Hilton reached out yesterday with an announcement about their plans to create a “connected room” of mobile-centric devices that respond to your preferences. The design is still in testing but is expected to roll out quickly in 2018. Skift reports that the first hotels to feature Connected Room are expected to be in Memphis and Dallas. According to the announcement:
Designed and built by Hilton from the ground up, Connected Room is a high-tech guest room that will enable guests to personalize and control every aspect of their stay from one central point – their mobile device.
With Connected Room, the Hilton guest room will know you – your preferred temperature for working or for sleeping, your favorite music streaming options, and your favorite TV or movie streaming options. It will also let you control other options in the room, including window coverings and lighting.
I do think it makes sense to integrate something like this with Hilton’s existing digital key. I only recently acquired a phone capable of using a digital key, but I am looking forward to trying it and bypassing the check-in counter. The problem is that, at least in some recent experiences with Hyatt, I still needed to visit the counter despite a mobile check-in, and that significantly reduces the value of this feature.
The customer pain point that needs to be addressed is time waiting at check-in, not carrying around a small piece of plastic. Making me wait in line so I can carry around my phone instead fails to impress. And that leads me to a small rant that really isn’t specific to Hilton but to a larger trend among all hotels that I see making needless and expensive investments in technology.
First World Problems
With apologies to Hilton, I am skeptical about the need for some of these investments. Who is going to spend the time to program their preferences into a phone when they could just walk over to the thermostat and turn it off? Likewise with light switches, music, and television. Maybe in a home it makes sense, but most hotel rooms are smaller than 500 square feet.
Many of these problems could be solved with less extreme measures. I do not watch television or listen to music in my hotel room, but I might if it were easier to access Netflix or my favorite radio station. The Grand Hyatt DFW had Netflix in their rooms years ago. It’s actually pretty easy to access on the television with the keyboard provided.
Fix the Real Problems
The problem with other hotels is not that the keyboard is too complicated but that they don’t have a streaming device to support Netflix, period. The problem with other hotels is not that I can’t synchronize lighting and air conditioning with my schedule. It’s that I can’t find the light switch, and the air conditioner can’t be programmed.
You might counter that these initiatives announced by Hilton and other chains, including mirrors that tell you the weather and robots that deliver items from housekeeping, are about staying one step ahead or reducing labor costs. If you’re going to invest in a new media player you might as well make it smart.
Maybe. That still doesn’t identify a need for this technology, just an opportunity to supply it. A lot of the technology coming out today is a solution in search of a problem, especially in the software and mobile app industry where barriers to entry are so low. I’m a tech-savvy millennial who grew up in Silicon Valley and still can’t imagine how this will make my hotel stay any better. I also think it increases the capital investment, makes it slower to roll out, and faces slower adoption.
Wouldn’t you rather see firms invest in a basic programmable thermostat and invest the savings in lower rates or customer service?