Experimentation working towards tomorrow's hotels
The Fraunhof innovation network FutureHotel has its sights firmly set on the future of the accommodation industry: Which technologies are likely to be relevant to the sector in future? Which facilities will a hotel need in ten years' time to guarantee the satisfaction of guests? Using a variety of methods, the multi-disciplinary team provides answers to these questions and researches intensively, for example in the fields of light and wellness.
The key task is to fathom needs. The attention then turns to the development of concepts and trials. Without a practical test phase, only few ideas stand a chance, Vanessa Borkmann, initiator of the interdisciplinary project, explains. “We are working hand in hand with companies, including hotels, to translate our ideas into practice. At the end of the day, we don't want our activities to be limited to the ivory towers of science and research”, the project manager confirms.
The network investigates various areas; recently published insights deal with the subject of baths and wellness. “Both the hotel swimming baths and the spa are often perceived as technology-free zones with a sole focus on guests and their bodies”. But that would be an oversimplification as technologies, intelligently deployed, can be to the benefit of both hotelier and guests. “This does not mean that robots will be buzzing around the wellness area in future”, Vanessa Borkmann elucidates. “In many cases, it is simply about process optimisation, such as launching a digital booking portal for spa treatment sessions. This allows me to forecast and schedule requirements and to deploy my staff more effectively in order to meet all requests for appointments”.
In the pool area, the use of digital technologies is able to save on resources and promote sustainability. That is, on the one hand, good for the balance sheet, but it is also an important selling point for customers as sustainability undeniably plays a major role nowadays. “Using, say, shower or sink fittings with electronic sensors can save huge amounts of water without impacting on the experience of guests in the slightest. Alongside controls geared to meeting individual needs, Smart Metering is coming to play an increasingly important role as intelligent mensuration equipment provides a precise overview of consumption and highlights where there is potential for optimisation”, Borkmann explains. This applies, above all to electricity consumption, for instance for lighting.
LED lighting systems with sensors which detect daylight levels and only switch on when there is insufficient natural light are particularly economical. An alternative concept involves modulating lighting according to the time of day so that light in the bathroom comes on dimmed when switched on during the night. At the same time, it contributes towards relaxed guests. Naturally, this function needs to be paused when the housekeeping team needs brightly lit rooms, no matter what the time of day. But along with the intensity of light, its colour and temperature also counts. “From research into light, we know that dynamic lighting can have a positive effect on people's health, morale and frame of mind – hence Human Centric Lighting (HCL). Particularly in spas, but also in the pool area, there is huge potential for furthering guests' wellbeing and their natural biorhythm in a targeted manner”, the researcher explains. A reddish warm light with a low proportion of blue has the relaxing effect which is essential to spas and wellness areas. A significant share of blue light, on the other hand, helps wake up the body – providing the perfect support with that morning bathroom routine.
Experiment greeted enthusiastically
In the FutureHotel showcase project in Duisburg, HCL solutions have already been implemented on an experimental level. “We were able to experience there just how impressed visitors were by the solutions. And they were highly enthusiastic. After the event, we conducted relevant studies, and all that is missing now are partners with whom we can run real-life trials with the solutions we have come up with”, Borkmann adds.
But that by no means puts an end to research work on baths and spas. “Many more interesting topics await our attention. For example in the field of innovative materials”, Borkmann reports. “These, for instance, include products based on algae. There are still many open questions and it remains an exciting time for research”. One of the most important insights to come out of the project: The future which seemed so far away is closer than one thinks.