LOS ANGELES, Jan 26 – From tablets that double as remote controls to ambient lighting and soundtracks that enhance wellbeing and aid recovery from jetlag, technology – especially touch interface technology – now plays a crucial role in providing guests with a perfect hotel experience.
Hotels and new technology do not always make good bedfellows, as British entrepreneur Simon Woodroffe whose ventures include Yo!Sushi and now YOTEL explains: “I use technology only when it is the best way to do the job – If I want to turn a light on I use a switch – everybody knows how that works but if I want to set a mood I will use something that thinks that out for me but I’ll still try and use the switch. My point is (when designing a hotel) don’t try and be too far ahead of the game, wait till people know how to use things before you install them or give them a simple alternative. I’ve been in rooms where I couldn’t turn the light off to go to sleep it was so complicated. That is also why I find a proven technology in another field and transfer it to what I’m doing so it is only new in that arena.”
In the case of hotels, this proven technology is the touch interface that has been made ubiquitous by the smartphone and tablet boom and it is a technology that is rapidly opening the doors to a new level of technological integration in hotel rooms and to new levels of customisation and service for hotel guests.
Today, a number of exclusive hotels, including the Plaza in New York have embraced the iPad and have developed their own interfaces for the devices that give guests full control over every element of their stay from ordering dinner to summoning the concierge. Before the device’s launch, the Plaza had its own touchscreen system in rooms but it was limited and confusing for guests – the opposite of the iPad.
And while the iPad has made this connectivity mainstream, Microsoft, through its Surface 1.0 and PixelSense software devices was actually the first major technology company to experiment with how touch screens and computers can add to a hotel guest’s experience.
Since 2008, the Sheraton group has been using the 30-inch table-top PCs in its lobbies and communal areas to help guests research local attractions, share travel and sight-seeing advice with other hotel guests and for playing multi-player games with their children while waiting to be served.
Likewise, the computers have become a fixture in Las Vegas where a number of casino and resort bars have been using them as interactive tables where clients can order drinks, pick the next track on the jukebox and even flirt with those sitting at other tables.
Philips’ expertise straddles the disciplines of consumer electronics, healthcare and wellbeing and for years has been working with hospitality companies to understand the best ways of combining these technologies for the benefit of guests.
As company spokesperson Santa van der Laarse explains: “We increasingly see a trend in hospitality lighting of mood lighting according to the time of day or activity type, and personalization of lighting by guests. In the hospitality area we thus offer lighting solutions that follow daylight rhythms, for instance breakfast or dinner light settings in hotel restaurants, or different light settings for different times of day in hotel lobbies and meeting rooms. We are also working on guest management control systems to allow guests to personalize the light settings.”
For example, though its work with the citizen M hotel in the Netherlands, it has developed lighting and connectivity technologies that are designed to personalize every element of a guest’s stay from what music is playing in their rooms to whether or not the curtains are open or closed.
Using something called a MoodPad ambient controller, guests can control the character of the ambient lighting in their room according to their mood or the atmosphere they want to create. At the touch of a button, they can switch from warm colours, closed blinds, ambiance music and a cosy temperature, to more functional lighting and ambiance for mobile working. The MoodPad also doubles as a TV remote control and a device for surfing the net.
The technology is based on years of research into how lighting can play a role in helping guests not only relax but recover from the effects of jetlag and improve overall wellbeing. In recent years Philips has run trials with a number of hospitality companies, including NH Hotels and Best Westin, where a number of features such as blackout blinds, a dedicated meditation channel on the TV and running maps have become standard for guests who have travelled across two time zones and need to recover from their journey. – AFP/Relaxnews