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What’s New in the World of High-Tech Hotels

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More and more, technology companies and hotels—from tiny boutiques to the biggest chains—are partnering to bring guests modern services across myriad digital platforms. Whether you’re whizzing by the queue at the front desk to go directly to your room and open the door with your Apple Watch; streaming Pandora from your iPhone via an in-room, wireless speaker; changing your room temperature and getting hotel announcements from fellow guests via an app; or getting chauffeured in the hotel’s house Tesla to your meeting, it’s clear that card keys and free WiFi were just the beginning. The hotel industry, courting millennials and other technology lovers, is implementing cutting-edge updates—fast.

Virgin Hotels Chicago

Virgin Hotels mobile app

If you’ve flown Virgin Airlines, a brand known for Sir Richard Branson’s out-of-the-box thinking, including early adoption of an expansive, inflight entertainment system and other Wi-Fi perks, it’s no surprise the new Virgin Hotels Chicago is equally dedicated to delivering guests a fun time and providing an experience in-synch with how the technologically savvy live. The Virgin Hotels mobile app, named Lucy, helps you make hotel reservations, check in and out, customize your mini-bar before you arrive, adjust your room temperature, order room service, chat with fellow guests, and more. Other noted tech touches in the hotel include the Stellé Audio Pillar, perched on your worktable, that links to your Pandora stations; dozens of outlets where you actually need them; the Tesla house-car guest service; and individual monitors mounted on Technogym cardio machines that route you through San Francisco’s Marina District toward the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Select Starwood Hotels (Aloft, Element, W, and Four Points)

touchscreen mirror at Starwood

Along with the Botlr pilot program (a hotel-industry robotic butler) and implementing SPG Keyless technology, where your Apple Watch or other devices can open your door, Starwood Hotels is currently testing many other tech features at the Starwood Hotels Concept Lab. There are mobile-controlled room features, such as curating your streamed music playlist and jumpstarting your morning with a bright orange- or mellow blue-hued shower or lighting that offsets jetlag to reset your circadian rhythm. Smart mirrors are equipped with a touchscreen so you can read headlines while brushing your teeth. There are also virtual reality experiences of concerts and bike rides, touchscreen cookbooks on the walls in kitchen-equipped guestrooms, and Smart Floor Tiles that light a path from your bed to the bathroom in the middle of the night or alert the hotel when a guest puts a room tray in the hall.

StayNTouch Technology


“After mobility had proven itself to be a game changer for so many other industries (retail, transportation, banking, etc.), we saw the opportunity to create a mobility platform that could … offer the benefits of mobility to both hotel staff and to hotel guests,” said Tim Kinsella, COO and founder of the StayNTouch hotel property management system. “Current customers include Aria Las Vegas/MGM Resorts, Fontainebleau Miami, Montauk Yacht Club, Hotel Nikko San Francisco, Great Wolf Resorts, and many others.” Hotel employees can check you in from anywhere in the hotel using mobile devices, and housekeepers can keep tabs on when guests have checked out. Another StayNTouch feature is Zest™, which allows guests to remotely check in and out, review their folio, connect socially, and order services. It also works with the Zest Key™ app, so you don’t have to carry around a key card.



Not for the privacy-trumps-all traveler, LobbyFriend, the “first ever temporary social network for hotels” can transform your stay into one big networking opportunity. It connects fellow guests and also lets you know what’s happening at your hotel (including upgrade deals), other hotels, and local events. LobbyFriend co-founder Mohit Kumar said TRYP by Wyndham Times Square South and TRYP by Wyndham New York Times Square are using the platform, and the next version will be released in September.

“The new features inside this platform will change the landscape of how we all travel and socialize at our destination,” Kumar said.

Marriott’s Mobile App

The Marriott app, also available for the Apple Watch, allows you to check in and out, request services, easily connect with the hotel, and receive a notification when your room is ready. Marriot also offers Apple Pay at check-in in its effort to meet the needs of its new “mobile and global” travelers.

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