by Sarah J.F. Braley | May 01, 2007

The Seaport Hotel


Instant access:
Computers called
Seaportals are being
installed in all rooms
at the Seaport Hotel
in Boston.

Imagine a hotel room that opens by means of a retina scan -- no key necessary. Inside is an Ammique bed, made of 20,000 spring-loaded pistons, instead of a traditional mattress. Got work to do? A massage chair/computer station will ease the tension from your shoulders as you type away. Artwork not to your liking? No problem: It’s displayed on a LUX-HDA flat-screen panel that can be changed to suit your style or mood. And there’s no need to search for light switches or temperature gauges -- one convenient control panel, the Inncom Guestroom Digital Assistant, handles phone calls, guest services and room settings.

This futuristic room exists, albeit in demo form. It’s Guestroom 2010, which debuted at last year’s Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference and will reappear at the 2007 HITEC event, to be held next month in Orlando.

We’ll still need room keys for a while yet; however, hotel technology is evolving rapidly, incorporating new conveniences for the discerning guest. Following are a few innovations being developed and/or installed in properties around the world.

Key advances

The check-in procedure is one area of constant tweaking by hotel companies. For now, the lobby kiosk is the focus, but the process might someday take guests directly to their rooms.

“Ideally, you will be able to use your credit card or Gold Passport card as your room key,” says Walter Brindell, assistant vice president of rooms for Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels Corp. “If you check in from home, we will know when you are coming, and your lights will be on and the HVAC will be turned on. Everything will be tied in to that key lock at the door.”

Meanwhile, holders of Hyatt’s Gold Passport cards can check in online and use kiosks to grab their keys. They also can check in using PDAs such as Black-Berries and Treos. All guests will have this capability by the end of the year.

Bethesda, Md.-based Marriott Inter-national successfully tested a similar mobile check-in service but has not yet announced a rollout for the technology.

Who’s there?

“Housekeeping!” is the cry usually heard through the door. But at hotels featuring technology from Niantic, Conn.-based Inncom, hotel staff won’t need to knock or otherwise ruffle guests who have forgotten to hang the do-not-disturb sign.

One such property is the 80-suite Regent South Beach in Miami. Here, body-temperature sensors monitor whether someone is inside a room. Housekeepers (silently) press a button outside the door to determine if the room is occupied.

An Inncom motion sensor turns on the foyer light as guests enter rooms at the 426-room Seaport Hotel in Boston; a sensor also indicates if someone is in the room.