A new prototype hotel room of the future, announced this week by Marriott, Samsung, and Legrand, will provide services most travelers have never imagined, like a yoga routine directed by a mirror and a shower that automatically sets the temperature to your preferences.
The services result from a combination of "internet of things" (IoT) technology (communications built into devices) and building automation systems and software to run hotel operations. The result could be a bigger wave of practical travel innovation than even Airbnb has provided. That could mean greater convenience and even saving time and money during your business travels. (Though whether it's the equal of the amazingly innovative airline middle seat that is actually comfortable remains to be seen.)
Here are some of the features being shown in the so-called IoT Guestroom Lab or already available through initiatives at other hotels, such as the Hilton chains or Aria Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas:
- A virtual assistant can arrange wake-up calls, request other hotel services, or direct devices in the room, whether through an app or voice command.
- Guests can register preferences, like temperature settings for showers, and then have the virtual assistant turn on the water appropriately.
- In-room tablets, like supercharged remote controls, sport quick access to hotel services, whether room service menus or quick spa reservations.
- Digital mirrors add displays to show news headlines, local weather, and other useful information.
- Digital wall art changes to meet your preferences.
Note that much of the technology already exists--think of virtual assistants with voice recognition, like Amazon Echo and Google Home. Innovation often is a matter of combining things in new ways.
This trend makes one imagine other features. Why not robot bartenders, already at work in Las Vegas, built into a room's minibar? Or a way of using your Netflix or Hulu account to watch your choice of entertainment on a smart TV? (Although the latter could be a tough sell for the hotels, which look to rack up additional charges with pay-per-view movies.)
Marriott says the features in its prototype room could start rolling out within five years, but clearly some hotels have already started. They hope such capabilities become reasons consumers will want to stay with them rather checking Airbnb.
For business travel, the extra services could mean a lot. The more often you're on the road, the more you realize how difficult travel can be. Convenience and comfort become tools to keep in a good frame of mind for meetings and presentations. And anything that gets you to the airport to pass security and arrive at the gate before your flight leaves is worth a lot.