UPDATE: Starwood's chic W Hotels chain has released an iPhone app that allows guests to order room service and request housekeeping services like more towels through their iPhone touch-screen.
In keeping with the brand's bent towards the social-set, it also has a streaming music player with W Hotel DJ mixes of dance music. Screenshots below. You can grab the app from the iTunes App Store (US Link | AU link).
The hotel of the future is a topic that never gets tired -- mainly because so many hotels cling to the formula of one bed, one desk, one armchair and a bathroom as the formula for making business travellers comfortable.
In our most recent look at this topic, we wrote that the market is ripe for Google to provide services to hotel guests, and that we expected hotels would soon make use of Google's voice recognition search services.
However, American company Thing5 thinks smartphones have a big role to play in making hotels more convenient for travellers.
Its new Android app, travelButton, lets you access a hotel's services without having to pickup a hotel phone.
For example, if you're out at the bar and want to book a wakeup call for yourself the next morning before you ... forget ... you can use the travelButton app, press the wakeup call button for the hotel you're staying in, select the time you want to be woken, and receive a call from the hotel in the morning.
When you call via the app, your name and room number appears to the receptionist just as if you were calling from your in-room phone.
The app also aims to make room-service ordering a touch-screen process, allowing menu items to be selected with a tap, and the order to be submitted wirelessly.
The hotel can also offer concierge services such as restaurant and theatre bookings, tour bookings, and so on, via the app.
So far the app is only for phones running Google's Android software, but Thing5 says an iPhone and BlackBerry version is coming soon.
You might wonder how an app could possibly interface with a hotel's services -- that's possible because Thing5 is also a developer of hotel phone systems.
Hotels do have to opt in to using the app, as there's a bit of work at the hotel end that has to be done, but it's interesting to see the technology becoming available.
It's likely large hotel chains will develop similar apps with their own branding and suite of services -- or license this app and rebrand it as their own.