Hi-Tech Hospitality

In line with the increasing demands for comfort and convenience in residential developments, hotel rooms and offices, technology is bridging the gap between the ordinary and the extraordinary. It is imperative that interior designers and architects are future proofing their designs right from the drawing board all the way to completion.

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By  Charlotte Butterfield Published  July 7, 2006

|~|Hi-Tech-body1.gif|~||~|In line with the increasing demands for comfort and convenience in residential developments, hotel rooms and offices, technology is bridging the gap between the ordinary and the extraordinary. It is imperative that interior designers and architects are future proofing their designs right from the drawing board all the way to completion.

According to Kazim Khan, managing director of UK-based Electrical Solutions, which distributes Merten intelligent solutions: “The greater the flexibility with which building technology can react to new demands and be adapted to technical innovations, the greater its value for money. It is becoming ever clearer that building management must also incorporate intelligent solutions for energy efficiency.”

Flexibility and cost productivity are particularly important when it comes to commercial buildings and as new builds are much more easily adapted to the needs of the user, envisaging the future of technology-led design is vital to save money and avoid needless restructuring later on. Simple additions can drastically lower electricity costs such as installing presence-detecting lighting, like the Argus Presence Detector by Merton and sensor-operated escalators etc.

“The latest advances in the hi-tech hospitality sector are all about bringing the guest experience to a new level. This means not only making the guest more comfortable, but impressing him or her with amenities not found at home,” says Rick Quirino, president & chief operating officer, Inncom, creators of the Guestroom Digital Assistant — a guestroom touchscreen control console.

||**|||~|Hi-Tech-Body2.gif|~||~|Bedside panels that control the lights; alter the air conditioning and ventilation; draw the curtains; lower the blinds; order room service; arrange wake–up functions and offer vast amounts of multi-media entertainment are ideal for hotels or high-end residential developments. These functions can all be monitored through remote control, PDA, touchscreen or PC. The most recent achievement by Dubai-based Bond Communications was the implementation of a comprehensive touch panel system at Emirates Palace Hotel, Abu Dhabi.

This is a recurring trend that hi-tech companies are citing as the future of commercial and residential spaces.
Lee Harrison from Ultrasound, the Middle Eastern distributors of I-Con, a network PC system which brings various technologies together via use of a simplified control system, such as an intuitive graphic display on a plasma screen or wall mounted touch panel, says: “Convergence is a buzz word that we often hear, the combining of different media such as distributed DVD, music, satellite TV, with other areas not normally associated with entertainment such internet access, home automation, security systems and cameras.”

Sound and Audio
For interior designers, integrating sound and audio equipment into a commercial design can be a real challenge as unsightly speakers, wires and boxes spoil an otherwise elegant or minimalist design. Companies like Bose can custom design products to suit the room’s architecture and layout. It prides itself on supplying easy-to-use, high performance products that are virtually invisible.

Two years ago, the InterContinental Hotel in Sydney, underwent a $30 million renovation and its top floor changed from a machinery room into the InterContinental Club Lounge Bar. A key component of the changes was upgrading all the audio visual equipment. As the InterContinental was a heritage-listed building built in 1851, it was obvious any technical apparatus had to be as discreet as possible, blending in with overall décor and design, but at the same time delivering on performance. Bose Sound Solutions from the Professional Systems Division was selected for the Club Lounge, due to its sound quality and elegant lines.

||**|||~|hi-tech-body3.gif|~||~|UK loudspeaker company, Artcoustic, has also recognised the aesthetic challenges faced by designers when installing audio equipment into stylish interiors, which led it to create a combination of a unique mix of art and design with the science of acoustic. Its unique wall mounting speaker system features interchangeable screens that allow you to choose from a vast array of fabrics and decorative prints to suit the interior.

The panels can also be digitally printed with any image or artwork possible (one can choose from a growing collection of commissioned artwork or supply one’s own images). The aesthetic design and ability to choose decorative prints or colour schemes for the front of the speakers enables the client to become a part of the design process. Kim Donvig, chief designer and founder says: “It is about integrating and matching the surroundings, the goal was to combine aesthetics and sound quality without sacrificing one to the other. We want to compliment, not conflict with the room’s aesthetics.”

