From virtual fitness classes to voice-activated rooms, Business Traveller takes a look at three high-tech hotels – for our full round-up of ten of the most innovative hotels worldwide, subscribe to the March edition here.
M BETA AT CHARLOTTE MARRIOTT CITY CENTRE
Described as a “travel innovation lab in live beta”, this 1980s hotel (pictured above) was transformed by Marriott last autumn, and now exists as an interactive showroom for testing innovations that could then be rolled out across other properties. For example, in the gym, guests can take part in hundreds of virtual fitness classes presented on large wall-mounted screens, while in the lobby is a booth that measure your mood. Stay Well rooms have purified air systems and digitised lighting to help ease jet lag.
Guests are able to give constant feedback by pushing Beta Buttons dotted around the property, with real-time approval rankings displayed publicly on digital Beta Boards. At select hotels, not only can you check-in and open your door with Marriott’s mobile app, but use Mobile Requests to order items such as a toothbrush, champagne or flowers in advance or during your stay. At the Marriott Chicago is a healthy vending machine stocked with meals from Farmer’s Fridge.
1 HOTEL BROOKLYN BRIDGE
1 Hotels is an innovative new brand that combines state-of-the art technology with sustainability (rooms have bins for unwanted clothes, hemp-blend mattresses and refillable bottles of shower gel), as well as nature-inspired biophilic interiors (living walls, air plants, terrariums and raw timber furniture).
When you think about it, it makes sense – Nespresso machines use recyclable pods and compostable cups, while handheld Nexus devices replace the need for guest books, newspapers (Press Reader is installed), room service menus and telephones. More efficient steamers are provided instead of irons. The Vers 2Q Bluetooth stereos are made of wood from sustainably managed forests – for every tree cut down, they plant 100 more. Even the reusable electronic key fobs are made of wood.
“Technology is key to implementing sustainability, an integral component of the 1 Hotels mission,” said Barry Sternlicht, founder of 1 Hotels and CEO of Starwood Capital Group. “1 Hotels is part of a greater platform for change in moving hospitality forward and ultimately, making the world a better place.
Having the latest in technological and digital innovation goes hand-in-hand in making this possible; from the highest grade triple water purification systems found in all our hotel rooms to motion sensor activated lighting and five-minute shower timers.”
Not only is there free electric car charging, but access to a Tesla for complimentary journeys within a 15-block radius.
Gyms have self-powered Peloton Cycles and there are bikes (and recyclable helmets) to borrow instead of taking a taxi. These features are available across all three existing hotels – the one in Miami and the two in New York – but 1 Hotels says its new Brooklyn Bridge property (which opened last month, February 2017) is the one that stands out in terms of technology. Upcoming openings will be in Sanya, China (2018), and Cabo and Sunnyvale in California (2019).
ALOFT SILICON VALLEY
Described as Starwood’s (now Marriott International’s) “tech forward incubator brand”, Aloft has introduced robotic butlers built by Californian company Savioke in its Silicon Valley and Cupertino properties. Never tiring, the “Botlrs” work around the clock to deliver guests towels, newspapers, toiletries and bottles of water. They can use lifts without help, and when they arrive outside your room they will automatically call your phone. They only accept tweets as tips and can pose for selfies.
At Aloft Santa Clara and Boston Seaport, meanwhile, the world’s first voice-activated hotel rooms have been unveiled. By speaking into an iPad, tapping into the brain of Apple’s Siri, travellers can turn lights on and off with a simple “Good morning” or “Goodnight”, play music and fine-tune the air conditioning. At most Aloft hotels (as well as W and Element), Starwood Preferred Guest members can use SPG Keyless to open their bedroom doors with their phone.
Emoji room service arrived last year – just text the water droplet, pill and banana emojis to receive two bottles of Vitamin Water, some Advil and two bananas (US$10). Brian McGuinness, senior vice-president of Starwood’s specialty select brands, says: “We look to consumer behaviour and think about how to integrate these trends into the Aloft experience. The rise of emoji was a logical next step, the perfect new wave of guest communications.”