With technology changing faster than you can say “gadget,” iPod docking stations in hotel rooms have become so commonplace that we take them for granted. Hotels are racing to stay ahead of the curve not only to appeal to tech-savvy travellers but also to streamline certain procedures and make the general experience as smooth as possible. Here are five new technological ideas hotels have adopted:
Aloft Lexington, Massachusetts
After a successful pilot run, this hotel has become the first to roll out a “smart check-in” system that utilises Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology and allows all Starwood Preferred Guest members to completely skip the check-in process.
Tech-savvy SPG members can sign up for a special SPG/Aloft branded RFID keycard that doubles as the membership card. Whenever they make booking at a participating hotel, they will receive a text message on the day of arrival notifying them of their room number. These guests can go straight to their rooms with their special keycards without having to go to reception.
Eventually, the hotel plans to turn the SPG keycard into an all-encompassing tool that will accepted as a charge card at the property's food and beverage outlets.
It has been so well received that this technology has already been installed in many other hotels such as Aloft Harlem and Aloft Brooklyn in New York, Aloft Dallas Downtown, Aloft Jacksonville Tapestry Park and Aloft London.
Since its opening in October last year, the hotel has been causing a stir with its high-tech, futuristic light fittings and contemporary artworks that are there not just for guests to look at but also play with.
The ceilings in all the rooms at this property are wired with colourful LED lights that can be adjusted to match the guest’s mood while the tubs and sinks in the bathrooms also glow in different colours.
LED lighting is also found throughout the hotel in public areas, alongside sensor-equipped “new media” art installations that guests can interact with, such as "responsive" video projections.
Mandarin Orchard, Singapore
As previously reported (see story here), the Mandarin Orchard hotel has launched an Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) system that has been integrated with the hotel’s iPads to offer greater flexibility and streamlined services. Guests can also synchronise their own iPads with the system.
The system offers guests express check-out as well as flight status updates and the option to watch TV directly through the iPad anywhere in the property. For now, the only channels integrated with the iPad are Bloomberg and BBC but eventually more will follow.
In the next phase of development, the hotel will also allow guests to order room service and control the room lighting through the tablet.
Park Hyatt, Tokyo
All guests at this hotel can rejoice as this new technological offering will help them save a bundle. The "e-mobile" is a small portable router that can be rented out from the hotel and carried around the city to get wifi internet access. It helps you avoid roaming charges as well as save the hassle of having to find wifi hotspots or get a local sim card in Tokyo.
The device costs JPY2,500 (US$30) for 24 hours, offering a bandwidth of 7.2Mbps and unlimited usage. It is compatible with all wifi-enabled gadgets including iPhones, iPads, BlackBerrys and Android handsets.
Sofitel So Bangkok
All 238 rooms at this new hotel, which opened on February 28 (see story here), are equipped with Apple Mac minis. They can be connected to the 40-inch LCD TV, a wireless keyboard and a trackpad, all provided at the hotel, enabling guests to turn the room into their personal workspace. A full-range of Office software has been installed on all the Mac minis so guests simply need to plug in their USB sticks to get to work. Furthermore, the Mac minis are designed to wipe clean of all foreign data every time they shut down, which means there isn’t the risk of confidential documents leaking out.
For entertainment, the Mac mini can be used to order room service, view the updated bill and access digital TV and radio channels, as well as connected to personal iPods, iPhones or iPads.