Integrating Technology Into Hospitality Furniture
As a fourth-generation family-owned company of furniture makers, we have watched furniture evolve in the hospitality market throughout the years. Over the past decade, we have noticed that the hospitality industry has been shifting its design process to prioritize and integrate technology into the guest experience. Specifically, we have noticed the demand for products that have integrated technology—automated wardrobes, LED lighting, USBs and charging ports, as well as bluetooth speakers. The most important and expected amenity in a hotel or restaurant is convenience, and for this generation of travelers, that translates into an experience that supports their high-tech lifestyle.
As designers, developers, hoteliers and restaurateurs conceptualize a new-build or renovation, the biggest consideration is always the return on investment (ROI). With profitability as the investment goal, it becomes the challenge of purchasing and procurement, as well as, design to optimize efforts on behalf of ownership. Furniture and technology are key components to the outcome and appeal of these efforts. How can hospitality stakeholders create an exceptional experience for guests today that will still be relevant 5-10 years from now? What types of furniture and technology can be specified that won’t go out of date with last season’s iPhone?
In this competitive market, owners and purchasing firms rely on the designer to specify product that will create a compelling environment for their clientele. The “wow” factor, as well as the visual and interactive impact of the initial guest experience is critical. However, design intent and engineering of product must go hand-in-hand to achieve long-term functionality and durability.
For ownership that is interested in integrating technology into their building’s furniture, fo your research! Knowledge is critical in design specification—it is essential for designers to survey and understand the specific demands for technology in a hotel or restaurant. Meetings with management, such as CTOs and VPs of IT can shed light on the types of integrated technology that can be easily maintained and updated without costly replacement of furniture. USB ports have sustained relevance for years and is a simple added convenience that can be integrated into tables, chairs, headboards and lighting fixtures. Build in the trendier wireless charging into smaller, more affordable items to replace—such as side tables, desks, or portable lamps.
It is also important to confer with the building’s tech team to see what types of wiring is required. Look for custom built furniture solutions that cleverly hide any necessary (and often unattractive) cables that must run through guestrooms or restaurant spaces.
With these grand design schemes comes a deeper understanding of installation. Installation of furniture can be something as simple as a few wall cleats, to the now common, involved process of assembling furniture onsite to become full wall structures. When these pieces utilize LED lighting in their design, that light is often spread throughout the piece of furniture not just localized to one area. This inevitably will involve connecting the lighting from one area or section to another on that same piece of furniture. This is where a “plug and play” type setup will be of great time saving to the installation crew. “Plug and play” is the ability to plug your components such as LED strip/tape lighting and your transformer together without the need to cut, splice and/or solder your components or wiring together. It’s this type of simplifying and streamlining that will produce both short term and long term benefits for the property and staff as a whole.
Further, when integrating LED into furniture it is imperative that these materials are UL rated for use specifically in furniture. There are many great LED materials, drivers, switches and related componentry that are UL rated but not necessarily for use in furniture. Using materials that are UL rated for signage, store fixtures or other non-furniture applications can result in rejections by local building or fire inspectors. All of which can result in field ratings by UL that may be required by inspectors which are both costly and time consuming which will in turn greatly impact a project.
Designers should work with manufacturers to come up with solutions that are considerate to tech maintenance, which can include pieces and systems that can be easily disassembled, or have visually discreet drawers/doors to access back-end wiring. Whether it be basic electrical maintenance, or working to get programming updates, it all should be manageable for the onsite IT staff.
Everyone, whether they are traveling for business or leisure, young or old, uses various types of technology, and expects their travel experience to cater to their lifestyle. It is the easiest way to attract not just a specific demographic, but an entire clientele. Working with manufacturers to customize furniture that offers the best tech solutions to hotel guests, is a worthwhile investment, with benefits that will be felt for years to come.
Lawrence Chalfin is president of Samuelson Furniture, a fourth-generation family-owned company of furniture makers based in Paterson, N.J. https://samuelsonfurniture.com/