By Terry Trucco
What’s the next hotel room amenity destined for the slag heap littered with CD players and tube TVs? My guess: the in-room phone with its push-button call list for the concierge, room service and housekeeping.
At least, that’s how I felt after road testing the Royalton’s iPad, a slender, black-leather-framed amenity that sits on the desk in every room at the hotel, fully loaded and ready to multi-task.
Consider some of the items identified by whimsical icons on its menu. You can book a wake-up call, order a room service hamburger, ask housekeeping to turn down your bed, buy theater tickets, see if your flight to San Francisco is on time, order a car to the airport and double-check the hotel’s check-out time.
Room too quiet? Let your iPad serenade you with the Royalton playlist. Can’t sleep? Waves, crickets, whispers and white noise are a few of the sleep sounds the iPad is programmed to emit.
But wait, there’s more. The iPad serves up story links from an array of newspapers, including The New York Times and the New York Post. And in a nod to the hotel’s fashion-savvy audience, the iPad calls up feeds from sites like Racked, Style.com, Women’s Wear Daily and the Times Style. You can also go online on the iPad gratis (you’ll pay $10 a day for WiFi for your laptop computer).
Distinguishing the Royalton iPad from one you get at the Apple store is a sophisticated software system, coolly acronymed ICE (Interactive Consumer Experience) and developed specifically for hotels by Intelity, an Orlando-based company launched in 2007 by a team headed by a former hotel executive.
The ICE system offers more than 30 services, including in-room tasks like dimming the lights, lowering the temperature and opening the curtains. Coming soon: a mobile app to open the door to your room.
ICE is designed to integrate into the hotel’s tech system, says Phil Schwartz, Intelity chief marketing officer. Intelity’s Web site says ICE increases hotel revenues, and we can see why. Ordering an espresso proved fiendishly easy. (We stopped ourselves before touching the “place order” icon.)
Services vary from hotel to hotel, but wake-up calls and room service options are the most popular with guests, Schwartz says.
At hotels that don’t offer in-room iPads, guests can utilize ICE on their personal PDAs, cell phones or laptop computers.
What about tech-phobic guests? They haven’t checked into the Royalton, says Jason Harper, who heads the Morgan Group’s operations team. Since the arrival of the hotel’s ICE-filled iPads during Fashion Week last fall, 100 percent of the guests have at the very least tried them out, he says. It took Morgan’s creative, brand and operations teams three months to choose the services and devise the icons.
What happens if a guest gets too attached to an iPad? The device isn’t equipped to shriek or freeze if it leaves the room. But if you decide to keep it, expect a bill from the hotel.
To date, some 300 hotels feature ICE, either on touch, mobile or lobby devices. In addition to the Royalton, New York hotels offering ICE touch include the Kimberly, the Plaza and Mondrian SoHo, Hotels in New York with ICE for mobile devices include the Gramercy Park, Gansevoort, Roosevelt, Paramount and Plaza. ICE is also available in the lobby at the Aloft Harlem and the New York Hilton.