Ten of the world’s best hotel room innovations…

Hotel rooms are changing – and fast. BDO’s ‘Hotel Britain 2015’ report revealed that hotel rooms are increasingly becoming an extension of mobile phones and other technology.

The report said that following the introduction of iPads to control room temperature and lighting and mobile key technology, “there is a clear demand for techno-savvy hotel rooms.”

So how are hotels adapting to changing consumer demands? We take a look at ten of the best in-room innovations around the world…


1. Mobile room keys

Guests at many of Starwood’s Aloft, Element and W hotels around the world (including W London in Leicester Square) can now use their smartphones or Apple Watches as room keys…

By registering their device through the group’s loyalty app, guests are notified when the hotel room will be available, along with a room number. The innovation allows guests to skip the queue at reception and go straight to their room, opening the door with their phone or watch via a Bluetooth connection.

Members of Hilton Worldwide’s Honors rewards programme can also check into their rooms via smartphone, while at the curiously named Blow Up Hall 5050 in Poznan, Poland guests are handed iPhones that use digital recognition to navigate them to the correct room and unlock the door.

Indeed, according to Hospitality Technology’s 2015 Lodging Technology Study, 34% of those surveyed said they would be adding or upgrading their next generation room locks to include features such as RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) and mobile keys.

2. Remote controlled rooms

At CitizenM in Amsterdam, Holland guests can control the room using a MoodPad tablet, allowing them to adjust the temperature, TV channels, window blinds, coloured lighting and wakeup alarm themes – with just one finger. The Hotel Bel-Air in Beverly Hills, US, has taken a similarly indulgent approach, enabling guests to turn off the bathroom light without getting out of bed.

The 2015 HRS ‘Hotel of the Future’ survey revealed that 42% of guests from the UK would rather operate their hotel room’s lighting, air conditioning and television via a display instead of using a separate remote control or switch.

3. Intelligent thermostats

Guests at Potawatomi Hotel in Milwaukee, US, only have to check in to set a chain of events in action…

The EcoSmart in-room energy management system begins heating or cooling the room until it reaches 72 degrees. The system knows exactly when a guest leaves the room and will allow the temperature to fluctuate four degrees from the guest’s preferred temperature.

But that’s not all. “The product can also be integrated with the room lights and curtains to save additional energy,” said Shane Cherney, director of engineering. “As soon as the guest puts the key in the door lock, the system immediately turns on to return the room to the guest’s individual preference. We have been able to save money, conserve energy and increase guest satisfaction.”

4. Emoji room service

Starwood Hotels and Resorts holds claim to introducing the UK’s first-ever emoji-only room service menu at Aloft London Excel and Aloft Liverpool. Text it, Get it (TiGi) enables guests to order items from room service by simply texting emojis – cartoon-like symbols – from the room service menu to a dedicated phone line, along with their room number.

Items on the menu include ‘The Hangover’ (two bottles of water, one bacon roll and one banana), ‘The Sightseer’ (two bottles of water, map and two bananas), ‘The Munchies’ (a Coca-Cola, bag of crisps, Snickers bar and a chocolate brownie) and ‘Surprise Me’ (which perhaps means the order may or may not turn up)…

Brian McGuinness, global brand leader at Starwood’s Specialty Select Brands described the innovation as “a logical next step, the perfect new wave of guest communications.”

5. 3D holographs of absent friends

The NH Collection Eurobuilding hotel in Madrid, Spain, has deployed 3D holographic technology, able to project life-size holographic 3D images of people to talk to live, no matter where they are in the world.  The so-called ‘Living Lab’ hotel also features 3D holographic technology in its meeting rooms.

Last year, Hugh Jackman and film director Neill Blomkamp beamed themselves into a press conference at the hotel to promote their new film, Chappie, despite being in Berlin at the time…

6. Very Important Bracelets

Spain’s Ushuaia Ibiza Beach Hotel and Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza have been trying out the VIB, or ‘very important bracelet’. The bracelet acts as a room key and payment system that can be linked to a PayPal account.

It can also interact with the hotels’ two metre tall touchscreens, allowing guests to post straight on to social media. The bracelets set guests back a slightly pricey €29 (£22) a day, with a kids’ option from €19 (£14).

7. Smart mirrors

At Jumeirah Frankfurt in Germany, and at Eccleston Square in London, UK, guests can watch the morning news while brushing their teeth, thanks to flat TV screens built into the bathroom mirror…

Starwood’s Four Points properties in the US are also developing smart mirrors on which to read headlines or check the weather forecast. Meanwhile the group’s Aloft brand is experimenting with a touchscreen mirror that allows guests to adjust the bathroom’s LED lighting.

8. Twitter-activated hotels

The Sol Wave House Hotel in Majorca, Spain – billed as the world’s first ‘Twitter hotel’ – enables guests to check in via the hotel’s Twitter app and order room service using specific hashtags.

Food and drink can also be ordered as guests recline by the pool bar, simply by tweeting the @SolWaveHouse Twitter handle, while minibar fridges can be restocked by tweeting the Twitter concierge using the hashtag #FillMyFridge. It certainly leaves no room for any misunderstanding.

9. Robotic staff

In July 2015, the world’s first hotel to be staffed by humanoid robots opened in Nagasaki, Japan. Robots at the Henn-na Hotel take a number of forms, from a long-haired lady humanoid to a dinosaur, and each one performs a different role, from receptionist to porter to concierge. Ten humans work behind the scenes to address any technical problems. Henn na Hotel’s creators say it is a low cost prototype “smart” hotel of the future…

Robot butlers are also in the scene. Aloft has introduced a robot butler – or Botlr –  at several of its US hotels, including Cupertino in California and, fittingly, Silicon Valley. Botlr is on hand 24 hours a day to assist with delivering amenities to guest’s rooms, and accepts tweets rather than tips as a thank you for good service.

The Yotel New York pod hotel has also introduced a robot luggage handler, inventively named Yobot.

As Brian McGuinness, Global Brand Leader, Starwood’s Specialty Select Brands said, “…humans and robots can co-exist and work side by side to elevate the guest experience.”

10. Netflix streaming

Marriott Hotels has enabled guests at many of its US properties to stream Netflix via a dedicated app on the hotel’s smart televisions. Guests can log into Netflix, Hulu, Crackle, YouTube or Pandora on their hotel room TV, rather than hunching over a tablet or laptop screen.

The brand plans to expand Netflix to “nearly all” of its 300 plus properties in the US by the end of 2016.

“Our members tell us they want to watch Netflix anytime, in any place where they have an internet connection,” said Bill Holmes, global head of business development, Netflix. “Through our partnership with Marriott, they’ll get to watch their favourite movies, TV shows and Netflix originals on big screens just like they do at home.”

According to a report from Accenture, more than half of US consumers watch internet television. In testing at hotels, the number of guests using any of the internet apps on the guest room televisions was 26%, with a ‘significant’ majority choosing Netflix.

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