Turning up the tech: Digital hotel opens in Texas

FORT WORTH, TX—Technology surely seems to be well integrated into the hotel space. Mobile check-in and in-room tablets are nothing new for guests; these features not only enhance experiences but make operations more efficient. The Sinclair, Autograph Collection, has opened here, taking technology to another level: It’s the first all-digital hotel.

Collaborating with Intel, The Sinclair uses IoT technology, building and in-room sensors, IoT gateways, dashboards and restaurant sinks and appliances, all to personalize the guest stay with data-driven insight.

“The Sinclair collaborated with Intel and a number of additional technology partners such as Cisco, SAS and other digital vendors to deliver next-generation innovations to transform and improve the traditional guest experience through location-based analytics,” said Farukh Aslam, CEO/president of Sinclair Holdings LLC, owner of The Sinclair.

According to the CEO, the hotel primarily uses DC power with ethernet cables and network switches to power the lighting, motorized window treatments, bathroom LED mirrors with built-in TVs, minibars and occupancy sensors.

“This type of power is called POE and is traditionally used to connect office computer networks or the phone system,” he said. “Each end point has an IP address so you can pull data out of each device, and you can turn lights on and off, dim them, check their power consumption or even notify engineering if they stop working. All this is done using a single cable that also supplies power. We also use a very innovative technology called ‘digital electricity’ to transport power all over the building to power our network switches.” 

While the workings behind the innovations may be complex, the end result is something that all guests can relate to: a better, more customized hotel stay.

“With so much data being generated from guest usage, we can learn a lot about guest habits and customize their room configurations to their liking on their next stay,” Aslam said. “Our bathroom vanity mirror TV is an infotainment system. Guests will be able to order toiletries, room service or check their flight departure information. They will be able to have a live conversation with the mirror. The technology also helps us accurately tell if the room is unoccupied.”

The property has also developed a touchscreen wall controller with an embedded WiFi chip so guests will be able to connect their smartphone to the wall controller to turn on the lights and change the room thermostat in the near future.

“From touchscreen wall controllers and digital shower controls to voice-activated vanity mirrors and charging your mobile phone wirelessly on the hotel bar, hotel guests will notice technology everywhere—people are expecting innovation. They see it in cars, phones, home appliances and shopping. Hotels have traditionally lagged in innovation, so The Sinclair fills a market need by using technology to make the guest experience more seamless and personalized,” he said.

Aslam said that The Sinclair’s infrastructure is much different than traditional commercial buildings, making it easier to roll out additions as they develop more apps.

The property is so innovative when it comes to its guests that it even remembers details like guests’ water temperature preferences.

“The next time they [guests] come into our hotel and check into a different room, the shower will turn on at their desired temperature,” Aslam noted. “Similarly, we can save guests’ shower light color selection and when they check into a different room, display the preferred color. Features such as these give a very personalized experience.”

Aslam also explained that this type of property is not only elevating the guest experience but may prove to be beneficial for owners and operators as well, both operationally and financially.

“It will streamline the functions of our engineering department. Our door locks are POE powered as well. If any end point (lights, minibars, window shade) malfunctions, it instantly notifies the appropriate person. We can react to an issue before our guests notice them. We can very easily track nagging issues and escalate it to our IT. It will save a lot of time so our staff can focus on our hotel guests,” he said.

Aslam added, “This can reduce the burden on engineering and maintenance staff, while saving up to 40% in utility costs. We also believe the features will ultimately attract new guests and further engage existing customers due to the sustainability commitments.”

The hotel is, in fact, quite sustainable, seeing 35-40% savings in power consumption, Aslam said. Bluetooth sensors know whether or not a guestroom is occupied and can adjust the lights, TVs, thermostats and window shades accordingly.

“Many cities across the nation are implementing stricter energy codes to mandate energy efficiency,” Aslam noted. “NYC has passed a law to cut down the carbon footprint of commercial buildings in half by 2030. Also, the newer generations are very conscious of sustainable living. In America, we have had the highest per capita energy consumption in the world, and climate change awareness is at an all-time high, so sustainability is a core principle in all that we do at The Sinclair.”

Fort Worth, TX, has proved to be an excellent vehicle to support this type of property. According to Aslam, downtown Fort Worth needed a boutique, luxury hotel that also promoted sustainability efforts.

“The city of Fort Worth was very progressive to learn about and implement this technology and has been very supportive throughout the project. We had already completed our office building with similar features a year earlier and the power-savings results were very impressive,” he said.

Not only the city but the entire country—and hospitality industry, for that matter—are receptive to this type of technology, embracing more creativity with innovation.

“This change in technology is of similar significance as going from a gasoline-powered car to an electric car—once you drive an EV, there is no going back,” Aslam said. “This is definitely the future. Not just for hospitality, but for all buildings.” HB