Technology is progressing at a rapid pace; in the hospitality industry, big hotel chains like Starwood are currently testing some space-age gadgetry that could come straight from a sci-fi movie.
You probably wouldn’t guess that visiting a hotel chain’s headquarters would be like getting a peek into Batman’s Batcave, but that’s kind of what it must have been like for a Yahoo Travel editor invited to Starwood’s HQ. Imagine concept hotel rooms that serve as hotel innovation labs where amazing technology is bought to life, like RFID (radio frequency ID) carpet that recognizes your step and lights your way for a midnight bathroom break, and touchscreen smart mirrors that allow you to check the weather or read today’s headlines while you brush your teeth, or virtual reality exercise bikes that take you along a scenic outdoor trail without leaving the fitness center. It’s all very exciting and not so far away from becoming an everyday hotel stay reality.
Technology sure moves fast and it’s hard to keep up. Are you aware of these futuristic gadgets that are wowing guests in hotels right now?…
Yotel, a high-tech hotel located at New York’s Times Square, features the world’s first robotic luggage handler that automatically stores guests’ excess bags in space-saving storage compartments. The large robotic arm called Yobot stands 15 feet high and is a useful addition to a hotel with small (yet futuristic) guestrooms where even the beds are motorized to fold up for more floor space when not in use.
A compact three-foot tall Botlr (robot butler) greets guests with a cheerful beep at Aloft Cupertino in Silicon Valley. The first of several Botlrs being tested by Starwood-owned Aloft, the little robo-butler named A.L.O. delivers requested amenities like extra towels to guestrooms, freeing up human hotel staff to focus on more intricate service matters. Equipped with a camera and other sensors, A.L.O. efficiently navigates the hotel with ease — operating the elevator via wireless — and communicates with guests via a flat-panel display.
A number of big brands like Hilton and Starwood are already testing keyless guestroom entry via a smartphone app at select properties, and at some Starwood properties, you can now unlock your room with your Apple Watch. Guests at the Alma Barcelona can access their room simply by scanning their fingerprint, and Boston’s Nine Zero Hotel admits guests into the pricey Cloud Suite via retinal scan!
Room Control Apps
Custom hotel apps are going beyond room reservations and local information, taking the personalized guest experience to new heights. Luxurious rooms at The Halkin by COMO in London feature touchscreen consoles that allow guests to call the butler, request guest services, control lighting and temperature and more, and in-room tablets at Peninsula Hotels and the Aria in Las Vegas allow guests to do much the same. Guests at Virgin Hotels can download a personal assistant app called Lucy, which covers room reservations, in-room climate control, room service, spa bookings, concierge services and even access to a guest chat board.
A Robot-Run Hotel
In an ambitious bid to increase efficiency, robots make up the main staff at Henn na Hotel, which opened last month in Sasebo, Japan. At Henn na Hotel (translating to “Weird Hotel” in English), guests are greeted by a Japanese-speaking humanoid robot and an English-speaking robot dinosaur at the front desk, and there are also robotic porters and cleaners. Guests are encouraged to “enjoy conversing with these warm and friendly robots as they efficiently go about their work.” (Just try not to think about Terminator, I, Robot, or The Transformers.) Self-service check-in and check-out, and keyless room entry via facial recognition technology contribute to a smooth, automated process… and there are human staff on site to make sure guests are safe.
Whether it scares or excites you, hotel technology is ever evolving — all in the name of enhancing the guest experience.