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Alibaba’s keyless and cashless hotel is straight out of the future

Updated : October 08, 2019 01:18 PM IST

Thank you.

There’s something very strange about saying thank you to a robot.

You probably know Alibaba for its ecommerce platforms, but the Chinese tech company is branching out. It’s aggressively testing and implementing tech concepts that span from retail to restaurants, and even hotels.

Alibaba’s futuristic FlyZoo hotel is a stone’s throw away from its headquarters in Hangzhou – and almost everything you can imagine here, is automated.

The first thing you see is no counter, no couches, nothing. It’s just completely empty. You just see this massive digital wall. This is it. This is the hotel lobby. You don’t have a traditional hotel concierge. You just need to find out what you need to do.

The 290-room so-called ‘smart hotel’ welcomed its first guests in 2018. And while you won’t see as many faces at reception as a traditional hotel, there is still some staff around.

For example housekeeping, which Alibaba says still have to use a traditional keycard to clean your room.

The idea here isn’t for Alibaba to open its own hotels. It’s using FlyZoo to develop technologies it can sell to existing hotels chains. One of its partners is Marriott International – the company behind Marriot, Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, W and more.

Many of the deliveries are made by these robot butlers, except for soups, and things like irons and ironing boards.

This robot can call an elevator itself. It doesn't need to call any buttons. And there it goes.

Forget about your traditional hotel vending machine. Here you can open the AliPay app, scan the QR code on the refrigerator, and then it unlocks. So let’s say I grab this drink. Within seconds the app has recognized the product that I’ve picked up and it’s charged me.

Gym. To enter, it’s again facial recognition.

The hospitality industry is one of the world’s top job-creating sectors, so does that mean hotels will one day be staff-less?

The bar at FlyZoo hotel, where once again you are greeted with a QR code at the table. From there, you are greeted with a menu of drinks here at the bar.

And perhaps unsurprisingly, behind me, you see my drink is being made by – you guessed it – a robot.
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