All hotel brands, large and small, have been trying to determine the future habits of the digital-savvy traveler and how to develop the hotel room of the future that would cater to this guest. Many of these efforts are being led by the industry, while some aspects are being researched and developed by hospitality schools across the globe.
The envisioned smart hotels would be almost fully automated with energy-efficient appliances, smart carpets that can change color based on guest preference, USB chargers for all devices and an entire communication center to function the temperature, blinds, television, Internet and bed firmness among others. Also, wireless locking systems that allow your mobile device to be the key to the room and access to music, videos, pictures, city attractions, restaurants and other offerings via the television.
Although some of this technology is far away from being commercialized, many of it exists today in modern hotel rooms around the world. The following is a list of five smart hotels that you won’t actually believe exist.
The United Kingdom’s largest hotel chain, Whitbread, will soon be opening a budget line of city hotels that allow for check-ins, temperature control, lighting and room service directly from your phone. At around 123 square-feet, the rooms are tiny so all aspects of the room must be controlled via phone app. Also, guests can select the television or radio station from their mobile device when they arrive in the room and stream it to the 40-inch television. This eliminates the need for extra wiring and cable boxes which consume valuable space.
The move toward micro-hotels is becoming more popular around the world. The Whitbread is using technology to create a smart hotel room which allows for a compact experience at a lower price while still maintaining regular amenities. It is simply another way of operating a hotel room that appeals to the masses.
The LINQ by Caesars Entertainment
Developed by Caesars Entertainment, the LINQ offers hotel rooms control entirely by the WeChat app. This includes adjusting the lighting, opening and closing the curtains and changing the temperature on the thermostat without getting up from the bed. These smart hotel rooms are catering to the overseas Chinese guests. When you first arrive in the hotel room, you simply scan a QR code to instantly download the app which operates under a WeChat official account.
This collaboration between Caesars and WeChat is one of many in operation that is being used to study foreign markets for additional opportunities. Caesars is planning to construct and ecosystem that leverages WeChat in future hotel rooms to provide the ultimate hotel experience.
Mandarin Oriental Hotel NYC
Located in the heart of New York City, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel has developed rooms that know exactly how warm its guests like it while sending them a personal message on the television when first arriving. This smart hotel even knows the most frequently dialed numbers. Due to advanced smart technology and computer systems, the Mandarin Hotel can track all of a guest’s preferences and automatically update the preferences from the second they walk in the door.
These smart systems learn whether the guest prefers the lights to be dim, curtains closed or the room extra warm. The system also has the ability to personalize electronic devices around the room so the music of John Coltrane may greet the guest as they enter for the first time. Sensors have been placed into the refrigerators to alert maids when the minibar is running low on a specific item.
The Suba Hotel
In 2015, the Suba Hotel in Dubai won the Best Smart Hotel award at the Middle East Hotel Awards. Considered a boutique hotel, Suba offers luxury and subtle elegance with modern charm and Arab hospitality. The Suba Hotel won this recognition due to tablet-controlled room lighting, temperature and television connectivity. These amenities can also be used via downloading the Sub App for Android and Apple. By providing an iPad in every room from which to control all comforts of the room, the Suba Hotel is going above and beyond its competitors who simply have guests download an app or use their own device. The Suba is one of the first smart hotels in the world to provide such a service.
In the United States, Starwood Hotel properties are testing a variety of smart technologies to improve hospitality for its guests. In fact, they even has a creative design lab at their headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut to enhance the guest experience using technology. In the Aloft Cupertino property, the company is testing Apple technologies of all types. For several years, every hotel room has been piloting Apple TV. Also, the chain is testing the Amazon Kindle’s rival television service to determine which is best for its guests. Additionally, smart mirrors are becoming all the rave which are being tested by many hotel companies. The smart mirror will feature a customized touchscreen with your email, sports scores, weather, headlines and Twitter feed. They can also be used as regular mirrors.
Also, Starwood is experimenting with adding Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets to rooms so guests can choose between skydiving and zip lining. With first-hand simulated experiences, guests will have an easier decision when determining activities. Another application of virtual technology are augmented workouts which are not far off from being added to Starwood hotel gyms. These devices would utilize dedicated footage to make the guest feel as if they are riding a bike through the countryside or a city without ever leaving the hotel. An additional feature that may soon be rolled out to their properties is connected room service carts. These operated on radio frequency identification (RFID) stickers which alert housekeeping to clear the mess when the cart is in the hallway.
Smart hotels are inching closer to a George Jetson lifestyle with all aspects of the hotel room being customized to that specific guest and automated so they can relax. Many of these ideas are still a few years away from being implemented while others are being used in hotels now.