Futuristic technology can make hotel stays more pleasant and productive, but integrating that technology and making it work seamlessly is a much bigger challenge. For starters, you can still run out of batteries.
One of the highlights of the Hotel Hospitality +Design Show (HHD) in Sydney last week was a concept model of a "hotel room of the future", combining technology from a variety of suppliers to create a high-tech, fully designed environment designed to make travelling a more pleasurable experience.
The first thing that struck me about the room was that while I'd never seen all those technologies placed together in a single room before, I had experienced most of them in some form during my travels. Automated checkout and room options in the TV set? Check. Minibar that tracks what you're using? Check. Door that recognises your mobile phone for checkin? Check.
There's an obvious reason why I haven't yet seen these in a hotel room, and probably won't for a while: implementing all of these technologies at once is both fiddly and expensive. In economically challenging times, new hotels don't often get built. Existing buildings may be refurbished, but it's unlikely that all of these options would be rolled out when that happens. And let's be honest: I spend a lot of my time in cheap hotels, where high-tech solutions aren't always a priority.
One option I hadn't seen in a hotel room and which I did really like was privacy glass, which uses electric current to change your window glass from transparent to opaque at the flick of a switch. This is much more effective than curtains or blinds, which often leave gaps and don't always offer complete blockage anyway. There's a super-brief demo in the video below:
Of course, that system won't be foolproof: if there's an electrical problem, I imagine hotel maintenance will have even more trouble with that than with broken blind cords. In the same way, the demonstration during the press briefing of how the TV-based room management system worked had to be cancelled because the batteries in the TV remote had run out. No hotel is going to leave spare batteries in the room -- that's just asking for guests to "borrow" them -- but the issue again highlights how high-tech can brings its own set of headaches.
Some options also seem downright scary. I've experienced unpleasant high-tech toilets with heated seats in Japan before, but haven't yet encountered the toilet that was on show in the Hotel Room Of The Future, which automatically closes the lid when you leave the room. If you'd had a big night, that could be both terrifying and potentially dangerous.
What tech enhancements would you really like to see in a hotel? Share your ideas in the comments.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman hates it when the minibar is full of stuff, and doubly so when it tries to charge you the second you touch anything. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.