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9. Hotel computers that know just what guests will want

When regular customers like Dr. Laurence Wiener check into the Mandarin Oriental in Manhattan, they get more than a smile from the concierge and a mint on their pillow.

Dr. Wiener’s hotel room knows how warm he likes it — 68 degrees. It welcomes him with a personal message on his television. It even loads his most frequently dialed numbers onto the phone. And the bellhop did not have to do a thing.

At the Mandarin and other high-end hotels, new computer systems that connect individual rooms to network servers can now keep track of guests’ preferences and change the room conditions automatically.

These “smart” systems can learn whether a guest likes the lights dimmed, the curtains closed or the room warm. They can also personalize the music in the room so that John Coltrane, for instance, greets jazz fans when they enter their rooms. And sensors in refrigerators alert maids when the minibar is low on drinks.

While much of the underlying technology is not new, it is still rare in private homes because the equipment is expensive, especially the controllers that connect the devices. But by incorporating such technology into their guest rooms, luxury hotels provide a glimpse of what networked homes may look like over the next decade.

As the price of this technology declines, some homes could start to look like these smart rooms. Already, more than 35 percent of American households have broadband lines, and developers are integrating home servers and high-speed cables into high-end new homes.

Appliances linked to home networks could be programmed to adjust to a homeowner’s likes and dislikes. Companies like Crestron already sell controllers that automate and centralize control of electronics and appliances.

The infrastructure of the hotel rooms are the data networks that are being installed to carry phone calls, video and Internet connections. The networks, for example, make it possible to offer Internet television services that store programs on servers and let guests watch shows on demand. These networks also allow hotels to connect the lights, air conditioners and other room devices to a central computer so they can be remotely monitored or controlled.

To manage all these devices with a hand-held controller or remotely by computer, hotels are installing an assortment of adapters, antennas and sensors in their entertainment consoles, curtains and thermostats, (by Ken Belson, the New York Times)

Checking Comprehension

1. How do high-end hotels use computers to satisfy individual hidden wishes of their

guests?

  • 2. What exactly can computers do to replace the hotel staff?
  • 3. Can all hotels provide these services?
  • 4. How can guests get Internet television services on request?
  • 5. How do new techniques help the staff gain time for other duties?
  • 6. What do modern technologies expect from hotels?
 
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