HOTELS MAKE HIGH-TECH PART OF HIGH-CLASS
Hotels make high-tech part of high-class
CBS NEWSMay 21, 2015, 10:05 AM
In-room tablets and smartphones are already becoming more common to order room service, request housekeeping or provide concierge services. But now some hotel chains are using new technology to redefine the meaning of the word hospitality, CBS News’ Peter Greenberg reports.
If you’re looking for a sky-high thrill but don’t want to leave the ground, you could just check into a hotel. Virtual reality experiences may soon be offered in Starwood Hotels lobbies and gyms.
Virtual reality is just one innovation inside the company’s ideas incubator. It’s a place where designers develop, experiment and evaluate new technologies in full-scale concept rooms.
“I think it’s an adjustment of hospitality, centered on technology,” said Mark Vondrasek, Starwood’s senior vice president for loyalty and digital marketing.
The technology starts before you ever set foot in the lobby, with mobile check-in and keyless entry.
“I have a push notification with my room number, in this case room 244. I go right to my room, go ahead and put my smartphone on the lock, and it opens. You can also use your Apple Watch as well,” said Brian McGuinness, who oversees Starwood’s tech-driven hotels.
You can set personal preferences ahead of time from your smartphone, controlling lighting, temperature and special requests.
“It’s 6:59 in the morning, you’re gonna hear the music come on, you’re gonna see the lights come on and the coffee is brewing,” McGuinness said.
And when it’s time to get ready, you can multi-task your morning rituals.
The mirror in your hotel room is an information center. You can check the weather and even get the news.
“The competition within the hospitality market continues to grow, specifically in hotels, and that technology element is really important to setting yourself apart, not only that you’re incorporating technology, but that you incorporate it well,” said professor Mona Anita Olsen of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration.
Botlr, the robot butler, is currently delivering toothbrushes and towels to guests of the Aloft hotel in Cupertino, California.
There’s also Yobot, the robot bellhop. It stores luggage at New York City’s Yotel.
In Japan, human-like multilingual robots will partially staff the upcoming Henn-na Hotel.
Even hotels on the high seas are testing the high-tech waters. Now, on some of Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships, robot bartenders shake your favorite cocktails.
If money is no object, then prepare for room service by drone. Last summer, guests staying in the $10,000 a night suite at California’s Casa Madrona Hotel and Spa enjoyed Champagne by aerial delivery.
“With any sort of robotic device, when the interface and that interaction works really well, it’s fantastic. But when it doesn’t, it actually has a risk of taking away from that very natural service experience,” Olsen said.
Vondrasek said you have to execute both high-tech and high-touch well.
And for those who still want to talk to a human being, Starwood assures we still can.
“When we build technology, we recognize– my father is never going use his mobile device to open up his room lock in one of our hotels,” he said.
Starwood is also testing out 3-D printers for your room that could print chocolate and other food.
All of this new technology does mean plenty of opportunities for technical difficulties and malfunctions.
Starwood said Botlr, the robot butler, has gone missing in the past. On one occasion, the hotel staff found him lost in a corner on a high floor of the hotel, calling out for help.