Everyone's talking about the guestroom of the future, but most of the discussion tends to end in questions. What will the guest room of the future look like? How much technology will it have? What will that technology be? How much investment will it require and how long will it take to see a positive return on the investment? The recent HITEC show in Orlando, Florida, included a walk-through demo of Guestroom 2010, where science-fiction met science-fact. For the second year running, the life-sized 2010 demo features everything from the ecofriendly to the space age, with each technology carefully chosen to represent innovations in design, function, usability, energy efficiency and environmental protection. Green technologies include a showerhead that uses air pressure to save water and a carpet made from corn. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is used in an empty food service tray detection system while robotics power an automatic floor cleaning device and a micro camera replaces the traditional "peep hole" for added security.
The University of Delaware is taking the guestroom experiment one step further in a 126 room Marriott Courtyard Hotel. This full service hotel also serves as the educational practice platform for the Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management students and faculty. In partnership with Marriott, Delaware University is launching X-Room: Experimental Guestroom, a guestroom that will feature new and upcoming technologies.
X-Room, opening this September, will be put to the test with overnight guest stays and full staff use. X-Room will be available for the same average daily rate as other rooms at the property, approximately $150. Guests will be invited to stay in X-Room if they're interested, and those who accept will be surveyed about their experiences. Some guests will receive brief trainings on the systems in the room while others will explore on their own. Over a six month period, the University will measure and report on the acceptance rate between these two groups, as well as the usability, user-friendliness, and intuitiveness of a system; guests' general satisfaction with the systems; and finally the impact on guests' future visits to this hotel, this flag, and this brand.
X-Room will include such technologies as a walking alarm clock, a digital guest room control panel, an energy management system, a high-definition television, and an audio/video port for guest use. It will also include a digital photo frame, a universal cell phone charger, an automatic minibar system, an RFIDenabled beverage dispensing system, and an electronic concierge.
University staff is also testing an electronic bill tray whereby the guest is presented the folio with an electronic survey.
As soon as the guest fills out the electronic survey, the data is uploaded to the server for immediate reviewing. The most important part of this system comes with a guest's answer to a singular question: "Will you come back to this hotel?"
In the case of a negative response, the manager is paged immediately, empowering management to address any problems before the unhappy guest leaves. While this system sounds great in theory, X-Room will afford the ability to track the number of times management is able to recover a guest. Each incident will be monitored to determine if the system is working.
It's important to note that this study is not sponsored by any vendor or company. It is an objective view of future and current technologies with a goal of giving HT readers, as well as the general community of hoteliers, franchisors, franchisees, owners, operators, and vendors insights into how new technologies are accepted by hotel guests and staff.
The University welcomes vendors, operators, owners, and others interested in X-Room to visit the hotel, located in Newark, Delaware, as well as to supply products to test, ideas, and feedback. X-Room, when not occupied, will be available for tours, though the main goal will be to book the room and collect data on guest stays.
Look for updates on the X-Room experiment in future issues of HT, including survey results, guest acceptance rates, and staff member reactions.