Going to a hotel used to be about getting the things you didn’t get at home. Like fresh towels every day, fancy little pots of shampoo and, best of all, room service.
Now we have connected tech in our homes, we're beginning to expect the same when we travel and your average hotel seems a bit basic in comparison. That’s slowly changing, though.
Here are seven hotels across the world that have started introducing the most interesting smart home tech to their rooms. And outside of them, in some cases.
Read this: Inside five high end smart homes
We’re talking robot receptionists, smart bracelets that let you serve yourself drinks in the bar and showers you can doodle on. Let us know what you'd love to see in a smart hotel room in the comments.
Yotel is just three blocks away from New York’s Times Square. But it takes more than a pinch of inspiration from Japan’s capsule hotels. It has to, really, considering its standard rooms are only 170sq ft.
Tech inside Yotel’s clean-looking rooms include a SmartBed, which switches from bed to futon with the press of a button. Its entertainment system is also hooked up with a special 30-minute movie called Yawn that’s designed to help you get to sleep. Watch it on YouTube and if it doesn’t get you feeling sleep, you might just be a psychopath. It had us getting our yawn on within about five seconds.
The visual highlight of Yotel’s smart tech is down in the lobby, though. It uses a 20ft robot arm to store guests’ bags in a big wall of compartments and has, in fact, had this arm since 2011. Yotel NY uses smart check-in systems to cut down the number of staff needed too. And you thought robots stealing our jobs was a thing of the future.
Wynn Las Vegas
The Wynn is one of the most famous hotels on the Las Vegas strip. A giant gold monolith with over 4,700 rooms, it’s a classier vision of what Las Vegas is about. And yes, Las Vegas is so gaudy that it can make a big gold tower look classy by comparison.
In 2016 the hotel announced it would put an Amazon Echo into all of its rooms, to let you control elements like the lighting and TV. We normally think of an Echo as something deeply tied to our Amazon accounts. But they can also be used in a “vanilla” state when combined with extra software.
Amazon has worked with a company called Volara to get the Echo ready for use in hotel rooms. But it’s not the only option for hoteliers: Runtrizand and Voiceio are other names helping Alexa branch out into hotels - we hope they're already looking into the Echo 2, Echo Dot and beyond.
This isn’t the luxury hotel you might have in mind when thinking of a tech-packed smart hotel. Amsterdam’s CityHub is more practical than that.
You book one of its “hubs”, which are L-shaped micro-rooms that slot into each other in almost bed bunk-like fashion. There’ll barely be room to swing your mobile phone charge cable, but the prices aren’t too high and the smarts are solid (CityHub says there is enough room to sit up in bed, so that’s something).
When you check in you're given access to a phone app that lets you alter the colour of the smart lighting in your pod. You can even get a light-based wake-up, like a SAD unit. No need to call reception, just do it in the app.
CityHub also has a self service bar. Beer pumps in its hangouts area let you serve yourself a pint (well an Amsterdam pint) when you scan your wristband on a reader.
Getting room service can be awkward for a whole bunch of reasons. Should you tip even though you’ve just paid $24 for a cheese sandwich? Will they mind if you’re just wearing a dressing gown, again?
Aloft Cupertino, sat just a 10 minute walk from Apple’s Infinite Loop campus, is a hotel that uses a robot butler to take room service orders direct to your room.
It can use the elevator and will patiently hang out outside your room like an unfortunate Star Wars extra. It’s called Botlr, is made by a company called Savioke, and in return for its service it just asks for a star rating on its tablet-like interface, not a fistful of dollars. You’ll also find similar robots trundling around the M Social hotel in Singapore, where the not-so-little guy is called Aura.
Aloft Cupertino also uses the SPG Keyless system, which lets you open your room with an iPhone or Android app rather than a keycard.
Marriott Hotels Irvine California
Marriott is one of the biggest hotel chains in the world so you might expect it to be one of the more conservative as a result.
However, it has come up with something a bit strange in one of its hotels in Irvine California: a smart shower. Part of the shower door's glass can be used as a doodling surface.
It steams up, you start drawing away, and a press on another part of the pane sends the image you drew to a paired phone or tablet over Bluetooth. The idea is, apparently, that lots of people get their best ideas in the shower, and this will let you jot them down before they disappear like shower gel foam sucked down a plug hole. Bringing this out in drought-ridden California first seems an odd choice, mind.
The Arcade Hotel Amsterdam
Amsterdam’s The Arcade Hotel offers narrow smarts, but they’re the kind gamers want. It has seven rooms, designed to sleep up to four people, and each uses GeForce Now with an Nvidia Shield TV box (which can now allow handle Google Assistant commands) to let you stream high-end games through the hotel’s 1GB internet connection.
Depending on the size of the room, you get one or two wall-mounted TVs, and enough Sennheiser gaming headsets for your whole party.
When we think of a weekend away in Europe, staying in the hotel and playing games all day doesn’t instantly come to mind. But vegetating in front of a game after a day of hardcore Amsterdam-ing sounds about right.
If we’re honest, we’re more into the idea of the retro console The Arcade Hotel puts in each room, particularly after a few hours in a coffee shop. This bit is left a mystery: could be a SNES, could be a PS1 or an original Xbox.
The hotel also has a 25sqm game room with six high-end MSI PC gaming stations, all three current-gen consoles and even an HTC Vive VR area.
Henn na Hotel Tokyo
Tokyo’s Henn Ha Hotel has become something of a poster child for hotel robots. They run the place. Its website says this is about “maximising efficiency”, but the animatronic velociraptors and costumed female receptionists who sit behind the check-in desk say “kitsch” as much as “high tech”.
There are real voice recognition and face-scanning smarts going on here, though, and you can check in and check out without taking to a real person. Or using a faceless tablet interface like the self check-in at an airport.
It’s the front desk that grabs the headlines, but the smart robots Hann Ha Hotel puts in its rooms are just as interesting. You can ask a little cartoony figure to turn your lights on and off, or for a weather report.
Henn Ha also uses robots for room service, and to take luggage to the rooms. It’s a bit ripe, but really does use robots throughout.