Ou tof th ebox Thinking – Ideas for the Hotel of the Future

Order a reprint of this story
Close (X)

ORDER A REPRINT

To reprint an article or any part of an article from Hospitality Upgrade please email geneva@hospitalityupgrade.com. Fee is $250 per reprint. One-time reprint. Fee may be waived under certain circumstances.

SEND EMAIL

October 01, 2014
Hotel of the Future
Dan Phillips - dphillips@dare2i.com

As a consultant I always love, or dread, the inevitable question from a client considering the purchase of some new technology or solution, “Will this be relevant five years from now? Will future developments make this spend a wrong decision?” My answers seem to start with, “Well, let me dust off the old crystal ball.”

I had a similar conversation with a client a few years ago and we were discussing the trends in guestroom TVs. We had both just come back from HITEC and were talking about what we saw in the way of smart TVs, the new set-top box (STB) solutions and the emerging trend of enabling guests to connect their own devices (BYOD) and play their own content (BYOC). As the conversation progressed, almost in exacerbation, he said, “Why don’t we just get rid of the TV altogether? Let’s just beef up the Wi-Fi to the point that every guest can play their own content on their own devices without delays or glitches. And, if need be, figure out a way to let them get some traditional FTG TV channel content.” Now, that was thinking out of the box. I’d never heard a hotelier talk about getting rid of the TV and using the savings to enhance Wi-Fi coverage.

So, I began asking other clients and technology providers for some of their out-of-the-box ideas. Several people, especially hoteliers, asked to remain anonymous in case their ideas were so radical that people would think differently of them. Therefore, no names or associations have been assigned to any of the ideas below. These are provided with very limited explanations and in no particular order. And, don’t shoot the messenger; I’m just facilitating imagination and putting it to paper.

One of the first ideas I heard was to create a room area network (RAN) in which everything is voice enabled. Imagine changing TV channels by calling out the network, or changing the thermostat by simply saying the word, “cooler.”

Other ideas included replacing the guestroom phone with an intercom that has two buttons: one for emergency and one for hotel services, and enabling the floor lighting that comes on at night only when a guest’s feet touch the floor.

In-room controllers could interface with multiple vendors so guests can be presented with a menu of room control options to choose from, and properties could even see robotic security guards in the future.

One idea that could help all travelers is the thought of gadgets and technology that fight jet lag.

Additionally, real-time, dynamic language translation on a smartphone would aid those farther away from home.  A guest can speak his language into the phone and immediately the phone would broadcast his words into the language of the hotel staff member wanting to assist him.

Regarding the guestroom itself, one suggested idea was furniture on wheels, with locks, to provide guests the ability to reconfigure the room to their liking. And, ensure that power outlets are adequately provided.

The guestroom remote of the future should be a serious remote that allows you to control the TV, contains a keyboard for your onscreen Web browsing, and remains parked in a charger on the bedside table because the remote also serves as your telephone. What does the remote look like? Well, maybe it looks a lot like any one of the latest smartphones on the market. But it still needs to be designed in such a way that minimizes a guest’s temptation to take it with him. That can be solved as well through the use of an inexpensive tracking chip. 

Another idea is a wand or a device that incorporates gesture devices like Xbox One’s capability, combined with voice commands that allow guests to control drapes and lights without having to learn how to navigate a tablet-based room control wired to the bed stand.

Also in the room, a centralized alarm management solution could capture alarms from everything like elevators, chillers, pumps, pool/spa, IT equipment, security/access control and more. Not only would malfunctioning equipment send alarms to the technology providers, but also to specific hotel staff to mitigate guest dissatisfaction.

Other in-room ideas included a self-service bar where guests can get their own beverages and have billing done through either RFID or NFC on their cell phone, and removing the closet, bureaus and armoires to provide a flat surface large enough to lay out the suitcase for easy access and to iron clothes. And, I’m sure guests would appreciate the recommendation of a black light solution for housekeeping to ensure cleanliness, and wall beds to increase space when guests are not sleeping.

Outside of the guestroom, hotels could replace all of the table tent cards on restaurant tables with a tablet that can assist in food ordering and provide content and interactivity with staff or other guests.

Digital signage was another focus mentioned. One individual suggested signage where each screen is IP addressable, and with the right embedded solid-state drive and Wi-Fi connection, all that is left that controls location is the ability to provide power. With the elegant design of today’s screens, mounting them on the wall should be as simple as hanging a picture – no more expensive enclosures overheating from the combined screen/DMP electronics. And, all you really need is a console in the marketing department that allows the staging of output created in house using products like Adobe Creative Suite.

To aid the hotel staff, providers could create a free PMS that incorporates a disruptive revenue and cost of business model. The model could include the redirection of credit card processing, advertising from local retailers through the PMS to hotel guests, a Web booking engine and a dynamic guest communications package for alerts, notifications and upselling opportunities.

Properties could enable guests at reservations and/or check-in to make room assignments based on more room attributes, like proximity to the pool, or the view, or beachfront, or away from the ice machine).

For those attending conferences on property, hotels could outfit all of the meeting rooms with an embedded tablet to be used by set-up staff to review up-to-the minute layouts and menus.  It would also be used by the meeting planner for placing a phone call, requesting specific services, controlling the lights, sound and HVAC. And, it can be used to become more interactive with the Wi-Fi environment. For example, if a group wants to have a Wi-Fi environment set up for their delegates during a conference, staff should be able to enter that specific item that then triggers a series of events. These events include creating a unique SSID and key for the group, sending notification of this information to all registered delegates by various channels, creating the environment within the Wi-Fi AP controller environment (including third-party managed networks) and posting the appropriate fee to the master account.

There really are some interesting ideas presented here. I’m sure that you’ve got a few of your own. If you’d like to share them with me, please see my email address below. I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as I did. Who knows, maybe we will see some of these at the next HITEC!

Dan Phillips is a partner at Dare to Imagine, a company specializing in technology consulting for the hotel industry. He can be reached at dphillips@dare2i.com.

©2014 Hospitality Upgrade
This work may not be reprinted, redistributed or repurposed without written consent.
For permission requests, call 678.802.5302 or email info@hospitalityupgrade.com
 
 

Articles By The Same Author



want to read more articles like this?

want to read more articles like this?

Sign up to receive our twice-a-month Watercooler and Siegel Sez Newsletters and never miss another article or news story.