The hotel industry has a reputation for being behind the curve in terms of technology, but a number of companies have been working to change that perception. The latest is Hilton, which recently debuted its Innovation Gallery, an incubator and experiential showcase for cutting-edge product developments that will shape the future of Hilton hospitality. The 4,300-square-foot gallery is located next to Hilton’s global headquarters at Hilton McLean Tysons Corner. It is open to invited guests, including Hilton team members, hotel owners and technology partners.
Designed by the LAB at Rockwell Group, the architecture firm’s in-house design innovation studio, the gallery showcases a variety of technologies, design elements and dining concepts, ranging from noise-cancellation and sleep-inducing devices for guestrooms to more functional and sustainable materials. The products on display have been recently launched or are under testing, with many developed through Hilton’s partnerships with companies in various industries, including IBM, LG, Amazon, and Tesla.
“The bigger vision is, we’re trying to be the fastest growing, most innovative luxury hotel company,” John Vanderslice, Hilton’s global head of luxury and lifestyle brands, told the Washington Business Journal.
Hilton is not looking for anything in particular, but sees success where technology meets service, according to Vanderslice, so the innovations that improve the customer experience are those that could be selected.
The products in the running range in function. There was London-based wireless charging network Chargifi; Cincinnati-based ultrasonic audio technology Lisnr; San Mateo, Calif.-based customer engagement platform Reflektion; and San Jose, Calif.-based robot developer Savioke. New York City-based Sprinklr, also with a D.C. office, presented its integrated social media management platform, and Cambridge, Mass.-based Embr Labs demonstrated its thermal comfort wristband.
The Embr Wave, a bracelet that heats and cools the body in uncomfortable temperatures, grabbed the audience’s attention from the moment the pitch began. Sam Shaines, the company’s co-founder and chief technology officer, spoke into a wireless mic headset to a room of curious listeners, with his product glowing around his wrist and presentation screens projecting slides on walls around the room. He invited audience members to test out the proprietary personal thermostat, before members of Hilton’s executive team threw questions at him: about applications, research, utility and vision at Hilton. It was one of six presentations, all of which Conrad customers could see at a future visit.
Hilton expects to announce two winners after the Thanksgiving holiday. It has not determined yet which hotel will pilot them. The gallery is an immersive experience, which mirrors the guest’s experience of a hotel. Upon entering the space, visitors will make their way through five experiences including:
- Product showcase: A space for visitors to interact with physical and virtual products that Hilton is exploring for use in hotels.
- Food and beverage concept studio: This show kitchen offers an opportunity to experience and showcase the latest restaurant concepts developed by Hilton’s Food and Beverage team, along with technology to film and webcast.
- Virtual reality stage: A dedicated space for visitors to use virtual reality headsets to experience new Hilton concepts. At launch, visitors will be able to view model rooms from two of Hilton’s newest brands, Tru by Hilton, and Canopy by Hilton.
- Darkroom: A progressive model guestroom dedicated to showing cutting-edge material technologies that have the potential to yield better quality, sustainability, design interest and operational returns.
- Innovation theater: The nucleus of the gallery serves as a gathering space to brainstorm and collaborate.
Hilton said it designed the Innovation Gallery to showcase its culture of creativity and continuous drive to employ meaningful innovations that ease and enhance every aspect of the guest experience, from smartphone capabilities such as digital key to rooms enabling integrated entertainment. The space also showcases the company’s focus on creating new hotel brands that match travelers’ specific needs, such as Tru by Hilton for young-of-heart travelers seeking an energetic but relaxing environment, and Canopy by Hilton, a modern boutique lifestyle brand.
Hilton is by no means the only company with a dedicated technology team that is searching for an edge. Last week, Marriott debuted its smart guestroom lab. The IoT Guestroom Lab, part of Marriott’s 10,000-square-foot Innovation Lab, is designed to make everyday devices more connected and responsive in the guestroom.
Marriott's new hotel room prototype lets guests control everything from the temperature of the shower to the color of the light with the sound of their voice. The smart hotel rooms include devices and amenities that respond to individual guests and are customizable based on their preferences. The rooms are designed as an application of the Internet of Things — the connection of physical devices in a network.
The room, in theory, would be largely controlled by apps and systems that remember a visitor’s preferences and past behaviors. It is powered by three linked networks and could power down automatically when the customer leaves.