In my previous blog – Wading through the sands of time – we pondered the past. Today, I'd like to contemplate, ruminate, and speculate about the future.
Last week I spent a couple of days in New York attending a business meeting. My company booked me into a hotel called the Yotel, which is – in many ways – a "hotel of the future."
When the taxi dropped me off from the airport, I entered the doors to the Yotel to be met and greeted by… a bank of computer screens. There wasn't a reception desk or anything "old-fashioned" like that. I entered my name on the computer at the prompt, selected the number of nights I was staying and the number of keys I required to my room (one), swished my credit card, and the key dropped out in a slot. Then I took an elevator up to the 4th floor (where I discovered there was a reception desk) followed by another elevator up to my room.
My room was on the 19th floor, which made me a tad uneasy. Normally when I get to talk to a human receptionist I ask for a floor on a lower level. This is due to my experience being on the 30th floor of a hotel in Tokyo, Japan, many years ago when a large earthquake struck (but that's a story for another day).
The room itself was spotless and crisp and clean and … "compact" (or amazingly small, depending on your point of view). It took me some time to learn the various "systems" in the room. When I climbed into bed, for example, I thought it (a) had an enormous pillow and (b) it was intended only for very short people, because my feet stuck out over the end of the bed. But then, when I pressed what I presumed was the light switch on the side of the bed, the whole assembly unfolded and the enormous pillow transmogrified itself into part of the bed and everything grew much longer (I had lots of fun playing with this, as you might imagine).
You know when you check out of a hotel but you want to leave your cases for a couple of hours, so you ask the concierge to store them for you. Well, there wasn't a concierge per se, but in the entrance hall to the Yotel, behind a huge glass wall, was a robot equivalent.
The idea is that you inform the robot that you want to store a case. It then retrieves a large metal drawer from a wall of the little scamps and presents this to you via a hatch type thing. You place your cases in the drawer, and then the robot takes the drawer and stuffs it back in the wall. It's all very efficient.
On the one hand I found the whole Yotel experience to be a tad impersonal. Having said this, I requested an alarm call (as a back-up to my iPad alarm), but there was something wrong with the phone in my room and I never heard the hotel's call. So I was pleasantly surprised to receive a knock at the door and discover that they had sent someone up to check that everything was OK (I don’t think I've ever had that happen in a hotel before).
So, all-in-all it wasn't a bad experience. I can see that the Yotel format could easily become a model for the way hotels are run in the future. It cuts down on the number of staff they need and so forth … but for myself, I still prefer human interaction. The future is here, but I don’t think I'm ready for it…
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