Get Smart: The New Tech-Savvy Hotel Room

It can be difficult at times to warm to the fast-approaching robot apocalypse, which inevitably reasons out to look like a classic Dantean contrapasso, in which we humanoids are sentenced to suffer the opposite for our shortcomings. For example, what’s going to happen to road rage when self-driving autonomous vehicles rule the highways a few short years from now? You get cut off, who you gonna yell at, right? Touché, iCar, touché!

So it is with some mix of excitement and over-the-counter defense that we ponder the coming of smart hotel rooms, where more than a few meeting professionals are about to be blindsided by a flood of new technological conveniences that will make mobile check-in and contactless room locks look sooo 2014.

A recent survey of 8,000 hotels by the American Hotel & Lodging Association confirms what most meeting pros have already surmised: hoteliers have caught the tech bug big time in pursuit of the millennial bitcoin. Among the findings:

  • Central reservations systems have become nearly universal.
  • Two out of three midscale to luxury brands now offer mobile check-in.
  • Nearly all hotels now offer in-room, high-speed Internet with wireless access, and only 10 percent charge for it.
  • Nine in 10 U.S. hotels now offer high-definition flat-screen TVs.

All of which lays the groundwork for what’s just up ahead: the smart hotel room.

Wazzat? If you’ve seen those TV commercials that feature Alec Baldwin vocally interacting with Alexa, the can-do voice of Amazon’s Echo digital personal assistant replacement, you’ve already seen the preview. Reporter Melissa Locker at Travel & Leisure described hotel room 2.0 this way: “Is the air conditioning turning you into a popsicle? Is the television too loud? Are you hankering for a midnight snack? Don’t just sit there. Tell your hotel room.”

That’s right: the days are officially numbered when you and your phone will be the only smart ones in the room. Before long, your TV, thermostat, door lock, light switches, curtains and fans will respond to your voice command. What’s more, the day is nigh when you’ll automatically be hooked up to Wi-Fi from the moment you open your door, enabling seamless streaming of Netflix, Hulu and other online divertissements.

Want to preview tomorrow’s voice-activated smart hotel room today? Get thee to Starwood Aloft’s Boston Seaport or Santa Clara locations, which are participating in what the brand has codenamed Project Jetson. There, once you rouse Siri with your iPhone or iPad, she will be happy to control the lighting, thermostat, sound system and even local GPS at your command in certain designated rooms. In the next phase, Project Jetson will expand Siri’s duties to include room service and other hotel amenities.

Aloft’s trailblazing Cupertino location previously turned techie heads by deploying A.L.O., the first front-of-house hotel robot, to convey bedding, towels, linens and toiletries to guest rooms.

My prediction? The inevitable merging of Alexa/Siri functionality with A.L.O.’s robotic mobility will one day unlock the one smart hotel room feature we’ve long dreamed of: the voice-activated mini-bar.

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Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald is an award-winning journalist, author and blogger who incorporates humor and human interest into a broad range of topics. Follow him on Twitter @omnisaurus

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