When it comes to reliable, easy-to-use tech amenities, hotels have lagged confoundingly behind what most travelers have at home or on their smart phones or tablets. Even at many so-called state-of-the-art properties guests wrestle with inscrutable room controls, ornery A/V setups, and awkward communications systems. Thankfully, some hotels are now stepping up their tech game—for real.

What’s Here Now

These days, any property worth its room rate offers free Wi-Fi. But too often it’s exceedingly sloooow. Solution: many hotels (including the Radisson in San Diego and the Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo) are rolling out 100 Mbps Internet service, which is fast enough to download an album in three seconds.

The Four Seasons Los Angeles and Shangri-La Toronto are two of nearly 50 hotels providing in-room iPads powered by Intelity’s pioneering ICE Touch technology. The intuitive interface lets you order room service, schedule wake-up calls, and book spa appointments. Best of all? It works.

OpenWays has created an app—currently being tested at select Holiday Inn and Choice Hotels properties—that allows guests’ own smart phones to be used as room keys.

What’s Next

In a recently issued industry report, futurist Ian Pearson predicted the following hotel-room innovations:

Your bathroom mirror will also function as an interactive display showing news, weather, and messages.

Wall surfaces could serve as voice- and gesture-controlled monitors that double as video-conferencing panels or even play slideshows of guests’ own photos.

Electro-responsive fibers in sleepwear and soft electronics in pillows will monitor your blood pressure, sleep patterns, and stress levels; music or lighting will be adjusted accordingly to help you relax. In extreme cases, the system could even summon a doctor. But in less urgent ones, perhaps it could just book you an appointment at the hotel spa?

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