If the Starwood hotel chain has its way, the hotel room of the future will be more of a customizable set of experiences that listens to you and stands ready to cater to your wishes — and that’s less of, well, just a room.
The company’s hotel brand Aloft in recent weeks started trialing voice-activated hotel rooms in its Boston Seaport and Santa Clara properties. The service, currently enabled in 10 rooms at each property, includes guests being greeted by a personalized welcome letter on the in-room TV when they check in.
They quickly learn that a branded iPad is ready to be set up with a “Hey Siri” to learn the sound of their voice so it can go on to control the guest’s room experience.
Once the iPad learns the guest’s voice, says Aloft Hotels general brand manager Eric Marlo, a menu will list all of the functions available – things like personalized streaming for Apple or Android devices, Netflix, mapping for local area attractions and a full integrated TV experience. The iPads present guests with a tutorial to guide them through the setup process, and the voice-activated hotel rooms work with Apple HomeKit to allow guests to control the temperature, the lights via preset lighting options, music, or browsing the Internet.
When the guest checks out, a message is sent to the app erasing all data so that the next guest walks into the room with a fresh app and no information stored from the previous occupant.
“The world is constantly changing, especially in hospitality, and we need to adapt to it,” Marlo tells BGR. “Guests utilize similar innovations at home and may already be using Apple HomeKit in their personal lives, so we want them to have an integrated experience when they travel and stay at Aloft as well. Our guests want a level of personalization unlike ever before, which includes controlling their guest experience.”
This experience is also the foundation of more to come, at both Aloft and elsewhere. This is actually the latest tech-focused offering from Aloft, which has previously introduced a robotic bellhop it calls Botlr (butler, get it?) that could accompany guests to their rooms. The chain rolled out a service that let guests use their smartphones as room keys and a service called RoomCast Powered by Chromecast, which lets guests stream content from their smart devices to guest room TVs minus passwords and logins (currently in the pilot phase at Aloft New Orleans.)
Talking to the room, Marlo explained, seemed like the natural next step.
Whether these offerings seem gimmicky or point the way forward, they do underscore how much the hotel room experience is changing beyond the expectation of a TV, bed and an assortment of other basic conveniences.
Hilton recently rolled out a kind of concierge robot helper of its own — Connie — powered by IBM’s Watson that can do things like make restaurant recommendations for guests in addition to greeting them and answering simple questions.
It’s not all high-tech tweaks, to be sure. Hospitality improvements touch everything from healthier food to greener facilities to quality linens for bedding as well as the basic layout of the room itself.
But companies like Starwood-Aloft have started to think way beyond that. For example, Marlo said the chain has already gotten “tons of calls” from other properties looking to have the voice-activated offerings installed. Which is why he says he’s confident this will make its way to more Aloft properties as well as across the Starwood portfolio.
“In thinking of what’s next for our voice-activated hotel rooms, we’re looking into the idea of room delivery on the app from our Re:Fuel lobby bars,” Marlo says. “This would bring the grab and go options from the main level straight to the guest’s door – and how cool would it be if it was a property with a Botlr delivering it. We’re also exploring the idea of electronic drapes controlled by ‘Hey Siri,’ and the addition of HomeKit triggers, meaning guest preferences would be integrated onto the (Starwood Preferred Guest) guest profile prior to his or her arrival. If they prefer the shades rise at 6 a.m., the room will know to do that. If the guest wants the room temperature lowered to 68 degrees at 10 p.m., the room will know to do that. It’s pretty cool stuff.”