11 Amazing Things Found in the Hotel Room of the Future
Apple TVs, keyless entry, savvy social media teams: hospitality giant Starwood has long been at the cutting edge of hotel innovation. So when the company invited me to check out the new technology and design projects being tested at its global headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, I raced to the scene, notebook and camera in tow. Here's what I found—and what you could find too, eventually—in Starwood's hotel room of the future.
"Hotels were always better than your house," Starwood Global Brand Leader Brian McGuinness told me, "until people started doing great things to their houses and hotels needed to catch up." That's what kicked off the boutique hotel craze years ago, he says, and now, several years later, it's also what's kicking off the smart hotel craze. A prime example: Nest thermostats in guest rooms, the first of several connected home innovations that are sure to be installed across brands. What Starwood is trying to create, says McGuinness, is "an entirely hands-free hotel room experience."
RFID night lights
Small stickers embedded with RFID sensors will soon pop up in Aloft hotels around the country, but you'll never see them: they'll be hidden under the carpet near your bed. Triggered by movement and weight, these stickers will sense when you wake up in the middle of the night and trigger the night light in the bathroom.
Aloft has been testing the so-called "Botlr" at its Cupertino and Silicon Valley properties since last August. Soon, the digitized butler will be ready for the national spotlight. Put in a request for service via your SPG app—more towels, for instance—and housekeeping will stash your items in the Botlr's internal compartment before dispatching him to your room.
The company had to wire its elevators with Wi-Fi in order to allow Botlr to get around on his own; when he arrives, guests are alerted by a phone call and treated to an adorable robot dance. The tipping currency of choice: Tweets.
Spotted in a model Four Points room: a smart mirror embedded with a customized touchscreen display populated with things like your email, Twitter feed, sports scores, or headlines. Designed to replace the full-length mirrors in rooms, these would allow you to cross a few things off your to-do list while brushing your teeth.
Personalized room settings
Starwood has long kept tabs on its guest preferences. Soon, you'll be able to tell the SPG app your preferred temperature and lighting settings (do you prefer white light? Amber tones?) so that any room is calibrated to your specifications.
On the heels of those Nest thermostats will come other smart appliances, like coffee makers that start brewing your morning cup automatically. Thanks to a small converter, basically any appliance in a Starwood room can be made "smart" and controlled through the SPG app.
Connected room service carts
The same RFID stickers that trigger your night-light will also be attached to room service carts. The big idea: when a cart is left outside a guest room, a sticker hidden near the door will sense the room service cart and alert housekeeping to clear away the mess. No more unsightly leftovers cluttering the hallway, at last.
Aloft's Cupertino property is a natural testing ground for Apple technologies of all kinds, and the hotel has been piloting Apple TV for years now. Now, Starwood is also testing Kindle's rival service to see which will win the battle.
Oculus rift rentals
Unsure whether you really want to go skydiving or zip lining? Loaner units of the virtual reality system Oculus Rift might help you decide.
Virtual reality bike rides
Another potential application of VR technology? Augmented workouts. Starwood is creating dedicated footage to make you feel like you're bike riding through the Spanish countryside or Frankfurt when in fact, you've never left the hotel gym.
Beautiful Solar Panels
Element hotels are working on bespoke solar canopies that incorporate pretty solar energy tiles. And it’s not just about powering yoru room—at the trial property in Dallas, guests can sit under the solar panel canopy and charge their devices with the power of the sun.