Aloft Hotels are taking Apple’s Siri to a new level.
The boutique hotel chain, part of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, has unveiled a voice-activated hotel room.
These rooms has an iPad running a custom Aloft app that can be used to control the temperature, lighting and more with HomeKit-enabled accessories via Siri, the voice-activated function.
So far, the Aloft Boston Seaport and Aloft Santa Clara in California have the technology in place, as part of the chain's “Project: Jetson” initiative.
“Today’s early adopter, hyper-connected global traveler wants a level of personalization unlike ever before, and that means being able to control their hotel experience with the sound of their voice,” says Brian McGuinness, global brand leader of Aloft Hotels.
Hotels are increasingly experimenting with technology that will capitalize on people’s desire to control everything via their smartphones and iPads.
Already, Aloft has a TiGi (“text it, get it”) program that lets guests order room service by texting Emojis.
Parent company Starwood--along with other hotel giants such as Hilton Worldwide, Marriott International, Choice Hotels, and Hyatt Hotels--are experimenting with keyless entry, or letting guests check in via their mobile devices and using their SmartPhones to unlock their doors.
Hilton is even letting their HHonors members pick the rooms they want from a digital map. The company has also integrated Google Maps into its HHonors app to let frequent guests who book directly with them see exactly where the room will be in relation to the property’s surroundings.
Hotels have used Apple devices and functions in the past to try to improve the guest experience. Some, such as the new Bernic Hotel in Manhattan, have installed Apple TVs in their rooms. Four Aloft Hotels—including the one in Boston and Santa Clara—also have Apple TVs. Starwood Hotels and Resorts has an app for the AppleWatch. Starwood Preferred Guests can use their AppleWatches to unlock their doors.
As far as the latest technology goes, when guests launch the app on Aloft’s in-room iPad upon check-in, they will get a personalized welcome screen advising them on how to set up their room. Each iPad offers a tutorial on how to use the technology. But basically, guests will begin any requests with “Hey Siri.”
For instance, if they wake up feeling too hot at 2 a.m., they can say “Hey Siri, cool the room.”
To change the lighting, they can ask Siri to set it to one of four moods: Re:set for standard lighting, Re:lax for the evening, Re:view to watch a movie, and Re:vive for the morning. They only have to ask Siri to turn on or turn off the lights or they can just say good morning, and Siri will most likely understand which setting to apply.
Guests will also be able to ask Siri to play any music playlists as long as they are signed into their iTunes accounts. The music will play through their personal devices.
And if guests want to figure out what to do while at their destination, Siri can act as a virtual concierge if asked something like “Hey Siri, what are some attractions near me?”
Robert Cole, a hospitality technology consultant and founder of Rock Cheetah, says Aloft is moving in the right direction in terms of creativity but will likely face implementation problems, such as the cost of buying iPads for each room.
"The bottom line is, how much does it increase the guest experience and simplify the guest experience and surprise and delight the guest vs. the cost," he says. "I can go say, Siri, open the drapes, but is it much more difficult to do it myself?"
He also says guests may also prefer to use their own iPads rather than a device that belongs to the hotel because of security concerns.
"Many guests may not be comfortable with that," he says.
But Aloft says that its app, designed by DigiValet, knows when a room is checked into and when it’s checked out of. When a guest checks out, it sends a message to the app that erases all the data that the previous guest entered. The app is completely clean once the next guest shows up.
Not all the technology that hotels have adopted has resulted in an immediate rollout to other properties.
For instance, Marriott last year experimented with letting guests use Apple Pay at retail locations such as coffee shops at select hotels. That test is now over and there are no plans as of now to expand on the program, a company spokesman says.
Sarah Downing, vice president of Global Guest Initiatives and Innovation at Aloft Hotels, says she expects guests to applaud their latest innovation.
"The new Aloft voice-activated hotel rooms are going to change the way that our guests interact, literally, with their room during their stay with us,” she says.