“It’s no longer just about features, performance and cost. Consumers want products that not only blend in with, but compliment, interior designs,” commented Stephane Rejasse, managing director – Middle East, Fujitsu Siemens Computers.

“Consumers are becoming much more aware of the concept of marrying form with function,” agrees Shane Greeves, executive creative director of Futurebrand, a global brand strategy and design consultancy. “This principle is shaping the designs of the next generation of products, from the high-end to the entry-level. Technology advances will enable more compact form factors, while materials and colours will change more frequently to mirror external influences – from the fashion world, for example.”

Georg Trost, principal consultant industrial design and corporate design for Fujitsu Siemens Computers, said: “There are two emerging design directions. One is an extravagant approach, which aims to create a ‘wow’ factor, and the other is a more subtle approach in which products blend seamlessly into existing interior designs. We are focused on the latter approach, but not at the expense of excitement.”

||**|||~|Hi-Tech-body-5.gif|~||~|The research that Fujitsu Siemens has completed shows that 59% of the consumers interviewed want one simple, easy-to-use, remote control that will work across all their existing devices. It predicts that more expensive and lustrous-looking materials and finishes will be used but with less visible complexity —user interfaces will be streamlined and simplified. Apparently black is the new black, as we will witness an end to the metallic domination of the market and a return to the glossy and matte black finishes of the 1980’s.

Trailing cables need not interfere with the décor either, as there are a wide range of wireless options now available in the commercial market. Bang and Olufsen’s Beolink Wireless system distributes sound and picture specifically to those areas where it is required, without filling up the whole hotel with audio and video equipment. Every room has individual control of the main source, which means there can be quiet background music in one room at the same time it is played louder in other rooms.

Archimedia plans the audio, video and automation system to work alongside interior designers, architects and consultants to ensure a fully integrated and functional space. The wi fi functionality of the attractive Nevo SL programmable remote control from Archimedia allows control of the entire home entertainment system. For a more robust home automation system, Crestron touch panels offer a totally integrated control system.

Lighting, climate control, multi room audio and video, security and even the curtains can all be automated and networked. Its brands include some of the high end audio and video world’s best award-winning names: Bowers and Wilkins, Classe, Rotel, Theta Digital, Sim2, Kaleidescape, Sonos, Nevo, Xperinet and Straight wire.

Amir Anwar, managing partner, Dubai Audio Centre explains that these integrated systems are here to stay: “Never before has our culture been so exposed to so much technology to entertain, inform and instruct. The growing band of audio servers currently being used for multi room applications will soon be joined a/v servers that will enable distribution of sound and vision to any room from a centrally located system. These are available now but currently priced beyond reach for most commercial applications. Nevertheless, this is fast changing with a host of new products coming out that will help address this market opportunity.”

||**|||~|Hi-Tech-body-4.gif|~||~|In a similar vein, hi-tech products that had once priced themselves out of the contract market are becoming more accessible and affordable. LG asserts that more hotels are replacing old CRT sets with flat panel technology and plasma screens. Abdul Jabbar Al Sayegh, Chairman of Al Sayegh Brothers Trading, exclusive distributors in the UAE of LG digital display products, said: “LCD TV and plasma TV have traditionally competed in different screen size and price segments, but falling prices have brought the products closer together.” LG’s digital flat panel TVs are available in 37-inch, 42-inch and 47-inch LCD models, and 42-inch and 50-inch PDP versions and are becoming the standard choice for hotel rooms.

Technology has hit the bathroom as well with the advent of fog-free mirrors; embedded LCD screens in mirrors; automatic frosting glass and taps and toilets fitted with automated sensors. Geberit’s automatic taps are designed for public or semipublic washrooms, where the efficient use of water and anti-vandal products are essential.

The range consists of intelligent electronic infra-red taps, which provide touch-free operation with fast reaction times. Examples of these technological taps can be witnessed in the public washrooms of the Mall of the Emirates. Geberit has also launched the Balena shower toilet, designed by product designer Uli Witzig, which encompasses an extendable shower arm, non-contact warm air drying and automatic air purification.

Technology-led design is on the path of continuous enhancement to try and keep up with the growing expectations and demands of clients and consumers and it is reassuring to note that manufacturers are acknowledging the importance of aesthetics in these new advances, which is good news for interior designers. ||**||

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