How smart rooms can transform hotel brands

Smart rooms can provide efficiencies in terms of less wasted water or electricity. They can also reduce the need for staff members to perform tasks that can be moved to automated “smart” systems. These cost savings are great for the bottom line, but there’s a bigger benefit at work. When smart rooms and automation are implemented properly, they can help a hotel’s brand in unexpected ways.
Implementing smart room functions appeals to hoteliers because of consumer demand and because they are easily integrated into both new builds and retrofits. Smart room controls help to reduce waste and improve operations, and now are moving beyond the thermostat. This is driven by the pace of technological change that directly impacts every industry.

Years ago people inserted keycards into their doors and that was the extent of the consumer-facing “tech” experience when visiting a hotel. Now visitors can do multiple functions with their phone, from check in and concierge requests to the phone functioning as the room key. Hotel rooms are being filled with smart appliances, guests can adjust their lighting dynamically and some hoteliers are even providing robot mixologists to create the preferred cocktails for guests. Many of these functions are managed through an integrated remote and/or the guest’s smartphone app. The app is the future of the smart room because it’s the gateway for the guest to stream their personal content to the in-room TV, order drinks at the pool, dim the lights and even order a massage.

The current iteration of smart rooms is about more than efficiency, but also providing a tailored experiences for the guests and improving security. Some brands are featuring different types of glass that are either automatically adjusted for heating or cooling efficiency or manipulated by the guest. These include thermochromic glasses that change based on temperature or privacy glass that can go from opaque to transparent in an instant. The color and tinting of the glass might be recommended based on where the traveler is coming from, so the lighting is presented in a way to best help them reset their circadian rhythms and prevent jet lag.

Tech Systems and Expectations

Smart rooms now are playing a part the broader changing of customer’s expectations due to mobile and other technology. The guest’s expectations are shifting because of the proliferation of smart rooms and they’re helping brands to manage their operations in a much more uniform way. Allowing guests to manage their smart room also provides them with a sense of control over their stay. 

For example, many millennial guests are very concerned about sustainability efforts and appreciate being able to actively manage their waste and usage through smart room technology. They can manage housekeeping visits or use a thermostat-connected app to run the heat or air conditioning based on their schedule.
With smart room technology and analytics, hotel brands can make personalized recommendations because they have access to such a wealth of data. The companies can better anticipate demand both in terms of aggregate guests and the demands of a particular guest. All of this tech does come with infrastructure costs, which makes it more appealing to larger companies. And the smart room customization simply makes more sense when the scope of the brand is immense because it can be updated via software to include new languages, new features and other elements that help it meet the needs of new hotel locations.
Technology within the hotel industry used to be a focus on distribution, finance, booking engines and other back-end processes to help hotels do things better. But now technology, such as smart rooms, is integral to the hotel experience. This technology has allowed big multibrand companies to use technology to tailor and customize the guest experience for each of their brands.

These companies leverage this benefit while also enjoying the efficiency of a single streamlined platform. It is counterintuitive at first glance because massive corporate size often is tied to homogeneous experiences. However, within the hotel industry, it is the technology that enables different experiences and brands that suit the needs of different types of guests.

A. Patrick Imbardelli is the director and advisor at Next Story Group, which includes Next Hotels & Resorts.