Premier Inn has expanded its hotel offerings with a new super high-tech hotel called Hub by Premier Inn, the first of which is based in London's Covent Garden.
The idea is to use app-based controls and new technology to make your stay more comfortable. From check-in to controlling room lighting and heating, the Hub app (for iPhone and Android) becomes your passport to the hotel.
We spent a night at Hub by Premier Inn to get a taste of the futuristic hotel experience.
App focused arrival
At check-in we're met with a bay of touchscreen machines where check-in is similar to an airport. A quick scan of the QR code from our smartphone and the booking is located, the machine dispensing a plastic room card with near field communication (NFC) for opening our allocated room door with just one touch.
We download the Hub app while visiting the free coffee bar in the lobby to top-up the caffeine levels. As the Wi-Fi in the hotel is free and unlocked, it only requires a simple login from a browser window - which is useful if you're visiting from overseas and don't want to rack up pricey roaming fees.
Smartphone room control comfort
Once in our room we dig into the Hub app, which can control more or less everything. While chilling out on the bed we adjust the lighting - from brightest, to less bright, to darker, in addition to reading light options. Even without the app available to hand there are futuristic touchscreen glass icons built into the wall for more traditional manual control.
Heating and air conditioning are also controlled from the app. An image of a thermometer can be filled or emptied with a swipe up and down on the screen, while fan power can be increased or decreased depending on how rapidly a temperature change is needed. No need for us to get out of bed freezing cold in the middle of the night to make adjustments.
For privacy the "Do not disturb" button is also right there within the app - a press lights up the sign outside the door without needing to wrestle with hanging signs on the door handle. We're liking this extended stay in bed.
Even the breakfast menu can be checked from the app (although it requires a PDF download rather than viewing within the app itself), with our pre-booked meal showing as a QR code in the app. A quick scan at the desk downstairs and it should have been breakfast for two - but this aspect wasn't working properly during our stay and apparently hadn't been for weeks. But we still got our breakfast so can't complain.
Augmented reality mapping
On the wall of each room is a map of London, which can be used for one of the coolest Hub features: intelligent augmented reality integration, known as Explore. After opening the camera from within the Hub app overlaid area bubbles appear on the map on our handset's screen, which provide more detail when tapped.
Each Explore area has a selection of things to do like restaurants and bars with reviews from publications as well as others who have commented during their stay. No need to chat to the bellhop or trawl the web for details with an area-focused guide like this.
Smart TV control
On the adjacent wall is a super-slim Samsung smart TV, the source of plenty of free entertainment. The app even has a TV guide so after scrolling through the channels ahead of our London night out, we settle on some light entertainment. It's a better experience than we have at home, but if you don't have a smart device then there's a standard remote control also available.
If TV or radio stations aren't your thing then there are movies and gaming too. We gave Angry Birds a go and loved it on the big screen – ideal for keeping the little ones busy while you get ready. The movies, which are also free, loaded quickly but we couldn't skip ahead without the selection timing out. Not ideal.
Apps on the TV have plenty of potential – like the BBC News or Guardian app for a quick read, or the TFL app for planning a public transport journey around town – but none of them loaded during our stay despite a few attempts to get them running. Here's hoping an update will get this fixed, or our experience was a glitch.
But one or two glitches aren't enough to stop Hub by Premier Inn from impressing. A compact and comfy stay, with complimentary coffee, Wi-Fi, cool controls in both app and physical form, and it's a tech-assisted night's sleep like few others. We hope to see more popping-up around the globe soon.