The ‘Smart’ Hotel Room Race Is On

smart hotel race

Photo credit: Marriott International

Hotel guests are saying they want to personalize their stays. And they want to enjoy technology they already have at home. So, in response, rival hotel giants Marriott International and Hilton Hotels & Resorts are in a race to implement “smart” hotel rooms. Both are embracing the emerging Internet of Things (IoT)—but with distinct differences.

Marriott: “Hello, Alexa!”

Marriott plans to have Amazon waiting for you. At its Innovation Lab at company headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, the IoT Guestroom currently consists of two models. One is for a newbuild hotel, where all the advances of IoT technology can more easily be designed in. The other represents what a retrofit could look like.

We’re experimenting with technology that not only anticipates your needs, but also personalizes the experience for you,” Karim Khalifa, senior vice president of global design strategies, told Skift.

In the newbuild room, tech features include a smart mirror, smart art frame, and smart shower and faucet. An Amazon Echo Show responds to voice commands to adjust all these. Sensors automatically turn on red nightlights to guide you to the bathroom during the night. In the renovated guest room, voice commands to either Amazon Dot or the TV’s remote control activate the smart features.

In both room models, among the things Marriott smart technology can do are:

  • Let you choose artwork to display in your room
  • Display yoga poses on the smart mirror, as well as your heart rate
  • Wake you with gentle, blue-toned lighting
  • Order a car service
  • Tell you which fitness equipment in the fitness center is immediately available
  • Order a Starbucks coffee for lobby pickup

To realize this functionality, Marriott is partnering with Legrand, the French company that specializes in electrical and digital infrastructures, and South Korean electronics conglomerate Samsung.

Hilton: There’s an App For That

Hilton, on the other hand, is taking a homegrown approach. It’s placing a bet on its own smartphone app. In a beta test of its Connected Room at one of its Memphis properties, the Hilton Honors app lets guests control their room’s thermostat, lighting, blinds, television and other amenities. The chain says it will begin to scale rapidly across the United States in 2018 and will ultimately roll out the concept worldwide.

Imagine a world where the room knows you, and you know the room,” Christopher Nassetta, Hilton’s CEO, said at a recent Skift event. “Imagine a world where you walk in, the TV says, ‘How are you doing, John? Nice to see you,’ and all of your stuff is preloaded and not only preloaded but the only thing you ever need to touch to control the room is in the palm of your hand.”

An estimated 12.5 percent of households in the United States were considered smart homes at the end of last year. By 2021, the percentage is expected to more than double.

The Echo Way

At Wynn Resorts in Las Vegas, all guest rooms already have an Amazon Echo to control basic room functions, and other chains such as Best Western have tested their use.

“Hoteliers have to identify the right level of technology for their properties and they need to implement these, even if only at a basic ability to remotely control lighting and temperature, or the consumer is going to judge them as antiquated and irrelevant,” said Ken Freeman, senior vice president of demand generation at Legrand, recently. “The hoteliers that get this right will gain the loyalty of the next-generation traveler.”

Who will reach the future ideal guest room first?