffed, it will happen quickly,” he says.

In the future, robots could be programmed to transport luggage across airports. Train and bus systems could use them to roam through vehicles and spot burnt-out lightbulbs and other maintenance problems. At hospitals, they could distribute equipment and medicines whenever and wherever they’re needed.

“Tasks like these require a lot of human effort, but a robot can do them quite easily,” Ooi says. “We will definitely see more demand for autonomous mobile robots.”

Edited by Georganne Benesch, Editorial Director for