Smart Design: The Top Technology Design Trends Your Hotel Guests are Demanding
By David Ashen Principal and Founder, dash design
This article was published originally on Hotel Executive October 07, 2018
There was a time when I was a kid that the most exciting technology in a hotel room was the television's hand-held remote control. What a treat it was to stay in a hotel room and not have to get up to stand in front of the TV and change the channel for my dad. Well, that certainly has changed, and with how quickly is technology evolving, by the time you read this article, I am sure some of the concepts will be outdated.
The quick pace of change in devices and systems powered by ever-advancing technology makes it a challenge when thinking about the design of a hotel. I often laugh when I visit a hotel and see the jack-packs on the side of a desk. They were the rage about ten years ago when brands tried to stay ahead of the pack and provide connectivity for the guest. Most of the connectors aren't recognizable anymore, and now with Bluetooth-enabled televisions, who needs a connector cable anyway? I always think "what a waste of money" and wonder what pundits will say next year about the kinds of technology we are putting in rooms now.
When we talk about the top technology trends, it must be understood that some of these advances are expected by the guest and no longer merely an option. For instance, Wi-Fi is not an option today. While not so long ago it was not a "given" that the hotel would provide for this amenity, now, not only does every square-inch of a property need to have the coverage, but also, it has to be as fast-as fast as is possible. With streaming media now a mainstay of our daily lives, the kiss-of-death for a property is slow internet speed. Consider today's average attention span of less than six seconds, less than that of a goldfish. It's no wonder our technology needs to keep up.
Yet Wi-Fi is just the foundation of what the technology platform in a hotel needs to be built on. The future is in smart or intelligent buildings and totally integrated systems that can do several things that enhance the guest experience and manage energy consumption, so costs are minimized.
Let's begin with the check-in experience. We are seeing more flexibility and variation in how the guest checks-in, allowing for different choices for high- or low-touch engagements. Marriott, Hilton and the other major brands offer mobile check-ins, which not only allow for a faster encounter at the reception desk, but also provide the opportunity for guests to skip the reception desk entirely, with an "electronic key" that's delivered directly to the guest's smart phone. By using radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, the guest's phone becomes his or her room key. This is now the exception but, no doubt, soon will be the norm, as it is such a jump in convenience. It's also convenient for those that want discretion for conducting special business or other matters-no worries about running into someone a guest would rather not see in the lobby.
I recently checked into a Citizen M hotel and was fascinated by the check-in experience, which was at a kiosk (there was no front desk) and allowed me, like other guests, to choose my room. Just like checking into a flight, Citizen M allows the guest to see the available room inventory and select what he or she likes best. Whether it's an upper or lower floor, closer or further from the elevator, or another criterion, after the guest selects a room, the kiosk dispenses its access key.
There also are the "fun" technologies that allow for guests to have ultimate control of their environments and customize their room to their liking. More and more, we are seeing tablets in guest rooms, and I believe these, or the next iteration of the tablet, will become an expected convenience. My first experience with this was at my stay in the Upper House Hotel in Hong Kong. It was in 2010 and I stayed in this hotel (now one of my favorites) for the first time. Each room had a tablet that made all the information on the hotel available to me in a swipe or touch of my finger. I could order room service, get information on local sites, or request a range of other things from the front desk via the tablet. Eight years later, hotel room tablets haven't taken off as an amenity, but I do see this as changing. Recently, when I stayed in France's The Peninsula Paris hotel, the tablet was the brain of the room. It allowed me to operate the window coverings, choose the TV channel, tune-in music, set the temperature of the room, order room service, and get my clothes laundered.
I currently am working on a new hotel in Fort Worth, Texas, The Sinclair. It is in a historic building in the city's downtown neighborhood, near the main city square. The property is being developed by Faruhk Aslam, who is transforming a deco period office building into one of the most technologically advanced hotels on the planet. I believe that what is being done in this hotel will serve as a case study and template to how hotels will be built in the future because the technologies being demonstrated in this building will be what the hotel owners will demand since they will add efficiency, save resources (staff and energy), and enhance the guest experience.
The most compelling technologies being utilized at Forth Worth's The Sinclair is PeO, or Power Over Ethernet. Ethernet is being used in the building to power everything in guest rooms, from lighting to the TV to the refrigerator and more. The upside is not only the savings in energy but also the ability to monitor every electrical item in the hotel. This way, the front desk or engineering staff always knows when a light bulb it out or a room is occupied, and adjustments can be made by the hotel to things like light levels, air conditioning and oxygen in a crowded room. The technology even allows for the hotel staff to know if an object is moved by way of a PeO-enabled camera system with video analytics, which would send an email to the staff if something is out of place. Yes…it might feel like big brother is watching, however, all these technologies allow for a much more "reactive" hotel environment, which can assure a guest's comfort and security.
Another fun thing-The Sinclair will have is a tricked-out shower system that will allow the guest to control the temperature and pressure of the shower with a touch of a button (or maybe through voice-activation) and set preferred music selections to play through the speakers in the shower. Although this might seem like a gimmick, it surely will be a standard feature in many luxury hotels, especially as companies like Kohler are coming fast to the forefront with technologies such as their DTV+, whose touchscreen controller provides for customized water stream, temperature, light, music and more. The idea of not stepping into a cold or scolding shower anymore is dreamy.
Finally, let's not forget the bed. What some might argue as the most important item in the hotel room, the bed's mattress is the "foundation" to the sleep experience. Innovative technologies in mattress development offer a great deal, from the ability to choose its firmness to adjustable bases. But what is most interesting is the range of technologies being developed for senior living, which, I believe, will be the norm in hotels in the future. Currently, some mattresses come equipped with sensors that can detect vital signs and provide data on how well a person slept during the night. Such sensors will become an essential part of our lives in our continued quest to monitor all our other movements (think of how Fitbit measures our steps and calories burned). The bed will provide a richness of data that will help inform us of our health and wellness, and potentially transmit data to the hotel team that might enable them to better assist the guest attain a good night's rest. If the hotel can own that, it will own the market, as well.
With fully accessible Wi-Fi and fast internet speeds now expected amenities in hotels across the globe, the next generation of technology advancements is making its way into hotels and their guest rooms, stepping up the guest experience in practical and luxurious ways. From mobile check-ins to touch-of-a-tablet shower controls and intelligent mattresses, hoteliers that embrace technology's innovative advancements and amenities are sure to find that guests embrace their properties, too.