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Hotels of the future

The hospitality sector's human touch now comes with robotic assistance

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The Business Times went behind the scenes at the 2,600-room MBS, where technology helps more than 10,000 employees in running round-the-clock operations. Above: Wardrobe guest service agent Yap Kim Nan, 54, loading staff uniforms onto one of the 18 conveyor belts in MBS’ nine-year-old wardrobe room. Some 160,000 uniforms, which can be tracked with sewn-in radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, are identified and collected by staff members in half a minute, with just a swipe of their staff passes.

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The Business Times went behind the scenes at the 2,600-room MBS, where technology helps more than 10,000 employees in running round-the-clock operations. Above: Service attendant Doris Eng, 63, loading napkins into a folding machine, for use by MBS’ banquet services and restaurants. The machine can fold up to 800 napkins an hour, or as much as seven human employees. MBS is also working to fine-tune a sister machine, in the same robotics room, that can wrap up to 3,600 sets of cutlery a day.

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As guests drop their key cards into an MBS express check-out box, a RFID reader immediately records the room numbers, and notifies billing and housekeeping - automating the check-out process. MBS integrated RFID technology into its first check-out box in a trial this June, and plans to deploy the system across all eight express check-out boxes by year-end.

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Limousine driver James Quek, 69, uses an iPad to accept a task. MBS taps data analytics to forecast demand for its limousine services, which make about 10,000 trips a month. As demand varies by season, MBS manages up to 35 vehicles in its own fleet, with another 11 outsourced cars on standby. Since the system was developed in 2015, MBS estimates that it has saved about S$4 million in fuel, labour, vehicle rental and other costs.

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Since May, customers’ take-away coffee orders at ArtScience Museum cafe SweetSpot have been sent from the cashier station to a “robot barista” – developed by local firm Crown Coffee – that makes and delivers their drinks. Hotel guest lounge Club55 also uses an automated dispenser to mix more than 10 kinds of tipples.

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