Remember the Lunar Hilton in Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’? This sci-fi movie was perhaps our first popular-culture encounter with the dystopian agony of artificial intelligence (AI). And now in the real-life world, the Hilton chain is also the first operator to embrace the Internet of Things (IoT) – although with the more benign aim of empowering users to customise their stays at a touch of a finger using their smartphones.
“We are creating an extension of your mobile-centric self when you travel,” says Josh Weiss, Vice President, Digital Product Innovation at Hilton. He heads the Connected Room project that has been on the roll-out in the US since 2018.
“We give our guests the power to really personalise their stays with us. Over time, Connected Room will continue to adopt new features and functionalities, some that we haven’t even considered yet that pre-empt and meet our guests’ demands. It really has the potential to be a massive game-changer for the hotel experience,” he adds.
The Connected Room is a category of high-tech hotel rooms where guests can control all amenities through the Hilton Honors smartphone app that acts as an integrated control system. Apart from being a digital room key, the app can also regulate heating, lighting, air-conditioning and in-room entertainment, while also offering suggestions for leisure activities and taxi booking. Hilton believes that the smartphone will become your personal key to your entire hotel experience.
A similar concept has also recently been rolled out in Trondheim where a Siemens-designed smartphone app empowers guests to take control of their stay at the classic Britannia Hotel. Hotelier Odd Reitan acquired the Britannia Hotel in late 2015 and has spent a staggering NOK 1.2 billion on the renovation of the 13,000 square-metre classic edifice.
The glamorous hotel from 1870 has enjoyed a legacy as the city’s classy gathering point for merchants, politicians, high-society and royalty. Britannia Hotel will gain 257 new rooms and suits along with 6 restaurants and bars, a spa and gym, conference-facilities and a ballroom.
Odd Reitan, who also owns half of Clarion Hotel & Congress Trondheim and a considerable share of the city’s Scandic Nidelven Hotel doesn’t see such an investment as over the top.
“It’s hardly expensive if you compare it to people spending a billion on a painting,” he told Norwegian ABC-nyheter, “no one sees it when it’s just hanging on a wall. Instead, this hotel will be seen by the world.”
Odd Reitan knows that the investment is for the long-term and is dedicated to creating a destination for the next generation.
“My dream is that Britannia will once again be the grand salon of Trondheim. There will be lots of people here and lots of activity, I’m not creating a mausoleum!”
Managing Director of Britannia Hotel, Mikael Forselius, explains to GUEST magazine that NOK 15 million have been invested in various digital smart solutions.
“It’s hard to make a precise estimate on the gains of this investment. Our goal is primarily to give our guests an optimal experience, which is as pleasant and functional as possible. All our guests will have the possibility to download the app via a link in their booking confirmation,” Mikael Forselius says and adds, “we believe the customer experience will be enhanced with faster response to our guest needs as well as by giving them a broader choice compared to a standard hotel.”
And an app is an intuitive and future-proof technology to use, says Taofik Salhi of Siemens Building Technologies Division, who has worked on the system for the past two years.
“I believe we will have everything in our smartphones in 10 years’ time. You will get a link or a QR code for check-in and room access. There will be no keycards, just your phone. The room will have the right comfort level when you use it, other times it will go into energy-saving stand-by mode. The guests will be able to regulate temperature using the Bluetooth-enabled app, along with setting the window blinds, lighting, and such,” Taofik Salhi explains.
Smart technology will soon mean that the classic lobby reception will become as much of a meeting point as a service point.
The optimisation of heating in the different zones of Britannia Hotel is guided by algorithms developed by Siemens. The digital solutions give control over the consumption of electricity, heating and airflow in the building.