Tucked away in a raw basement of Marriott International’s headquarters in Bethesda, MD, is the hotel company’s Innovation Lab, home of the “hotel room of the future.”
With the Internet of Things at its disposal, Marriott set out to design and build a prototype hotel room from scratch with features that would adapt to the guest’s preferences.
The finished product is a stark white, and there’s not a logo in sight. Gretchen Hartley, senior director for global design strategies, says:
“We wanted it to be brand-agnostic.”
With the acquisition of Starwood, Marriott has 30 brands, and it didn’t want the project to lean toward one or the other.
In Phase two of the project, representatives of the brands will determine which elements of the room are appropriate for their markets.
Unlike some “futuristic” technology projects, a non-techie human can figure out how it all works.
“Intuitive was the buzzword,” Hartley says.
The room runs on an app, and many features can be voice-activated as well.
"That’s so you don’t have to find an iPad in the middle of the night."
Talking to a room might seem a bit weird, but it can be quite gratifying. A guest can ask the virtual assistant for a wakeup call, request a yoga session that appears on a full-length mirror and ask the shower to start, set at the desired temperature – all before getting out of bed.
To create the room, Marriott teamed up with Samsung and Legrand, a specialist in power, light and data solutions that bring power and connectivity to previously untapped locations.
The partners looked at the space to see where furniture, outlets, minibars and other items might be placed.
But they didn’t just rely on their own ideas: Marriott invited a group of its interns to visit the space in order to get feedback from travelers of the future.
The interns used multicolored Post-It notes to suggest ideas, and they didn’t hold back: the room was soon festooned with blue, pink and yellow notes with some useful, some pie-in-the-sky suggestions.
Marriott tested the room to see how it would respond to three different case scenarios: a business traveler, a family on vacation and a traveler on a leisure trip with some light business thrown in.
Lighting, services and other elements are geared to the target audience, and the room “remembers” personal preferences as well, provided the customer opts in.
In addition to creating a memorable guest experience, the partners also focused on creating a more efficient room that meets Marriott’s global sustainability goals.
For example, the room goes into “sleep mode” to save energy when the guest is away.
Marriott wants to provide hotel owners with a flexible end-to-end solution that requires minimal equipment. Enabling voice and mobile controls also benefits hotel operations and improves customer service.
How soon will the hotel room of the future be ready for guests? Marriott says travelers will start to see elements of the technology in hotel rooms within the next five years.
Here's a clip demonstrating Marriott's thinking: