5 Hotels Keeping Up With The Digital Economy

Danielle Beurteaux

The experience of staying at a hotel hasn’t changed much in the last 50 years. The hotel industry isn’t known for keeping abreast of technology. Due to the cost of investment, caution on the part of operators, and the franchise model many hotel chains use – making across-the-board tech adoption a challenge – change has come slowly to the hospitality industry. Some are still even charging for WiFi, a technology now available for free in many public places, even in the depths of the the New York subway. Hotels usually have more behind-the-scenes technology than what’s in front of guests, but even that tends to be fragmented, a problem which some startups are aiming to solve.

But with a new generation of personal and business travelers who have expectations of the level of technology they want in their rooms, some hotels are putting tech first to keep guests happy. Here are five that are embracing the latest in hospitality tech.

Crowne Plaza San Jose – Silicon Valley

An early robot adopter, the Crowne Plaza in San Jose – Silicon Valley (where else?) was one of the first adopters of robotics startup Savioke’s Relay robot. Savioke eschewed the cute, humanoid form of a Pepper for a practical design – it sort of looks like a mobile air purifier. A Relay isn’t meant to replace humans in hotels, but to respond to simple guest wishes, like delivering snacks and toiletries. Hotel staff aren’t spending time on small errands, although one guest did put a wet towel in a Relay and short-circuited its electronics. Whoops.

Henn-na Hotel

This Nagasaki-area hotel received a lot of attention when it unveiled a reception desk staffed by a robot dinosaur. The Henn-na Hotel is a hotel concept created around technology for the dual purpose of efficiency and environmental responsibility. Motion sensors activate guest room lights, radiant panel air conditioning moderates temperature, facial recognition units replace keys (unless a guest desires otherwise), robot porters will carry luggage, and there’s a robot cloak room to store bags.

Marriott Renaissance NYC

Marriott is scheduled to open a new hotel in spring 2016 in Midtown New York that has technology all over it. According to a press release, they’re calling it “New York’s first digitally enhanced hotel.” There will be a block-long digital display featuring an interactive, responsive “living wall,” as they’re calling it, leading to a virtual concierge.

Hotel 1000 Seattle

Seattle’s Hotel 1000 has heat-detecting sensors in all of its guest rooms, so hotel staff will know when a guest is in a room. The mini-bars send a notification when they need to be filled, and there’s a virtual golf club – a golf simulator with a tracking system that has 680 sensors to measure the ball’s performance.


CitizenM’s hotels have virtual check-in kiosks – they boast a one-minute time to check in or out. The rooms also have what they call “mood pads,” tablets that are basically remotes for the room’s environment, from temperature control to the window blinds.

Digitalization is touching every aspect of our lives. Learn more in Our Digital Planet: A Digital-First World.

Danielle Beurteaux

About Danielle Beurteaux

Danielle Beurteaux is a New York–based writer who covers business, technology, and philanthropy. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and on Popular Mechanics, CNN, and Institutional Investor's Alpha, among other outlets.