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Hotel Development Insider

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Hotel Tech-in: The ‘cobots’ that carry guest luggage

The Kilo robot is designed to follow along with hotel staff, not replace them.

Published March 29, 2024 By Noelle Mateer, Editor

Kilo robots can be used to transport luggage. Courtesy of Piaggio Fast Forward

Hotel Tech-in is our regular feature that takes a closer look at emerging technology in the hospitality industry.

The hospitality industry has seen a flurry of robotics companies attempt to automate hotel tasks. Some robots are catching on — others, less so. 

But while the rush for robots has many hoteliers excited about their potential to drive operational efficiency, on-site staff are often concerned that the technology will be used to replace them, the humans that make hospitality, well, hospitable. 

Boston-based robotics company Piaggio Fast Forward is sidestepping that anxiety with a new “cobot,” which is designed to assist people, not replace them. 

The Kilo robot, launched earlier this month, is a 4-wheeled robotic flatbed that can carry heavy loads such as luggage, or “pretty much anything big and heavy that moves in hotels,” Dominic Locascio, senior director of hospitality at Piaggio Fast Forward, told Hotel Dive. 

“The idea is to relieve wear and tear on the physical well-being of the employee, avoid workplace injuries, have a safer environment and create more efficiency for the employees,” he said.

Reducing workplace injuries

Overexertion and bodily reaction is the biggest cause of workplace injuries, according to the National Safety Council. Contact with objects and equipment is the second biggest. 

Guest room attendants, in particular, have advocated for “safer” workloads in recent months, with workers in Las Vegas securing more on-the-job safety measures in their latest union contracts. 

Kilo robots allow workers to avoid injuries and physical strain by doing the heavy lifting for them. They also improve upon a clunky piece of equipment: the hotel luggage cart. 

When workers push a cart stacked high with luggage, Locascio said, “they can’t always see what’s in front of them.” Instead, a hotel employee can walk alongside the robot as it carries a guest’s items. Or, in some cases, it can travel on its own along known paths. 

Locascio said the potential applications go beyond luggage, however. The robots can be used to deliver amenities — say, extra towels to guests sitting poolside — or workplace essentials, like cleaning supplies, to employees on the job.

“If I call the front desk and say I need a rollaway bed, somebody’s still going to bring me that, but the robot may follow behind and bring extra sheets and blankets,” he said. “I’m still having that human touch.”

The pairing process is simple: Anyone can stand next to a Kilo robot and press a button to pair with it, and the device will be able to sense the human standing before it and then follow along as the person moves. That means guests can also be lent a robot to help them carry supplies around the property. 

Having just launched, Kilo robots are still being tested in hotels (Locascio declined to share which ones). But Piaggio Fast Forward has sold a smaller version of the same technology as a consumer product for a couple years. “I think hospitality does a really good job of taking what customers are doing in their own homes, and trying to adapt that to the hotel,” Locascio said. 

The human touch

Piaggio Fast Forward is one of several robotics companies using the term “cobots” to describe their technology’s capability to work alongside human beings. 

The term, first developed in the ’90s by professors at Northwestern University, has grown in popularity in recent years as robotics engineers increasingly develop products aimed at making human jobs more efficient, according to the Association for Advancing Automation. 

“The industry is very much at the beginning of this journey of seeing how robots can work in hotels,” Locascio said, adding that some of the first robotics projects in hospitality were largely gimmicks. 

“I think three, five years from now, you’re going to see a large percentage of hotels that have some robotic component,” he said, “whether it’s something simple, like a vacuum or something a lot more advanced, like what we’re trying to do.”

Original article from Hotel Dive can be found here:

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