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Test your app on shitty networks

Cathrine Gunasekara

So many app developers forget to test their apps on bad networks. They sit in their Silicon Valley office with the latest phone models on high speed wifi and think their app is working great. I know from experience it’s easy to forget and as a PM I’ve made that mistake many times. But for travel companies there is absolutely no excuse not testing their apps on shitty connections. Travel apps, at least their basic functionality, MUST work when the user is traveling!

Here’s an example. I’m a Hotels.com Gold status member and try to make all my bookings on the platform, but I’m seriously getting tired of looking at these loading screens on my Pixel 2 phone. The app simply won’t load unless you have a very good connection, and that means I can’t book a room on the go, which makes having the app pretty useless. Many times I’ve had to give up on the Hotels.com app and instead opened the Booking.com app and it loads immediately! Guess which platform got my booking? Not because I wanted to, but because I simply had no choice, and that’s a stupid mistake a booking app can’t afford to make.

Idea Bank – Future Hotels

Cathrine Gunasekara

I’ve been following innovation in the hotel industry for some time, and I’ve put together a list of ideas that are circulating in the industry and some that are my own.


Website / Booking

  • Let guests select the specific room

  • VR tour of the hotel and room

  • Mobile app requirements

  • Must be able to use basic functionality also on bad networks

  • Download booking information to be accessed offline

  • Must be able to copy/paste address and booking info from app

  • Must be able to see full listing also after booking

Lobby / Reception

  • Remembering and greeting guests by using facial recognition technology

  • Robots to guide guests by providing recorded voice messages and accompanying them during their stay

  • Robots to carry luggage

  • Robots to do room deliveries

  • Robotic arm for self storage of luggage

Facilities

  • Laundry room

    • Show availability

    • Notify when ready

    • Get it delivered finished wash to room by a robot

  • Making working poolside possible

    • Outdoor charging stations

    • Shaded areas

    • Cover for laptop and tablet screens so you can see also in bright sunlight

    • Cooling/covers to prevent overheated laptops

  • Co-Working space

    • Available to all or rent by the hour

  • Gym

    • Beacons on gym equipment

    • Screens to follow a class or workout program

    • Integration with fitness apps

    • Non-hotel gyms

      • Nike running club

      • Nearby studios

      • Digital maps for local running paths

  • Smart watering system that knows if it’s going to rain or not

  • Autonomous lawn mowers

  • Autonomous vacuum cleaners

  • Autonomous window cleaners

Hotel Room

  • Layout

    • Guest can configure layout of room

      • Bed arrangement and number of beds needed

      • Shelving and hooks

      • Desk

      • Chairs

  • Keyless locks / digital locks / Smart locks

    • Get room key via mobile app

    • Open door with facial recognition

  • Voice-activated room assistant

    • Control temperature, lights, TV, music, curtains etc in room

    • Speak in your preferred language

    • Request services

  • Temperature, lights

    • Occupancy sensors would allow the hotel to adjust the temperature when the room is unoccupied and mobile apps tied into that same energy management system could allow guests to set their preferred temperature for the room prior to arrival.

    • Change color and brightness of room lights

    • Light and oxygen setting to help you get adjusted from jet-lag

    • LED lighting with footboard motion sensors to help moving at night

  • Minibar

    • The mini-fridge could come stocked with items guests select or preset items they want at every hotel they stay at.

    • Let guests order their own groceries to stock the fridge

  • Beds

    • Mattress that adjust firmness to guest preferences

    • Adjustable bed heights

    • Option to tilt the headboard

  • Sleep & Relaxation Aids

  • Appliances

    • Automatic coffee makers with built-in WiFi to provide weather and news updates

    • Somabar (http://somabar.com ), a personal mixologist that guests can program to make their favorite cocktails. $4,995

    • Steamer to freshen up clothes in the room

    • Bluetooth speakers

    • Humidifier/purifier

    • Wardrobe utilizing sliding shelves and rods for easy access to clothes

  • Mirror/ Screen

    • Start a yoga routine on a full-length mirror

    • A “smart mirror” that doubles as a TV, a virtual concierge platform and, when turned off, a traditional mirror.

  • In-room tablets and smartphones

      • Guests can access hotel information, receive digital wake-up calls, read a variety of newspapers, and stream international radio stations.

      • Allow guests to make requests, place room service orders and manage their stay with features such as maps, menus and transportation information.

  • Mobile App Controls

    • Apps and systems that remember a visitor’s preferences and past behaviors.

