Smart Design: The Top Technology Design Trends Your Hotel Guests are Demanding

By David Ashen Principal and Founder, dash design | 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and with how quickly is technology evolving, by the time you read this article, I am sure some of the concepts will be outdated.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.

Sinclair Check-In Lobby
Sinclair Check-In Lobby Seating
Sinclair Single King Guestroom
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Coming up in January 2019...

Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.