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A switched-on hotel in Dubai

Vida Downtown’s technology allows you to check in, order room service from your smartphone — even if you’re poolside

Image Credit: Vida Downtown Dubai
Vida Downtown Dubai is the first hotel in the UAE to use InnSpire which allows the guests to make use of all the hotel's services through their smartphone or tablet
Tabloid on Saturday

From funky tables that turn into interactive touch screens to in-room tablets that double as hotel room keys and controls for lights and temperature, the era of Jetsons-esque travel is already here.

But let’s face it. Beyond a few nods of approval at the concierge, the novelty often quickly wears out. Or, if you aren’t really part of the gadget set, you probably have given up trying to figure out your room’s technological amenities.

One hotel in Dubai wants to change all that by giving you, the guest, the power to future-forward your hotel room right from your device — meaning your smartphone or tablet becomes the control board for all the stuff you need. You can order room service, book your laundry, buy gifts, speak to a concierge or pick up an e-newspaper, all from your device.

And all this without the need to ever download an app.

At Vida Downtown Dubai, it all begins at check-in, where a guest relations representative politely sits you down at the lobby, flashing an iPad (it’s only a coincidence that the V in Vida on their suit lapels looks like an inverted Star Trek logo). Once the ice is broken and after ascertaining that you’re comfortable, your check-in begins right there, via the iPad. No more standing at the desk.

A fully integrated app takes in all the info including scanning your ID and your signature. Once that’s done, you are assigned your room number, you hook up to the hotel’s Wi-Fi and enter the number into a pop-up screen on your device — Android or iOS — and voila! you’re in future zone.

In your room, the entire system is replicated on the TV screen, which comes with a Wii-style “air mouse” remote complete with a QWERTY keyboard that anyone who can switch on a television set can operate. You can play games, order food, read a newspaper (there’s very little paper used), check local attractions and even stream movies and music from your device.

The keyboard comes in handy when you’re typing out instructions to room service (make my chicken curry extra spicy, please) or bashing out an e-mail or showing off to your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

The beauty of it all is that this whole eco-system is with you everywhere, as long as you’re in the vicinity of the hotel. So you could be at the pool, or at the bar, and all the facilities that your room provides are right there with you, on your device.

Vida Downtown Dubai is the first hotel in the UAE to use this system, called InnSpire.

The software company’s CEO, Martin Chevalley, says the idea was to make it simple and safe so that anybody who’s used a smartphone can use it.

“We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. We just wanted to plug into [existing technology] and enhance it,” he says.

“The whole mindset is that people like their devices a lot. We are always on our phones or tablets now and we do almost everything through it. So why not give them that power, and the assurance that it’s safe?

“And we didn’t want to stay just around the TV. We wanted to make sure it was pervasive all through hotel.”

The software, which has been ten years in the making, is built on “the same platform that’s in your latest Galaxy S4 or similar smartphone”, says Chevalley.

The system, he says, can help hotels to sell more, entertain better and optimise their resources.

“[It] brings the hotel’s assets to life, it is eco-friendly as it is server-free — there’s literally one computer on the site — and provides the ability for the property to reduce costs,” he says.

The plan now is to expand the possibilities with InnSpire, says Chevalley. “We could look at adding pre-arrival experiences, such as the possibility of checking in on your way to the hotel, all the way to in-room controls including cooling and lighting. But that will depend on many other parameters and involvement with the property.”

Rates from Dh750 per room per night; visit