Smart hotels

Hotels offer guests the latest technology tools, and electrical engineers must work hard to keep up.


Hotels are under such pressure to keep up with their gadget-obsessed guests that they are working with technology companies to regain their edge.

According to a story in the New York Times , Sheraton teamed with Microsoft to create its new Link@Sheraton lounges, as part of an overhaul of the brand that includes carving out spaces in lobbies where guests can use public computers to check their e-mail, print boarding passes, and record video greetings to send to family and friends.

Westin struck a deal with Nintendo to outfit some of its fitness centers with Wii consoles and games like Wii Fit, a game that uses a balance board to guide players through exercises and yoga poses.

Even smaller brands are turning to technology leaders to equip their public spaces and guestrooms with the latest electronics. The Gansevoort Hotel Group is working with Sony to develop a lounge at its new Gansevoort South property in Miami Beach. The goal is to relocate the traditional business center to a more social setting near the lobby. The lounge will have Sony computers and PlayStation 3 game consoles as well as digital book readers and cameras.

The James hotel in Chicago has been spending the last few months testing technology made by Control4, known for its home automation systems. On trial in one guestroom, the system allows guests to operate the lights, the blinds, the thermostat, and the TV using one remote. It can even be used to set a more customized wake-up experience, in which, for example, the TV turns on and gradually increases in volume.

Another company working with Control4 is the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, which plans to use the system to create a welcome experience at its Las Vegas property, scheduled to open in late 2009. Guests arriving in their room after checking in will be greeted by the drapes opening, the lights automatically turning on, and the TV displaying a customized message with the guest’s name.

What does all this mean for electrical engineers? Well, more wiring, for one. Electrical systems will become more complex, and additional wiring and controls will be required. Increased Internet bandwidth and wireless work stations will become the norm, and engineers will need to design carefully so that high-voltage items don’t interfere with the lower-voltage technologies.

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