Can a hotel room be smart?
The big chains seem to think so, as several of them are working to create rooms packed with electronic gadgetry that supposedly will put guests "in control" and offer them "a personalised experience".
Although hotel groups are basically targeting the same end result, they are taking different approaches to reach their goal.
While Hilton has developed its own proprietary model that doesn’t yet include voice commands, Marriott is working with technology partners, Legrand and Samsung, to develop a connected room that features voice activation.
Like Marriott AccorHotels, is not developing its own proprietary technology for its smart rooms.
Hilton's room of tomorrow
In Hilton's room of the future, guests will be able to control the thermostat, television, and other amenities with their mobile phones.
The chain intends to allow guests to use a mobile app to set their room preferences, which hotels can automatically apply to individual rooms when guests check in.
“A guest will be able to save preferences in the app, such as by 'favouriting' a TV channel or setting a thermostat, and their selections will be applied when they check in,” remarks Joshua Sloser, senior vice president of digital at Hilton, who adds that, “If you like your room cold and to have ESPN (the Disney sports channel) on the TV, the room can start cooling once you check in. And when you use the phone or room remote to turn on the TV, your favourite ESPN and other channels would be on the screen by default.
The end goal is that the experience will travel with the guest consistently and seamlessly as they visit various brands in various countries.”
This could be a welcome change from the usual TV screen 'welcoming' the guest to the hotel.
AccorHotels harnessing 'Internet of Things'
According to Damien Perrot, senior vice president of design solutions at AccorHotels, the company is testing technology that uses voice commands and the Internet of Things to render the hotel room experience more accessible and personalised.
Indeed, the model smart room at the company’s Paris headquarters incorporates a variety of technologies and accessibility features to accommodate up to three guests at a time, including:
- a Google Home voice assistant;
- a tablet that controls lighting, music, the bed headboard, curtains, TV, and other audiovisual equipment in the room;
- a special LED lighting system that senses movement at night and automatically turns on sleep aids, like Dodow, a “luminous metronome that promotes both concentration or sleep,” which claims to put people to sleep 2.5x faster, as well as a Dreem headband that claims to have “brain energy sensors and a relaxation system"; and
- Aromatherapy aids like Sensorwake, which purports to help "you wake up to a certain aroma, like coffee, tea, or a sea breeze", as well as Skinjay shower capsules that contain essential oils.
“Voice is the future,” notes Perrot, adding that, “To be able to use it to access the TV, go to Netflix directly, or select your favourite song - we’re hoping to connect all of those elements to enhance the guest room experience.
"All of these elements and innovation in technology help improve the usage of the room.” Perrot has not revealed which brands AccorHotels is working with, with the exception of Google, but he notes that, “We’re working with them — both startups and bigger brands — to make this into a real use case at the hotels.
"We’re developing this in partnership with the brands and with hotel guests, and learning from them, and applying it to the technology. We don’t have the ambition to develop this new technology ourselves.”
Marriott's smart guestroom lab
In Marriott's IoT (Internet of Things) Guestroom Lab, part of Marriott’s 928 sq m (10’000 sq ft) Innovation Lab, the chain is working with Samsung and Legrand, a specialist in electrical and digital building infrastructure, to make commonly used devices more connected and responsive.
Marriott's new hotel room prototype lets guests control everything from the temperature of the shower to the colour of the light with the sound of their voice.
The smart hotel rooms include devices and amenities that respond to individual guests and are customisable based on their preferences.
The room is to be largely controlled by apps and systems that remember a visitor’s preferences and past behaviour.
It is powered by three linked networks and switches off automatically when the customer leaves.
The room presets would be based on customers’ loyalty accounts with Marriott, allowing them to set their preferences before they arrive. Thus, guests can have everything as they want it when they arrive in the room: the temperature, brightness, even whether the curtains are open.
The same pre-recorded preferences could be saved for whichever Marriott brand hotel they stay at.
Once guests arrive, they can set the room temperature, according to their preference by a turn of a switch or voice commands to Amazon Alexa, which can also heat the shower to a specific temperature and set the lighting to “reading light", for example.
The mini-fridge could be stocked with items guests select or preset items they expect to have whenever they stay in a hotel.