How tech influences hotel room design

Recently, I’ve been asked a lot to write an article or speak about the dramatic effect that technology is having on hotel design. At first, I was unsure how to respond to this and it took me a while to make up my mind, thinking about changes that have already happened and what is to come.

And the outcome of all this thinking is this: I cannot see any changes, either that technology has made or will make in the near future! Of course, I know all the theories: how the room will become more “intelligent” and will start to know a lot about us, if we allow it to use all the information contained within our smartphone. Currently, however, I wouldn’t go as far as predicting that the room will have to adapt to the guest of the future, but rather us as designers will still have to work with and adapt to the hardware of the room.

The Internet of Things undoubtedly will offer guests a lot of comfort in their hotel rooms. We are already able to hear the music of our own playlist, we use the TV screen as a monitor, to watch films that we choose, or we might use it to work or play.

I am also a strong believer in changes in how switches are now used, as well as all kinds of regulations for built-in technology. As a reader of HOTELS, you probably know that the number one complaint worldwide in all categories of hotels is that guests can’t switch off the lights at night when they want to sleep. I am sure an app already exists that will synch with the room’s technology, allowing guests to switch off the lights via their smartphone, open the doors or to control the air conditioning. I also know that international operators have tested voice control for this, and I have been reliably informed that it works and has been successfully tested with different languages.

So technology will be certainly have an influence on the comfort of the rooms and how guests “operate” their hotel room, but when it comes to design, I’m less convinced.

It’s design that designs the hardware around our body, and for thousands of years we have been sleeping on a soft horizontal surface called a bed. We like to sit on a knee-high surface (called a chair, bench, armchair), or if we want to work somewhere – or just deposit things – we can use a hip-level surface called a desk.

If evolution doesn’t change our bodies dramatically, then the basic ingredients of hotel design probably won’t change because of technology. Comfort-wise, things will certainly develop much faster than the rate of evolution, but whether a bed starts to offer you a massage, your chair contains invisible loudspeakers, or if the wardrobe opens automatically … the visible influence on design is minimal.

The major changes in design, thanks to technology, means that one no longer needs to carry heavy paper files, allowing you to work on your laptop in bed, and meaning you might not need a desk or table anymore. And TVs became flatter many years ago, but nowadays guests bring their own screens to their hotel rooms – so here we will have to see what the future brings.

Will we continue carrying screens on our travels, or will the personal hardware of the future be a kind of USB stick, with guests expecting any location – including hotel rooms – to allow them to connect their personal data at any time to a “machine” that has to be present (like a bed)?

But to open the door via your phone will still require a door in the first place – and a door and design is fundamentally more about the surface – say in wood or in what color!

In my opinion, technological developments are taking place behind the walls. It is invisible and whilst it will certainly add a lot of comfort to our hotel room, there will be almost no visible impact on design, even if technology will continue to change how guests use their hotel room!