BETHESDA, MD—Innovation in technology can unlock myriad opportunities in hospitality. It can propel companies into a zone where they’re making things happen first rather than catching up to what’s new, now or next.
For Marriott International Inc., innovation serves as a call-to-action for new ideas to come forth, and it’s the driving force behind the company’s past and future projects—an incubation lab at the Charlotte Marriott City Center where ideas are being tested in a live setting and guest feedback is actively solicited; pop-up hotel innovation labs for Aloft and Element in Los Angeles to evolve these brands; and now, the launch of an internet of things (IoT) hotel room to inspire the hotel experience of the future.
Here at Marriott headquarters, Hotel Business was given rare access to “the underground,” a lower-level area closed off to even most staff, for an up-close look at the results of the brand’s partnership with Samsung and Legrand—a hyper-connected, technology-integrated, voice-activated hotel room personalized by the needs and interests of the individual guest.
Called the IoT Guestroom Lab—powered by Marriott’s Innovation Lab—it explores concepts that have the potential to elevate the guest experience, create more efficient guestroom design and construction, and contribute to Marriott’s global sustainability efforts and goals, according to the brand. As the hospitality industry’s smart hotel room, the IoT Guestroom Lab allows multiple responsive IoT systems, devices and applications to communicate with one another to serve guests and optimize hotel operations through its collaboration with Samsung and Legrand.
“We got involved with Marriott about one year ago today at our Eliot event where we were kicking off our electrical internet of things program. Karim [Khalifa, SVP, global design, Marriott International] joined us up there, and I think where the inspiration came from was a video that Legrand did at the event, showing our vision of the smart home,” said Pete Horton, VP, market development, Legrand, North America. “We were looking at personalizing the space based upon the homeowners’ needs and learning from their preferences. That video inspired Karim to contact us about carrying that home experience to the hotel and bringing that experience to the Marriott customers.”
Simply ask or tap an app to prompt the virtual assistant to enable the features of the room, such as adjusting the in-room temperature, dimming or brightening the lights, starting a yoga routine on a full-length smart mirror or scheduling an early wake-up call. Elsewhere in the room, there is a smart digital picture frame that is preloaded with personal images guests can provide, a fully stocked fridge with their preferred beverages, as well as a digital floor-to-ceiling window with curated views of far-flung destinations. A smart TV displays a personalized message to welcome the guest and provides desired services, such as streaming. The project illustrates an integrated approach to addressing consumer paint points, demands for connectivity and having more personal control over their stay.
“Everything is settled and designed for that guest’s personal preferences, and the experience starts immediately when they walk in the door,” said Khalifa. “As we develop the guest profiles and as we’re able to store them in our systems, we can serve them up across our Marriott and our newly acquired Starwood portfolio, and produce them in every corner of the earth over the hundred countries we have properties in today.”
To ensure a competitive advantage in the hospitality industry, technology has to be at the forefront, and this is where Marriott is squarely focused as it continues the company’s transformational journey post-Starwood acquisition.
“We weren’t able to do that with our systems before, and we’re just launching into that space today. We wanted to investigate how far we should push it,” said Khalifa. “How much customization and personalization would a guest really want when they walk into the room? We built this out to think about the future; we’re now going to bring guests in here and get their live feedback to see how we’re doing, what’s important and what’s not quite important—but maybe just looks sexy.”