Voice Commands Controlling Many Perks, Smartphone Keys Unlocking Doors May Become The Norm Someday

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Some rooms in major hotel chains are getting digital makeovers.

But while it may look and sound exciting, guests may need to pay more attention to protecting their personal information, CBS2 travel editor Peter Greenberg reported Monday.

For decades, hotels have worked hard to offer travelers a home away from home. But aside from now-standard perks like cable television, in-room Jacuzzis and minibars, few things have changed … until now.

At Marriott headquarters in Bethesda Maryland, researchers are working to replace traditional hotel rooms with “smart rooms.” With a few voice commands — for blinds, lights, and TV — the room springs to life.

“What we’ve collected, we start to understand the preferences,” Adam Malamut said.

Malamut is in charge of customer experience.

Hotel chains Marriott and Hilton are experimenting with “smart rooms,” rooms controlled by voice commands and having cutting edge technology. (Photo: CBS2)

Greenberg: “Now, everything in this room is essentially wired. Then if you wanted to raise and lower the shades?”

Malamut: “If I like an icebox of a room to go to sleep and I’m not in the room the room knows through its sensors that there’s no one in here.”

Guests can go onto their personal profiles and add workout schedules, request weather updates and even upload personal photos to have on display before they walk in the door.

All that data, including your location and those voice commands, can be saved for future use.

“When you have these smart hotels they have a token on your phone where they know where you go, they know what type of coffee you order, they know what you order in the restaurant,” cyber security expert Eric Cole said.

Cole is a former security adviser to President Barack Obama.

“The idea is now it can improve customer service. The problem is … huge violation of personal privacy,” Cole said.

Like Marriott, Hilton is also in on a technical revolution. Both chains now offer perks like electronic keys, so guests can open hotel room doors using their smartphones.

But it’s a convenience, Cole says, that needs to be used with caution. He says the Bluetooth signal sent from your smartphone might be unencrypted and could be hacked from up to 15 feet away.

“Somebody could go in and intercept your key. They could also track your locations and if somebody can steal that digital signature they can run up charges that you would have to pay for,” Cole said.

The option of using a regular room key remains available, as does opting out of any of the smart room features. Both Hilton and Marriott say they have security measures in place to protect personal information, adding that the safety of their guests remains their top priority.