Posted: June 26, 2014

The futurist: Six radical trends redefining the hotel of the future

Part One

Thomas Frey

(Editor's note: This is the first of two parts.)

A few nights ago, I arrived at a very nice Radisson Blu Hotel in Minneapolis for my talk on the “hotel of the future.”

My client was the Board of Carlson & Rezidor Hotels, the group responsible for a large number of impressive hotels and travel operations around the world.

When I first arrived on the property and entered my hotel room, the staff had prepared a very nice fruit plate, topped with peaches, apricots and chocolates – all things that my dietary restrictions would not allow me to eat.

The thought occurred to me that the hotel probably would have appreciated knowing up front about my food allergies, but it kinda ruins the moment if they have to ask lots of questions before they surprise you.

So I spent time considering this dilemma. What kind of anticipatory system could be created to broadcast the needs and preferences of guests to a hotel without turning it into a lengthy discussion?

It occurred to me that this is the exact space where smart building technology is intersecting with the Internet of Things.

In the past, hotels built their business around employing highly attentive people. In the future, they will replace many of their staff with highly attentive buildings.

Here’s a quick scenario that will explain the symbiotic relationship that will develop between people and a building that can attend to their every need. 

1.) Highly Attentive People Replaced by Highly Attentive Buildings 

The Anticipatory Hotel Scenario: As soon as you register for your stay, the hotel begins to track and understand you. On the day of your arrival, the hotel knows where you are and anticipates your arrival.

When you get within 10 miles, the hotel automatically adjusts the temperature and humidity levels to your liking so it will be perfect when you arrive. 

Upon arrival, you will be greeted by an automated luggage attendant designed to whisk your bags to your room. Since each of your bags has auto-tracking tags, you’re not concerned about losing any of your bags.

At all times, helpful people are just a button-push away, but the building itself has been optimized around its automated peopleless systems.

Upon entering the lobby, you are automatically registered without having to check-in. Your room number and directions are displayed on your smartphone. “Proceed 50 feet in the direction of the arrow and take the elevator on the right.”

Virtual receptionists will be positioned at key intersections to help out whenever the need arises.

As you approach your room, the door will automatically unlock and you will see your luggage already waiting for you.

Upon entering your room, you’ll instantly begin to appreciate the anticipatory nature of this building.

Since it knows what mood you are in, it will automatically be playing music that syncs with your personality at the perfect volume. This music will change along with every shift in mood or activity, and will disappear completely when you no longer want it. You need only think it, and it’s gone.

Temperature and humidity have been dialed in specifically for you. Window shades will open or close depending on your position in the room, time of day, and intensity of the sunlight.

If you’re in the mood, a fire will automatically appear in the fireplace, and the color of the flame will automatically adjust to match your ever-changing whims.

Walking into the bathroom, you need only say, “hello mirror,” and a display will appear behind the glass. A quick scan of weather reports, headlines, your personal agenda, and a few fitness facts such as heart rate, weight, and body temperature will only scratch the surface of what’s possible.

2.) “Greenliness” to be Replaced by Hyper-Cleanliness

Gone are the days when hotels need to constantly remind you of their commitment to the environment. The new trend is to remind you of their commitment to cleanliness.

The “quantified self” is enabling us to monitor precise inputs and outputs of the human body. So having a set of monitors displaying air quality, water quality, radon levels, pollen counts, noise and vibration histories will become very common.

Stepping into the shower, not only will the controls anticipate your desired temperature, spray selection, and intensity, but will display readouts of everything from chlorine levels to bacterial counts.

When it comes to toilets, toilet paper flushing commodes will no longer be good enough. Next generation Japanese-style electronic toilet-bidets will attend to your every need.

3.) Rethinking Baseline Expectations

When was it that customers began expecting every hotel to have a hair dryer? How about cable TV, hair conditioner, coffee pots, or shower robes?

Over the centuries, hotels have evolved from the basic four-wall flophouse to a highly sophisticated luxury stay facilities, with a growing list of essentials to accommodate our increasingly complex needs.

Even though a few things like stationary and postcards have started to disappear, the list of expected amenities continues to rise, complicating the hotel operation immensely.

As an example, Wi-Fi today is not only an expected amenity; customers expect it to be free. With most customers bringing many different devises, even services that offer: “buy one connection, get five devices connected,” is not enough.

Along with increasing levels of paranoia about water quality, hotels that do not offer free bottles of water will be relegating guests to drink unfiltered tap water, an without water-quality monitors, in many people’s minds, this is as good as asking them to drink poison.

Once hotels get past charging for Wi-Fi and bottled water, they will begin to discover a whole new range of premium services that will more than offset any revenue loss.

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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Readers Respond

Good insights. While I'm curious about your technologically advanced smart building, imagining a stay at a hotel fostering peopleless systems leaves me feeling a bit isolated and lonely. I think we've been discovering that authentic relationships are what drives loyalty for many. At least gIve the luggage attendant a personality. By Kirsten Michel on 2014 06 30
Have you stayed at Nobu Hotel inside Caesar's Palace in Vegas? They are already incorporating some of the technology you speak of. Heavenly! By Chef Laura on 2014 06 26

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