Hospitality: Differentiation in a Saturated Market

Smart Technology in hotels

Differentiation in a Saturated Market

When the market is good and competition is high, how are hotels setting themselves apart? While aesthetics are always important, the major differentiators are services offered and a guest’s individual experience.

Technology has enabled guests to easily share their experiences both positive and negative. Rather than ignore the feedback the hospitality industry is listening. Hotels are reimagining their services, accommodations, and purpose to strengthen brand loyalty and attract new guests.

How are hotels setting themselves apart?

  • Experiential Design: Providing guests with authentic experiences that relate to the local flavor
  • Food & Beverage (F&B) Additions: Embracing coffee shops, restaurants, and bars to transform from a destination for travelers to the local hot spot
  • Wellness Services: Offering amenities beyond weights, treadmills, and a pool
  • Sustainable Design: Incorporating environmentally conscious green design solutions that guests appreciate
  • Smart Rooms: Controls that allow individual personalization by interacting with guests’ mobile devices

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Are Smart Rooms a Smart Move for Hotels?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is taking guests’ ability to personalize their experience to the next level. However, the “smart” trend comes with some considerations before hotels take the leap.

Pioneers of Smart Hotel Rooms

Several hospitality giants are experimenting with IoT and other apps to improve the guest experience.  Hilton’s “connected room” concept should be a reality by the end of 2018. Similarly, Paris-based AccorHotels is testing IoT tech and voice activation software, and Marriott’s Innovation Lab is developing smart devices for hotel rooms.


Some of the most talked about features include:

  • Virtual assistants
  • Personalized guest profiles
  • Smartphone-controlled lighting, temperature, TV, and more
  • Adjustable amenities for guests with disabilities


Is the Cutting-edge Tech Worth the Cost?

Smart tech is undoubtedly the new wave. However, it’s critical to determine if the ends justify the means. Pomme Lee, Project Manager with The Lighting Practice, says it’s all about managing client expectation. Choosing to incorporate smart tech should be based on its value in improving accessibility and/or guest comfort. “To be a smart designer,” she explained, “we should ask the owner and the architect, ‘are high-tech solutions a must have for this project? Do these upgrades align with your ideal guest’s values and interests?’ If the technology will truly improve guest experience, then it’s time to talk about price.”

While smart rooms could improve the guest experience, budget is a big factor to consider. Jered Widmer, Principal with The Lighting Practice, described a project in which the design team was asked to design extensive guest room controls, but the owner ultimately decided to eliminate them. “The client just didn’t want the price tag that came along with the technology.”

Are Smart Rooms for everyone?

Jonathan Hoyle, Associate with The Lighting Practice, recently met with a developer whose guests are more interested in exploring the city they’re visiting than lounging in their rooms.  “Their philosophy is to create exciting public spaces and to treat the rooms as some place to sleep,” Jon explains.  “The typical guest floors and guest rooms are designed to be more functional than cool.”

Meet in the Middle

Hospitality companies that offer smart rooms will test the true value of the technology in the form of ROI. “Technology can be costly,” Pomme added, “but there is a middle ground for anyone interested in adding smart features to their guest amenities.” The decision to utilize smart technology does not have to be an all or nothing solution. The design team can strategically incorporate tech features to improve guest experience within the owner’s budget.

Ultimately, the decision to incorporate smart tech depends on the owner’s mission and the guests’ values.  As designers, it is up to us to support and educate our clients by fully understanding the project goals, budget, and setting realistic expectations.

We want to know what you think. Are smart rooms the future of hospitality, or will the hype vanish before it catches on? Click below to weigh in.


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Project Spotlight: The Logan Philadelphia, Curio Collection by Hilton

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Renovated with a new modern aesthetic and high-end amenities to enhance their guest experience, The Logan has become a destination for visitors and Philadelphians alike.


The Lighting Practice developed an LED lighting system with contemporary fixtures to guide guests along the main entry, reception and elevator lobby to their rooms. Dimming capabilities throughout the various spaces allow lighting levels to be modulated according to the time of day and the type of event taking place. While the lighting system remains consistent throughout the hotel, each space provides its own customized experience. The lobby serves as the main guest entry, bar, and circulation network to the other hotel amenities. Creating the separation of space with light was critical for this expansive lobby.


Artwork specific lighting is a consistent theme throughout the hotel, with separately dimmable LED luminaires often integrated into the display.


Lighting Lessons

Incorporation of existing lighting power and control systems created a challenge with new LED luminaires and dimming zones. New low-voltage control wiring allows luminaires powered from the same circuit to be separately dimmed. Due to the amount of daylight in the lobby, lighting levels range from an average of 30 footcandles during the day and dip below 0.5 footcandles at night. A time clock initiates the preset dimming control sequences programmed into the system. Override stations are placed at key locations.

To be mindful of budget concerns, the lighting control system uses low-voltage control wiring that is separate from the power wiring.  This approach limited the amount of new power wiring and circuiting while providing the required flexibility of lighting controls.


Property Owner: Host Hotels & Resorts, Inc.
Project Manager: Turner & Townsend

Architect: BLT Architects; Interior Designer: Dawson Design Associates; Restaurant Designer: Dash Design; Spa Consultant: Curry Spa Consulting; Lighting Design: The Lighting Practice; Civil Engineer: Langan Engineering; Structural Engineer: O’Donnell & Naccarato; MEP & Fire Protection Engineer: Bala Consulting Engineers; Acoustics Consultant: Metropolitan Acoustics; Vertical Transportation Consultant: Lerch Bates North America; Food and Beverage: Corsi Associates

Photography by Andrew Bordwin

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