Smart Hotels: Innovative Design, Technology to Create Exceptional Guest Experiences
By Felicia Hyde Principal & Lifestyle Studio Director, H. Hendy Associates | November 24, 2019
Decades ago, the idea of robotics and artificial intelligence integrated into our everyday lives would have been unthinkable. Fast forward to today, not only do we have the world at our fingertips, we have access to self-driving cars, wearables that monitor our vitals and the ability to virtually transport ourselves with a pair of goggles. Technology is not only making our lives easier, but revolutionizing the way we work, live and play. It's adding a new dimension to how we interact with the world and has significantly increased our expectations for accessibility and instant gratification.
So, it's no surprise that travelers today not only crave but expect the convenience and connection technology provides. From selecting travel destinations and booking accommodations to sharing and rating experiences, technology plays an integral role in the travel journey. In fact, research shows 40% of travelers today are concerned with having Wi-Fi connection while traveling and 45% use their smartphones for almost every step of their adventure.
While the desire for and integration of technology is shaking up many industries, it's a concept that's been transforming multifamily communities nationwide. With the goal to create unique and custom living experiences for renters, multifamily developers have evolved their approach to incorporate innovative technology not only in their communities, but their design process.
Here's a closer look at the demographic driving the demand for modern technology, innovative programs and design features, and key strategies hoteliers can apply to imagine unconventional designs that stand apart from the competition and provide a seamless guest experience for travelers.
Designed to provide tenants with the next level of fitness on demand, the workout center at Broadstone Vilara in Laguna Niguel will feature a full-length "smart mirror" enabling renters to engage in fitness classes, meet with personal trainers and connect via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to track their performance and control music settings.
Generation Z Leading the Charge
Generation Z, individuals born after 1995, are digital natives ready to take on the world. Raised during the most progressive era of technological advancements, they are accustomed to a world where information is readily available with a click of a button. In fact, Generation Z spends 50 minutes more than the average internet user online via smartphones.
Growing up with constant and instant access to information has greatly influenced how this generation learns, communicates, buys and even travels. Generation Z also has proven to be adventure seekers, taking 2.8 leisure trips per year, and this number is anticipated to grow. Research also shows that Generation Z has a large influence on family travel decisions and will have a greater influence on technology integration in hospitality as they begin to enter the workforce and increase their disposable income.
With Generation Z projected to make up the largest consumer group by 2020, hoteliers will need to elevate their properties to incorporate the latest technology to attract today and tomorrow's travelers and to provide a memorable and unique guest experience.
With the goal to provide residents with the convenience and accessibility technology provides, H. Hendy Associates will infuse modern technology into the clubhouse at Broadstone Vilara. Elements include: four HDTVs for entertainment and to display property events and updates complete with an iPad control system and myriad charging stations.
Technology Revolutionizing Hotel Design
Technology is already making a profound impact on the hospitality industry. But as digital consumers continue to seek the same level of convenience in hotel accommodation that their apartments, workplaces and communities offer, hoteliers will need to evolve their strategies to infuse innovations that make guests feel comfortable and in control.
With 40% of U.S. households today rented versus owned, residential and multifamily developers are already experimenting with and implementing modern technology to attract renters. From smart phone applications to pay rent or make a maintenance request to touch screen displays in common spaces, there are myriad technologies available that enhance residents' living experience. However, the following trends have proven to be the most progressive in multifamily and are key concepts hoteliers may consider incorporating into their designs to elevate the guest experience.
- Internet of Things (IOT)
IoT is a new and penetrating technology. Simply put, it's the ability to connect any device with an on and off switch to the internet. This includes cell phones, lighting, washing machines, wearable devices and more. IOT enables everyday smart devices to communicate through the internet and offers a variety of opportunities and benefits for the end user.
IOT can be used to connect smart phones to hotel room appliances including heating and air conditioning, lighting, coffee machines and other devices enabling visitors to control the atmosphere according to their preferences. IOT also has the capability to facilitate the hotel check-in process by sending electronic keys to guests' smartphones. This technology also provides owners with data collection that helps inform visitors' needs and preferences, enabling hoteliers to provide a highly customized experience for travelers.
- Voice Activation
Despite the many modes of communication that exist today, the human voice remains one of the most effective ways to communicate. As a result, voice activated devices and controls have become increasingly popular. In fact, research reveals that 52% of U.S. smartphone owners have reported using voice activation on their mobile devices and 55% will own a voice assistant in their homes by 2020.
Voice activation provides consumers with the high-level of convenience and governance they crave. For example, voice activated devices may allow guests to make dinner reservations, order room service, alert housekeeping and adjust their room settings in real-time without additional support. This technology helps foster a tailored experience and enables hoteliers to provide the instant gratification modern travelers desire.
- Recognition Technology
Originally and primarily used for security and law enforcement, recognition technology including facial recognition, fingerprint and retina scanning have made their way into the mainstream market. This technology has great potential to transform the hospitality industry, providing guests with increased instantaneity and accessibility. For example, facial recognition can be used in hotel properties allowing guests to obtain immediate access to amenities including fitness centers, day spas, exclusive business lounges and more.
