New bed products improve guest, housekeeper experience

New devices are helping hoteliers not only give guests a better night's sleep, but also make it easier to clean and maintain guestrooms. Here are two new and upcoming products that are poised to change the way different groups of people use hotel room beds. 

Connected Beds

Phones, speakers and watches have all become “smart” enough to interact with users, so why shouldn't beds follow suit? JD Velilla, senior product leader for product management, project management, innovation and strategy at Serta Simmons Bedding, is trying to make that happen. “Instead of just relying on what we would call static technologies—foam or a coil that reacts to you once it's in the bed—we're trying to use technologies that interact with you,” he said. This could be anything from a cooling feature to adjustable support structures to sensors that track sleep patterns and heart rates, improving overall health.

A good night’s sleep isn’t limited to the bed, Velilla noted, but includes numerous other factors that can all be adjusted through smart technology. For example, if a connected bed senses the temperature reaching an uncomfortable point, it can tell the thermostat to adjust the air conditioning or the fan. In the morning, the bed could adjust the room’s lights and alarms so that the awakening isn’t quite so rude. “And that's really what we're trying to achieve,” Velilla said. “How do we use these technologies inside the mattress, but also how do we extend our footprint outside of the mattress and really drive what happens in your bedroom?”

While “smart beds” are not yet on the market, the technology already exists to make them a reality, and Velilla’s team in the Serta Simmons Intelligent Sleep System Lab are experimenting with different concepts. Once the beds are in the residential market and users become accustomed to interacting with the devices, they will be able to automatically transfer the settings to any connected hotel bed as well, potentially eliminating complaints about mattresses being too firm or too soft.

Of course, Velilla added, a bed in a hotel room is going to to be different from a bed in a private residence, “whether it's the durability of it or whether it has to be flipped over—which we don't do for our normal mattresses.” Smart devices are designed to learn with regular use, but a hotel room could have numerous users in just a few days, he said, making the process more challenging in that environment. “The only way to truly do that is to get these products out into the field into some sort of beta test where we can do this type of research in real time at a hotel.”

Elevated Beds

Hoteliers are not only concerned with improving the guest experience through bedding, but helping make housekeepers’ jobs easier as well. The Atkinson BedLift is a new mobile frame that lifts an entire bed diagonally by a full foot and away from the wall by about the same distance. ​Once elevated, the bed stays in the raised position, opening up space for a housekeeper to walk all the way around the unit, making sure all of the linens are tucked in evenly.

This also makes it easier to maneuver a vacuum cleaner around a bed, preventing dust from building up under the headboard or around electrical outlets. “At the finest hotels in the land, if you look under headboard, it’s disgusting,” said Patrick Atkinson, CEO of Atkinson Ergonomic Solutions, who developed the device with his brother Neil, the COO of the company. The brothers developed the idea over the better part of a decade after learning about the physical strain housekeepers face changing dozens of beds per day, sometimes kneeling to tuck linens around low platform beds, sometimes lifting mattresses that can weigh well over 100 pounds.

The BedLift can also help with other tasks. When rotating pillow-top mattresses, Patrick said, hotels have traditionally needed crews of people to move the bed around. “With the bed elevated, it’s above the end tables,” he said. “Now, one housekeeper can grab a corner and spin the mattress around without additional help. That can be a pretty substantial savings over time with hundreds of beds over many years.” At the same time, maintenance teams can more easily access electrical outlets and wiring hidden by the bed. “These are functional things that will be impactful to clients,” he said.

Neil Atkinson sees another value in the product: Not only will it make the housekeeper’s job easier, it reduces the risk of injury and workers' compensation claims. “We’re taking the injury risk out of it,” Patrick said, joking that the brothers have tried “multiple ways” to injure themselves with the device, but the spring-loaded frame will simply rest against whatever gets in its way when moving.

The cost of a BedLift will depend on several variables, but Neil expects most units to cost less than $300 each to fit existing beds. While most companies purchase bases and platforms separately, he said, Atkinson can combine everything with the movable frame. “It’s ideal for renovations and new hotels,” he said.