    • Allowing guests to set their preferences before they arrive. That way guests can have everything as they want it when they arrive in the room: the temperature, brightness, even whether the drapes are open

  • TV / Displays

    • Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, HBO

    • Chromecast - provides a convenient way for guests to broadcast their music through the TV speakers

    • Televisions will become large in-room screens that guests use exclusively for casting content from their own personal devices

    • Greeting guests with a welcome video and interactive program guide

    • Displaying guest services, room service menus, hotel amenities, folio review and even offering a video check out.

    • DVR capability

    • Guest rewards integration

    • Interactive map of the city with search capabilities for bars, restaurants etc

  • Decoration

    • Let guests upload their own artwork and photos to be displayed in electronic frames

    • A virtual-reality concept where guests can design their own room and then get it furnished in real-life.

    • Letting guests project a rainforest, a starry sky or art on the walls and the ceiling of their room

  • Bathroom

    • Biometric bathroom tiles that report on a guest’s health

    • Skinjay shower capsules that contain essential oils

    • Ask to start the shower at the desired temperature

      • Stored in their customer profile

      • Voice-activated

      • App

    • Shower Door Shareable Canvas technology. The touch-sensitive technology, built into the shower door, allows guests to “screenshot” what they’ve written or drawn within the steam and email it to themselves for future reference.  

  • Windows

    • IoT-powered smart glass windows that transition through multiple tint states automatically to provide the right amount of natural light, while increasing building sustainability and maintaining a comfortable indoor temperature.

      • View Dynamic Glass (https://viewglass.com ) is one such provider of this technology. Hotel staff members manually control the tint state from an app on an iOS device to optimize comfort levels.

Shopping / Services

  • The furniture and other items in the hotel can be purchased merely by taking photos through a designated app or from a website

  • Purchase souvenirs (from curated local partners) from an online catalog, get it delivered to your door or shipped directly home

  • Upload photos and get it delivered to your room as physical postcards you can send home

  • Get take-out delivered to your room

  • Get dry-cleaning picked up and returned to your room

  • Order massage , physical therapy etc

  • Getting Around:

    • Shuttle to nearest subway station

    • Give guests a metro pass (ICE, Rabbit etc)

    • Bicycles to borrow or rent

    • Scooters for rent

    • Drivers available for day trips

    • Hotel operated local tours

Outlets and charging

  • Wireless charging pads

  • Wireless charging in furniture

Bandwidth

  • Hotel VIA (www.hotelviasf.com ) installed highly secure Ethernet Internet with 5 Gbps service from Comcast Business (https://business.comcast.com) and a FiberLAN solution from DASAN Zhone Solutions (http://dasanzhone.com) that leverages GPON (gigabyte passive optical network) to offer guests unlimited devices and 100% connectivity across the property.

  • Wired data access points that deliver high-speed connections to the network Alcatel Lucent Enterprise’s OmniAccess Stellar Access Points (www.al-enterprise.com)

  • Low voltage power and Power over Ethernet (PoE)

    • Nearly everything in a guest room can be powered and managed using PoE, including the TVs and minibars. It also has the added benefit of having additional safety measures against shocking and

Restaurants, bar, dining

  • Mobile dining - https://intelitycorp.com/main/platform/ice/mobile-dining/

    • Minimize the staff needed for your outdoor restaurant, cabana, or bar by using Mobile Dining to help manage orders that need to be placed, all the way to fulfillment and delivery.

  • Mobile payment

  • Reserve table in the restaurant from the room/app.

    • Pre-order menu that is ready when guest arrive in the restaurant

Communication

  • Chatbots

  • Front desk available via Messenger, Line, WhatsApp

  • Send individualized messages to guests to personalize their experience

  • Digital User Satisfaction survey in room

    • Respond to feedback instantly to ensure guest satisfaction

New revenue streams

  • Workaction

    • Get away for focused work time

    • Work poolside

  • Staycation

    • Packages to draw local crowd in off season

  • Sleepovers in public places

  • Pop-up hotels

  • On-demand sleeping pods near universities, airport, railway stations

  • Option to rent hotel rooms by the hour

  • Option to rent conference rooms by the hour

  • Serviced apartments / long stay

  • Help the residents with renting out their apartments when they are traveling

  • List hotel rooms on Airbnb

  • Loyalty Reward Members or community members can get access to underutilized hotel facilities or services without being a guest for a monthly fee, by the hour or per visit

  • Design your own hotel experience

  • Nomadic lifestyle where members of a hotel chain can freely roam between hotels paying an annual fee

  • Crowd-funded new hotels

    • Membership perks or X nights “free”

Hotel Mini Bars of Soap

Cathrine Gunasekara

A pet peeve of mine is the hotel soap bar.

