RAHWAY, NJ—We’re living in a digital world. Technology now touches every aspect of daily life, including travel. Mobile devices serve as a digital tour guide of sorts, providing local weather, facilitating restaurant reservations and, once at the hotel, acting as a digital room key and TV streaming platform.
As the demand for connectivity grows, there’s no doubt that the accessories designed to power up these devices will continue to play a vital role in the guest experience.
“Guests are looking for convenience. They want the ability to charge multiple devices simultaneously and they don’t want to spend time searching for an open wall socket or USB port,” said Chris Brunt, global sales manager for Hotel Technologies, which provides alarm clocks, clock radios, charging systems and speaker systems under the iHome and Timex brands to the hospitality industry. “In turn, hoteliers are asking us to cram as much universal charging capability as possible into sleek, smaller footprint products.”
Bedside charging stations, in particular, have evolved over the last few years. In the past, many featured Apple docks, for example, and a single 1.0 amp USB port, explained Brunt. This year’s Hotel Technologies product line has multiple, high-amperage USB ports, and there’s no Apple docking products. As guestroom design has changed, so have the offerings.
“The average footprint of our products has decreased significantly. Bedside tables are getting smaller and our products have followed suit,” said Brunt. “We are also seeing the removal of radio functionality as Bluetooth technology becomes commonplace. Guests do not want to take the time to search for local radio stations. They want the ability to play music from their own playlists and streaming services.”
What are the must-have options for bedside charging stations? Standard USB ports and the higher the amperage, the better. In addition, Brunt is seeing a significant increase in demand for Qi wireless charging now that Apple has followed Samsung in integrating this technology.
“The key to bedside charging is universality. You want to be able to charge any device the guest brings with them, regardless of whether it was manufactured by Apple, Samsung, Google, etc.,” he said. “Tablets normally require higher amperage than phones so you need to ensure those needs are being met. You are also seeing additional AC outlets being incorporated into bedside units. Many guests want to work or stream content on their laptops while lying in bed.”
At present, cellphones and mobile devices are the primary catalyst for growth and change within the industry.
“Even with the large-scale upgrade initiatives facilitated by a number of hotel brands, there is still a tremendous amount of unmet charging needs,” he said. “I am always amazed when I travel and stay in a room where I still need to unplug a lamp to plug in my phone. There are tons of upgrade opportunities still out there.”
For Hotel Technologies, its products need to be ready for any device that needs to be charged; the company’s newest offerings seek to meet traveler demands in new ways. “At the end of 2017, we added two dedicated charging products to our assortment: the Hi10 and the Hi20. The Hi10 features two AC outlets and two high-powered USB ports. It also has a built-in nightlight. The Hi20 has three AC outlets and four USB ports. It can charge seven devices at once and was designed to be placed on the desk in the rooms,” he said. “We have also released four new products for 2018, and each of them addresses the needs already mentioned. Our Timex T260 is a small, economical unit with two high-powered USB ports. The iHome HBH36B offers our patented triple-sided display, two 2.4 amp USB ports and Bluetooth connectivity. Our iHome HiH48 is a space-saving design that offers two AC outlets and two high-powered USB ports along with a dimmable nightlight. Lastly, our iHome HBH88 offers two AC outlets, two high-powered USB ports and Bluetooth capability. We are prepared for any device the guest wants to charge.”
With charging convenience and the latest technology trends at the forefront of guest expectations, Brunt said the products were created to address the needs of hoteliers.
“Our success can be measured in the number of positive reviews—or lack of negative reviews—where a bedside unit is mentioned. You might not always know when you’ve made a guest happy with the addition of technology, but they will certainly let you know when you have fallen short of expectations,” he said.
When looking for a quality, efficient charging station, Brunt recommends looking for a product that is universal or able to charge a variety of devices. Hoteliers should also find out if the product has hotel-specific features.
“All of our iHome and Timex hotel models come with standard features, such as single-day alarm, automatic updates for Daylight Saving Time, printed instructions, and secure back covers that hide any time or date set controls. We also have security lanyards; hospitality-grade Bluetooth, which keeps guests from connecting to devices in other rooms; volume limiters, etc. And finally, look for quality and ease of use,” he said. “Purchasing these products represents a significant investment in a device that will directly impact the guest. Make sure it is ready for the rigors of hotel usage. And make sure it is adding value and convenience to their stay, rather than frustration.”
As prospects abound, technology companies are keenly focused on innovating to stay ahead of the curve as hotel brands such as Marriott, Hilton and IHG incubate and beta test the hyper-connected guestrooms and public spaces of the future.
“I think you will see a continued emphasis on designing smaller products with maximum charging capability. I also think that Qi wireless technology will see continued growth as compatible devices proliferate within the consumer market. That is in the short term,” he said. “In the slightly longer term, I see bedside products becoming part of the evolving connected room experience. Guests will be able to tailor their experience—order room service, turn down the thermostat, stream content from their phone to the TV—all by speaking into a bedside unit.” HB