Inside the Hotel Room of the Future
What does the hotel room of the future look like? Thanks to Two’s Company Interior Design, we’ve been given a glimpse as to what it might be. Robert Scammell visited the Independent Hotel Show 2018 to experience the installation and find out how technology and design go hand-in-hand in the hotel industry
At first glance, you probably won’t notice much of the technology powering the hotel room of the future. But look more closely around the simple yet modern room and you’ll spot plenty of innovative tech integrated into the room.
Drawing inspiration from feedback from technologists, hoteliers and designers, the room puts subtlety and ease of use at the forefront.
“Creating a room with 21st century technology, luxury, comfort and outstanding service for the guest are the challenges of today’s hotelier,” says Two’s Company’s Nick Sunderland.
“Research shows that technology is important on both sides but should not be invasive or difficult to use. It should be intelligent and responsive; integrated into the room.”
Images courtesy of Bombas and Parr
The living room is made more spacious through the use of a wall divider separating it from the bedroom, as opposed to a sealed off room.
Located on the divider is a touchscreen control panel that gives guests control of the room’s features. It’s provided by Crestron, a US electronics manufacturer that in 2016 fitted out Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s house with its smart home control system.
Using the system, guests are able to remotely adjust lighting, heating, air con, motorised curtains and audio-visuals within the room, which are set up to integrate with their own devices.
And for the hotelier, this provides data analytics on the room, such as whether room service is required or if a light bulb needs replacing.
The tech continues the theme of ease-of-use, replacing knobs and dials on the wall with an all-in-one interface.
“A good joke doesn't need explaining,” says Phillip Pini, enterprise business development, Crestron. “If it does, it's no longer a good joke. It's exactly the same when it comes to control: it should be self-explanatory, easy to use, clearly labelled keypad buttons with a description about what they do.”
For Crestron, the process of integrating technology into the room often starts early in the design process, putting a brief together and working with interior designers and architects to "ensure that what they're constructing goes alongside the technology”.
“A lot of the emphasis [for tech in the room] is on something that is discreet, so it's not in your face or the focal point of the room.”
Tech, science and scent combine to give guests the perfect night’s sleep with the Simba bed, which has a six-axis motion base, amber mood lighting at its base and in-built lavender scent diffusers.
On the bedside table, wireless charging pads are integrated seamlessly into the surface, avoiding messy cables.
And built into the room partition, or ‘media wall’, is a 48” Samsung TV and linked Sonos bar, which reverses to be used in the living area.
The unit also hides a safe and pull-out Nespresso coffee machine.
“We designed the room to have less space in the bedroom because we don't need it and more space in the seating area because that's where you relax and want that comfortable environment,” says Sunderland.
“From the guest experience perspective, we want to make it easy and comfortable for people using the room.”
Taking centre stage in the bathroom is the "iconic" Splinter Works hammock bath. Suspended wall-to-wall, it reportedly encourages “long, luxurious bathing”. But retailing at £19,000 plus VAT, Sunderland concedes that “it’s not for every hotelier – the gold one I dare even ask”.
Lining the walls of the bathroom are Corian wall panels, which are made with a material that is translucent so they can be backlit – a neat solution to the problem of most hotel bathrooms being located in the middle of the structure.
“They don't have any natural light,” says Sunderland. “You can have little downlights which never give enough light, sometimes LED strips around the wall to flood it, but in this case we've about 60 LED panels behind the wall.”
The lights create the illusion of natural light seeping through a window, and in other versions these can be turned on and off simply by touching the wall to comply with safety requirements.
“You feel much more relaxed in there I think, rather than enclosed in a very, very dark space.”
Notably, there is no wall separating the bathroom and the rest of the hotel room. Instead, switchable privacy glass provided by Smart Glass International can be manipulated electronically to tint the colour in a fraction of a second.
“It gives a much greater feeling of space in the room, because you're not closing everything off," says Sunderland.
Rounding off the room is a Philippe Starck eco tap, designed with AXOR with the aim of conserving water while being aesthetically pleasing: "You've got a beautiful design there, but it's environmentally friendly as well."
And if any of the towels, curtains or pillows catch the eye of the guest, newly launched DL App lets guests tap an NFC nano sticker that’s placed near the item and purchase it themselves.
“The concept is you've got some fabulous towels here, you really like them, you have the app, tap it, it gives you all the details, press a button, you buy it and it gets delivered to your home,” says Sunderland.
“The hotel doesn't get involved at all, other than taking a percentage of the profit.”
The next ten years?
A more accurate description of the exhibit is the ‘hotel room of the near future’, because all of the tech is available today and is already being implemented in some hotels around the world.
But because of the long process from design to completion, it will be at least another half decade before the integrated tech on show will become more common in hotels.
“What we have now will slowly be implemented over the next five to ten years because hotel projects take an awful long time from planning to delivery,” says Pini.
“The average time frame would be three to five years, so the technology that we have available today wouldn't necessarily be the technology that's put into the hotel in five years’ time but of course, there has to be a starting point.”
In the longer term, Pini believes that predictive AI – the room “knowing what you want before you actually want it” – and cleaning robots will be introduced.
But ultimately, it will always come down to the guest’s experience.
“I think it’s the user experience, being able to have your own streaming services available to you – easily being able to sign in and out of these services whilst in a hotel,” says Pini.
“Making it more personable I think is going to be the main thing. But the vast majority of the time when people are going away - especially to kind of the boutique hotels and little independents – it's the experience.”