It’s gross
Yes, it looks decorative when nicely wrapped in paper with the hotel logo on it. But as soon as I use it, it just looks gross swimming in a puddle of soap water. Some hotels don’t even offer a soap holder so it slides around on the vanity top making a mess.

It’s wasteful
A soap bar makes a lot of sense at home where you can use the entire bar, but not at a hotel where I use maybe a third at most. So what happens to all the barely used soap bars? Most hotels sadly just throw them out, but thankfully some hotel chains partner with organizations that recycle the soap, like Clean the World. But the soap bar still creates paper waste from the wrapping and then there’s all the energy used for transporting and the process of recycling them.

Dispensers
I love it when hotel bathrooms have push-button dispensers for shower gel and shampoo instead of having to deal with the miniature tubes and bottles. Especially when the hotel has splurged on brand name shampoo and not the stuff that makes my hairdresser cry.

But I rarely see dispensers for hand soap, so hopefully that will also be more common soon. It should be more eco-friendly as hotels can buy in bulk limiting the plastic use and also cost-saving as they’d pay for just the soap used.

Let's design our way out

Cathrine Gunasekara

Dutch artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde and his team have done some interesting projects around visualizing urban and environmental challenges so they are easier to grasp.
I just read this interview with him in Designboom and what he’s saying really resonated with me.

So many global challenges we are facing are for me a sign of bad design. We design our world unconsciously — with our CO2 emission and waste — so let us design our way out of it.
— Daan Roosegaarde

Since my stay at the monastery in Thailand practicing mindfulness, I’m now more and more aware of how much we do without really thinking about cause and effect. When we build products, services and cities without thinking about the long-term effect, worst-case it could be harming, but it’s also a lost opportunity to create something that is consciously designed for a positive effect on people and the environment. We can’t let ourselves be passive or paralyzed because the problem seems too big to solve. We have to take control and mindfully design the future we want, one small project at a time.

Why do we accept pollution?
— Daan Roosegaarde

… Which leads me to the next article I wanted to share from my newsfeed.

It’s an NPR article about a Swedish owned design lab in Portland called BillerudKorsnäs who’s focusing on developing alternative packaging materials to plastic. Read the article here.
I love to read about people who actually come up with alternatives!

Checkboxes

Cathrine Gunasekara

The most appealing thing about Airbnb to me is the chance to stay in a truly unique home, however I think they’re making it unnecessarily hard to find such a home.

Under “More Filters” there’s an option to filter specifically for many types of unique homes, but for my purpose I wish there was an option to “Select All” or just toggle a preference for “Unique Homes”.

Why:

  • Chances are that if I’d be interested in staying in a cave, I’d also be the type of person interested in staying in a treehouse or a castle.

  • If I look for just cave homes, it’s not likely to return any result in most places

  • I have no idea what types of unique homes I can expect to find in a location

  • It’s a pain to check off every single box to set my filter to find something interesting

Airbnb unique homes filter

Other approaches:

  • Set a high level preference in my Settings by selecting a travel persona or areas that are important to me, like Safety, Good Wi-Fi, Near Public Transport, Good for Work, Good for Families etc.

  • Ask me if I want to save it as a preference if I check the same box many searches in a row.

  • Add “For Adventurers” to the Trip Type list.

This way you don’t have to check off a million boxes every time you do a search.

 
Airbnb trip type.png
 

A sense of community, even amongst strangers in New York City

Cathrine Gunasekara

A friend of mine shared this article with me: https://www.theepochtimes.com/aint-no-party-like-this-tea-party_2697495.html

Every Thursday, Liz Gannon-Graydon is hosting a tea party in Bryant Park with proper china tea cups, table cloth and home baked goods. And anyone are welcome to join!

I haven’t joined her tea party myself, but I think this is such a beautiful initiative. When you walk around in a big city, you’re in close contact with thousands of other people on the street and subway, but there’s no actual connection. I love that she is creating an opportunity to hit the pause button and take a moment to sit down and actually connect with the people around you, hear their stories and enjoy a beautiful moment together. Urban mindfulness in practice.

It doesn’t take a lot to make a positive difference in people’s lives, yet, so few of us even try. So 🙌to her and those who sit down to join her.

That’s your job. You’re here to create beloved community.