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An Early Look at the Future of Starwood Hotels

May 19, 2015
7 min read
An Early Look at the Future of Starwood Hotels
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From smartphone hotel room unlocking to robot butlers, we’ve already seen quite a bit of innovation when it comes to select Starwood brands. TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig dropped by One Star Point (Starwood’s world headquarters) for a look at other technologies coming soon to a hotel near you.

If you walk into an early adopter's home, you might find smartphone controls for lighting and air conditioning, full-color LED light bulbs and even keyless entry at the front door. Using the home of the future as a guide, Starwood is looking to up its high-tech game at several entry-level brands, giving it an edge over Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and other superchains in what's likely the most competitive hotel landscape ever.

Below you'll find 10 technologies that Starwood plans to roll out within the next five years (if not sooner) at Aloft, Element and Four Points by Sheraton hotels. If you're looking to book an SPG stay, consider picking up the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express, which currently offers 25,000 bonus Starpoints after you spend $3,000 within the first three months, enough for more than 10 free nights at Category 1 Aloft and Element hotels.

1. Smartphone Control

In this Aloft demo room, smartphone (and in-wall) lighting controls enhance the experience.

The Aloft room of the future might include LED lighting (more on that below) with in-wall controls, but perhaps the most exciting addition is smartphone control of the room, letting you set the temperature, control the TV and even brew a pot of coffee all through a Starwood app.

2. Colored LED Lights

This Element room design will roll out to new hotels over the next few years.

Starwood is currently working with Philips, one of its many manufacturer partners, to build out a commercial solution similar to the company's Hue consumer lightbulbs. With these full-color LED bulbs in place, guests will be able to select their color preferences or use mood lighting presets, such as warmer light to wake up in the morning and cooler (or multi-colored) lights to wind down at night.

3. USB Power Outlets

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USB power outlets will be installed throughout the room.

Perhaps one of the most exciting (and practical) additions, the Element demo room has a pair of USB outlets installed throughout the room, including at each bedside table, making it easy to charge devices without moving furniture to dig for a free power jack.

4. Larger TVs

Starwood may roll out larger TVs, such as this model in a demo Aloft room.

I usually prefer to explore the city I'm visiting rather than watch TV in a hotel room, but business travelers often travel to the same destination week after week, opting to unwind with a TV show or movie each night instead. In this hotel room, Starwood is testing larger models, such as this giant Samsung TV. Meanwhile, a Four Points by Sheraton demo guest room down the hall has side-by-side panels with dual headphones, letting you and your roommate watch different programming before bed.

5. Smart Mirrors

This smart mirror, installed in a Four Points by Sheraton demo room, displays weather, stock info and news.

Most guests would be happy just to have a large standing mirror at all, but Starwood could takes things up a notch with these smart mirrors, which let you review news, stock info and a weather forecast as you're getting ready to start your day.

6. In-Carpet Tracking

Starwood's in-carpet tracking technology could help guide you from the elevator to your hotel room.

Perhaps a bit more far-fetched than some of Starwood's other ideas, this concept employs an RFID tag like the one seen above to track your movements. As your elevator door opens up, for example, a tag in the carpet could recognize that you're there and illuminate an in-floor guide light to help you find your room. Similar tags in a hotel room could turn on a bathroom light when you get out of bed at night.

7. High-Tech Gyms

Beginning later this year, select hotel gyms may have virtual-reality gear on hand, letting you explore a bike trail in Spain as you work up a sweat in North Dakota.

Starwood plans to roll out these high-tech exercise bikes in select hotels beginning later this year. This current iteration, developed by Oculus, requires a tethered computer, but new models from Samsung could provide a more seamless experience. Content is still in the works, but I tried it out by riding on a seaside trail in Spain — perhaps something I wouldn't try at home, but an experience I might welcome in a hotel.

8. Virtual Reality in the Lobby

Samsung's Gear VR virtual-reality headset could let you experience local activities without leaving your hotel's lobby.

Similar to the exercise concept seen above, this iteration could let you experience local activities — such as skydiving, zip lining or even snorkeling — as you sit in the hotel lobby, allowing concierge staff to demo different offerings before you book. Hotels could also use Samsung's Gear VR headset to highlight other content, such as concerts at other properties.

9. SPG Keyless

SPG Keyless allows you to open your hotel room using an iPhone and Starwood's mobile app.

Starwood has already begun to roll out SPG Keyless, allowing you to bypass the front desk at check-in and unlock your hotel room using a smartphone instead of a traditional key. There are currently 123 hotels online, and the chain expects to offer the service at all Aloft, Element and W hotels by the end of this year.

10. Botlr Hotel Butler

SPG's Botlr robot butler will bring you snacks and necessities, such as a shaving kit or toothbrush.

Botlr, Starwood's robot butler, is currently roaming the halls at the Aloft Cupertino and Aloft Silicon Valley. Hotel staff can deploy Botlr to deliver items directly to guests rooms, including replacements for necessities left at home and snacks from the lobby.

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