By Steve Jarratt, Technology Writer
While the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was reduced to a virtual affair, it didn’t stop companies from unveiling a raft of new products and technologies. Here’s our pick of the devices, gadgets and technologies that are relevant to the hospitality business.
Hands-free and touchless gadgets
COVID has driven a huge rise in the use of hands-free devices in hotels, such as keyless entry, facial recognition, automated check ins/check outs, and so on. But the technology isn’t just limited to security. Joining its other hands-free products, Kohler announced a set of voice-controlled faucets designed for bathrooms, along with a pair of touchless toilets . The two models – which cost $600 and $1,000 and will be available in March – use a sensor in the flush lever to avoid any physical contact.
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The Maskfone Bluetooth mask  is perfectly suited for staff on the front desk, who are continually on the phone while dealing with customers face to face. This high-grade facemask features an N95 filter and three replaceable PM2.5 filters. But its key function is its built-in Bluetooth earbuds and microphone, enabling the wearer to operate a mobile phone without having to continually remove the mask. At a shade under $50, it’s a small investment to keep staff safe and comfortable.
Rise of the cleaning robots
LG and Ubtech Robotics both announced robots that are designed to clean high-traffic areas using ultraviolet light . The robots are reportedly ideal for use in hotel rooms, foyers and restaurants because cleaning with UV involves positioning the light source at a precise distance for a certain amount of time - something a human can’t do without error.
Elsewhere, the latest addition to LG’s robot range is dubbed the CLOi UV-C (pronounced Chloe). With a design reminiscent of a tower fan, the germ-killing bot can navigate around furniture enabling it to irradiate touchable surfaces in a typical room in less than 30 minutes. Ubtech’s hospital-grade Adibot UV-C promises similar results. Available in both pushable and autonomous models, the company claims to inactivate 99.9% of harmful pathogens. 
Samsung also introduced its JetBoy 90 AI+ at CES 2021, an artificially intelligent vacuum cleaner that joins a number of other cleaning robots that can empty their own dustbins. Robots are already busy making themselves useful across the hospitality industry, and you can expect automated cleaning to be one of the big trends over the coming years.
Introducing Wi-FI 6E
Perhaps not the sexiest tech at CES, the advent of WiFi 6E is a fairly big deal for the hospitality industry, which increasingly relies on Wi-Fi to run its operations and connect its guests. Wi-Fi 6E doesn’t offer a speed boost - it has the same 9.6 Gbps top speed as 5GHz Wi-Fi. Instead, Wi-Fi 6E focuses on extending network capacity. It does this by adding a 1200MHz chunk of spectrum at 6GHz to the existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.
That might not sound exciting at first glance. But it’s the biggest spectrum addition since Wi-Fi was introduced back in 1989, effectively quadrupling the wireless space available. Although it will require all-new routers and device hardware, the introduction of Wi-Fi 6E should significantly improve wireless performance, supporting more Wi-Fi users at once in crowded/congested areas. For anyone who’s struggled with hotel Wi-Fi, this could be a game-changer.
Goodbye USB-A, hello USB-C
USB-C (aka USB Type-C) is fast replacing or supplementing older USB connections in a range of devices from new monitors like the HP E24u G4 FHD to USB-C hubs and multi-device charging stations.
The CubieTime EU charging alarm clock (above) already features a USB-C port.
For example, Brandstand‘s 220v-240v version of their popular CubieTime Charging Alarm Clock already features a USB-C charging point (alongside twin USB-A ports and two guest facing power sockets). Brandstand is set to introduce more USB-C power and charging products this year.
The Hotel of Things
Among the variety of IoT systems on show at CES 2021, we were drawn to the AiS MultiTool sensor from Direct-Smarter Technology , which combines a dozen sensors and controls into a single device. The AiS is able to detect vibration, fire, water, changes in temperature, humidity and daylight, doors and windows opening, and more besides. It’s designed for typical smart home use, but at just $198 there’s nothing to say it couldn’t be deployed across a hotel as a means of monitoring the security and status of guest rooms.
These are just some of the devices and hotel-friendly technologies launched at CES 2021, all of which point the way towards a more high-tech hospitality experience. From room-cleaning robots to new wireless devices, the themes of safety and connectivity will ultimately benefit guests and hotels alike.
Founded on the principles of innovation and safety, Brandstand makes power and charging products for the hospitality industry.
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