Travel Tech: Tech-Friendly Hotel Chains

The desk at the lobby at Aloft Brooklyn. Photo by Aloft Brooklyn
By Dennis Schaal

Perhaps your children or grandchildren will one day ask, incredulously, "You mean, hotels had front desks and they were staffed by hotel employees when you were my age?" Well, most kids aren't asking these sorts of questions yet, but some of today's hotels are getting so teched-up that it isn't difficult to envision such inquiries.

Following are five hotel brands or properties which distinguish themselves for their overall high-tech ambiance or at least have some noteworthy digital features.

Photo Caption: The desk at the lobby at Aloft Brooklyn.
The re:mix Lounge at Aloft Brooklyn. Photo by Aloft Brooklyn
Some 6,000 Starwood Preferred Guest members currently are enrolled in Aloft Smart Check-in, a program which furnishes guests with an Aloft-branded SPG card, enabling them to skip the hotel front desk at Aloft Lexington, Aloft Harlem and Aloft New York Brooklyn, all in New York City, as well as Aloft Dallas Downtown, and proceed right to their pre-assigned rooms.

Guests get their room assignments emailed to them on the day of the reservation and their Aloft-branded loyalty cards, which use RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology, can be placed in front of the door lock to gain entry.

Info: aloft.starwoodhotels.com

Photo Caption: The re:mix Lounge at Aloft Brooklyn.
Studio 1000 at Hotel 1000 in Seattle, which has a customized Microsoft Surface table. Photo by Hotel 1000, Seattle
Tired of the hotel housekeeping staff barging into your room to see if it's time to make the beds? Welcome to Seattle's Hotel 1000, where the staff "rings" a silent doorbell to your room and it triggers an infrared scan to gauge whether the room is currently occupied.

There are lots of other Hotel 1000 tech bells and whistles, including a customized Microsoft Surface table in Studio 1000. The table is a multi-user, multi-touch computing device which allows guests to engage a Virtual Concierge to locate the city's hot enclaves, upload and share vacation photos, and even dabble in a little chess or checkers.

Info: www.hotel1000seattle.com

Photo Caption: Studio 1000 at Hotel 1000 in Seattle, which has a customized Microsoft Surface table.
Tablet browsing at the Palm Court Restaurant at The Plaza, New York City. Photo by Fairmont Hotels
If you prefer flesh and blood concierges to the virtual variety, then you can always summon one such human through a customized app on the iPad, which is standard issue in every guestroom at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. The Plaza's iPads use customized Interactive Customer Solution software, which features touchscreen integration to the concierge, room service, wake-up calls and the ability to print your flight boarding pass.

Info: aloft.starwoodhotels.com

Photo Caption: Tablet browsing at the Palm Court Restaurant at The Plaza, New York City.
The interactive GoBoard, at the Courtyard by Marriott chain. Photo by Courtyard by Marriott
Whether guests lobbied for this or not, some 390 Courtyard by Marriott lobbies in the U.S., as well as three airports (Baltimore, Phoenix and Houston) feature GoBoard 57-inch LCD touchscreens from Four Winds Interactive. The recently installed GoBoard version 4.0 includes mobile options in addition to the usual immobile information about the hotel itself and area attractions. Using Microsoft Tag mobile technology, guests can send driving directions from the GoBoards directly to their smartphones. And, if ambling over to an attraction is more your style, then the GoBoards also offer walking directions to area restaurants and tourists spots.

Info: www.marriott.com/courtyard

Photo Caption: The interactive GoBoard, at the Courtyard by Marriott chain.
Arrival front desk at Aria Resort & Casino, City Center Las Vegas. Photo by Scott Frances
Aria has programmed its guestrooms to remember repeat-visitors' preferred music, room lighting and temperature settings -- even if the guest doesn't have total recall. And, a remote control can alter these choices and control the TV/video systems and curtains, as well. And, if guests have the presence of mind after a day of conference sessions or blackjack-table hopping, they can also bid themselves "goodnight" to activate privacy settings and turn off the TV, music and lights.

Info: www.arialasvegas.com

Photo Caption: Arrival front desk at Aria Resort & Casino, City Center Las Vegas.
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