WeChat recently partnered with InterContinental to open a smart hotel in Shanghai. What makes this hotel “smart” is that users can book rooms, check-in remotely, and use their phones as key cards – all on the WeChat app and without any help from another person.
It doesn’t stop there though. Guests can also order room service, adjust things like air conditioning, curtains and lighting, and make payments via the app.
Guest identity is verified at the hotel through facial recognition, which grants access to a digital key card and also gives access to services like breakfast vouchers and a 24-hour butler service that can be called up through WeChat.
The development of smart hotel experiences like this has been in the works since 2014. WeChat and its parent company Tencent have been focused on adding the facial recognition element for a while, considering that hotels in China are very strict about identification. Before you can get into your room, hotels need you to take a photo of your face and provide some form of government ID so it can be scanned and copied. The integration of WeChat and facial recognition technology will likely go a long way in streamlining this process.
In China, WeChat moved way beyond just being an instant messaging app. It’s been integrated into all kinds of retail spaces like restaurants and shopping malls to simply transactions, but in the case of the smart hotel in Shanghai, the app has been turned into an essential tool to be used during a hotel experience.
Other tech companies like Baidu and Alibaba have also partnered with hotels on things like smart speakers, robots, and facial recognition tech, but none have quite the same reach as WeChat. Because it is the most popular app in China, it provides a sense of familiarity when checking into this kind of hotel, even if it’s for the first time. WeChat’s parent company, Tencent, has also inked a “strategic cooperation agreement” with the Shangri-La hotel group for the development of high-end smart hotels.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see similar hotels spring up soon, especially in other parts of Asia. Groups like Kakoa that have apps managing everything from instant messaging to public transport have a wide enough reach and potential for this kind of technology to become the norm. It would seem that the future of smart hotels is right around the corner.