A hotel that has seamlessly adopted modern technology into their property is Loews Hotel 1000, a luxury hotel situated in the heart of downtown Seattle. At Loews, each hotel room is outfitted with voice activated devices allowing visitors to customize rooms settings and motion sensors that alert housekeeping when a room is occupied. Through IOT and smart technology, guests can adjust the room temperature, artwork and music settings. For golf fanatics, the hotel features a virtual golf course complete with real clubs and golf balls and a selection of the world's top 50 golf courses.
In designing The Marston, a multifamily community located in Redwood City, H. Hendy Associates worked closely with its project partners to identify unique opportunities for technology integration. For example, the fitness center houses a tech-driven "motivation wall" made up of HDTVs that enable visitors to select and view fun, inspirational imagery and picturesque landscapes as they complete their workouts.
Innovative Design Elements, Services
The increase and accessibility of modern technology has resulted in a host of innovative design elements, spaces and programs that can be incorporated into multifamily and hotel spaces to attract tenants and travelers alike. The growing demand for technology is already reshaping multifamily design and introducing new opportunities to meet consumer demands. For example, multifamily architects are seeing an uptick in multi-use areas including club rooms and lobby spaces that also serve as coworking hubs for collaboration, ideation and connection.
Furthermore, technology is making a home for itself in the exterior areas and common spaces of apartment communities. Examples include waterproof speakers in pools, iPads and charging stations in cabanas and HDTVs and multi-screens in outdoor lounge and fitness spaces. The following are key innovative services and technology and design elements evolving multifamily today that can be applied or further integrated into hotels.
- Smart Locks, Mobile Keys
Smart locks, also known as electromechanical locks, are built with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capability and enable users to have control over and access to their homes, community spaces and more from anywhere at any time. Smart locks can be programmed by users or builders to open by fingerprint detection, motion sensor, voice activation and most commonly by mobile devices with a digitally encrypted key that lives on smartphones, tablets and wearables.
Seen in multifamily properties and becoming increasingly popular among the hospitality industry, smart locks and mobile keys saves guests valuable time by allowing them to check in and enter their rooms immediately upon arrival. This solution provides the convenience of not having to keep track of a physical key and offers guests increased security as digital keys are often located on password protected devices. For hoteliers, this automation also reduces the workload of front desk staff allowing them to attend to guest services and further engage with visitors.
- Interactive Fitness Mirrors
A new exercise equipment gracing multifamily gyms and workout centers includes interactive fitness mirrors. These are tech-based, full-length smart mirrors offering users a new level of fitness on demand. Highly customizable, fitness mirrors allow users to create their own profile enabling the device to provide workout recommendations and keep track of user's vitals and overall performance.
Fitness mirrors also offer a host of work out classes including cardio, strength, yoga, Pilates, barre, boxing and more with a variety of difficulty levels. Equipped with a microphone and built-in camera, the device also includes personal training where coaches provide real-time instruction and encouragement allowing users to meet their personal fitness goals. Additional features include touch screen capabilities and the option to plug in or connect via Bluetooth to play and control your own music.
- Hello Alfred
On a mission to change the way people live, Hello Alfred is a personal help and comprehensive hospitality concierge service combining human-centered technology with hands-on hospitality. A new service used primarily in urban residential and multifamily communities, Hello Alfred offers in-home and on-request services designed to simplify and improve resident's quality of life.
From grocery delivery to house cleaning and move-in services, the program is integrated into the community, providing residents with unique services and building teams with the support need to drive property performance. Hello Alfred, is accessible via a smart phone application and provides property owners with a resident experience portal enabling them to manage services, gather insights, and optimize the resident experience.
Technology in the Design Process
The key to successful hotel design also lies in the ability to leverage and successfully integrate modern technology into the design process. By implementing key programs and technologies from artificial intelligence to drones and robotics into the design process, hotel developers can improve their ability to seamlessly infuse technology while creating opportunities for efficiencies. For example, architects today are leveraging Building Information Modeling (BIM) to create faster and smarter designs and to help foster collaboration, innovation and connection among project partners from design and visualization to simulation and construction.
Taking it a step further, design teams also utilize Revit, the latest innovation in BIM and next iteration of computer aided drafting. Revit is a robust architectural design and documentation software complete with tools and features that enable teams to create more accurate and optimized designs. With Revit, architects and designers can now sketch layouts of a floor plan, make changes to the standard set of building concepts and instantly preview designs. The 3D design capability allows architects to explore a variety of design concepts and high-quality documentation enables teams to detect and correct problems early in the design process. Benefits include improved error detection and risk management, increased opportunities for collaboration, shorter project turnaround times and cost efficiencies.
From smart locks and mobile keys to voice activated devices and more, technology has completely reshaped the way we live, work and play. Moreover, the increase and access to modern technology has significantly shifted consumers' desire to an expectation of technological integration. Whether it's at the office, in an apartment community or during their next hotel stay, consumers want the convenience, connection and customization that technology provides.
As the next generation of travelers continue to seek lodging that offers instant access and gratification as well as unique and tech-driven experiences, hotel developers will need to evolve their approach and design strategies. By integrating innovative programs such as IOT and recognition technology into their spaces as well as the design process, hoteliers can deliver smart, memorable destinations that attract modern travelers and deliver optimal return on investment.
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