If it seems as if nearly every major hotel company is working on a “smart” or “connected” hotel room powered by the Internet of Things, then it’s because they are.

The latest hotel company to be testing this smart hotel room concept is Paris-based AccorHotels.

Damien Perrot, senior vice president of design solutions for AccorHotels, told Skift that the company is testing technology that uses voice activation and and the Internet of Things to make the hotel room experience more accessible and personalized.

A model smart room at the company’s Paris headquarters incorporates a variety of technologies and accessibility features to accommodate up to three guests at a time.

They include:

  • A Google Home voice assistant;
  • A connected tablet that controls lighting, music, the bed headboard, curtains, TV, and other audiovisual equipment in the room;
  • A special LED lighting system that senses motion at night to automatically turn on
  • Sleep aids, like Dodow, described as a “luminous metronome that promotes both concentration or sleep,” and a Dreem headband that has “brain energy sensors and a relaxation system;” and
  • Aromatherapy aids like Sensorwake, which helps you wake up to a certain aroma, like coffee, tea, or a sea breeze, and Skinjay shower capsules that contain essential oils.

“Voice is the future,” said Perrot. “To be able to use it to access the TV, go to Netflix directly, or select your favorite song — we’re hoping to connect all of those elements to enhance the guest room experience. All of these elements and innovation in technology help improve the usage of the room.”

Different Approaches to the connected room

As Skift has noted before with how Marriott and Hilton are approaching the connected room, hotel chains are applying different strategies in implementing these technologies. While Hilton has developed its own proprietary system that doesn’t yet incorporate voice activation, Marriott is working with partners, Legrand and Samsung, to develop a connected room that includes voice activation.

AccorHotels, like Marriott, is not developing its own proprietary technology to power these smart rooms. Perrot didn’t name which brands AccorHotels is working with, with the exception of Google, but he said, “We’re working with them — both startups and bigger brands — to make this into a real use case at the hotels. We’re developing this in partnership with the brands and with hotel guests, and learning from them, and applying it to the technology. We don’t have the ambition to develop this new technology ourselves.”

Hilton is planning to use a guest’s own smartphone to “power” the connected technology in its connected room, while Marriott is planning to use both voice activation and the TV remote to do so, with possible plans to incorporate guests’ own smartphones.

AccorHotels, however, is testing he use of both voice activation and in-room tablets.

Perrot said the decision to use an in-room tablet was prompted by the fact that “many guests don’t want to have to download another app that they only use when they’re in the hotel. For this room, the decision was to put in a real tablet with all the functionality already built in, and they can use the table to connect everything.”

As for a loyalty tie-in and the ability to personalize the room experience, Perrot said that loyalty will also be taken into consideration at some point. However, to date, there is no formal incorporation of Accor’s Le Club AccorHotels loyalty program in this new smart room concept.

Hilton, however, plans to use the Hilton Honors program in its connected room concept via member profiles, and Marriott is also considering doing something similar with its own Internet of Things guest room.

Loyalty will certainly play a major role in the development of these new high-tech rooms. Without a loyalty tie-in, it would be much more challenging for hotels to have access to customer data that allows them to personalize the individual guest experience.

Focusing on Accessibility in Smart Hotel Room Design

Another important facet of AccorHotels’ smart room concept is its commitment to accessibility for guests with disabilities or reduced mobility. That means wardrobes with sliding shelves and rods for easy access; TVs that swivel 180 degrees; adjustable bed heights; and bathrooms with easily adjustable shower heads, shower seats, and height-adjustable sinks, as well as grab bars that double as towel rails.

“The objective is that the design becomes so simple that it will improve the guest experience overall,” Perrot said. He said that while the room was designed to accommodate travelers with reduced mobility, it was really created to be a room for everybody.

“We’re hoping that this room can be an example that you can design a room that can be used by everyone, and can facilitate all types of travelers — families, people with disabilities, children, the elderly. It’s another way of thinking about how to design the hotel room,” Perrot said.

As for how much it would cost for hotel owners to have these types of rooms, Perrot said the cost “is not really more expensive than a normal special needs room. It just depends on the options you want to add to the room.”

AccorHotels’ smart room concept is still in a testing phase at the company’s headquarters, but Perrot and his team are working on a timeline for piloting it in hotels.

Committing to Accessibility on a Global Scale

AccorHotels has a partnership with partnership with Jaccede, a mobile app and website that lets people review the accessibility of different places they visit, from restaurants and bars to stores and hotels. The tie-in is part of the chain’s desire to make accessible hotel rooms more personalized and more design-driven. To date, Jaccede has accessibility reviews for more than 100,000 sites worldwide.

AccorHotels recently challenged its own employees to add their own reviews to Jaccede — not only of the hotels where they work but in their surrounding neighborhoods.

Accessibility in accommodations is a major issue for the hospitality industry, and guidelines for accessibility vary from region to region.

Anne-Sophie Beraud, vice president of diversity and inclusion for AccorHotels, said the company’s partnership with Jaccede, as well as the development of its smart room concept, show AccorHotels’ commitment to accessibility on a global scale.

Photo Credit: A rendering of AccorHotels' Smart Room concept,which includes Internet of Things connectivity, as well as features that make the room more accessible for travelers who may have reduced mobility. Accorhotels