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Hotel Travel at Your Fingertips - Blogs.wsj.com
The Fingi app in action at Aloft Sukhumvit 11 in Bangkok.

At the new 296-room Aloft Sukhumvit 11 hotel in Bangkok, some guests aren’t getting room keys. Instead, specialized smart phones open doors, change TV channels, access room service and adjust air conditioning.

Given to guests staying in the hotel’s 50 “Touch” rooms, the smart phones use an app called Fingi, from a New York-based start-up of the same name that’s at the forefront of bringing mobile technology to the hotel industry.

“I saw that there was a change in the hotel room, from the TV being the center point of technology,” said Fingi chief executive Eran Sherin, who founded the company last year. “Now, everyone has their mobile phones.”

With hotel-supplied phones, Fingi, whose name is a play on the idea of having everything at your fingertips, aims to solve one of the biggest problems in international travel: connectivity.

In addition to opening the curtains, the Fingi app, loaded onto a Samsung Galaxy device for Aloft, provides guests with a local telephone number and low-cost international calling (about 30 cents per minute to the U.S. or Europe, charged directly to the room account). It also acts as a mobile hotspot, which alone could be worth the $15 per night surcharge.

Google Maps, airport schedules and a 24-hour hotline to the front desk also make navigating a new city easier. Fingi plans to have the app downloadable onto personal devices soon — so travelers could potentially customize their hotel rooms from the airport, all over the world.

Aloft is Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc.’s newest and fastest-growing brand, aimed at the young, the urban and the tech-savvy — the perfect demographic for Fingi. Since the Bangkok property’s soft opening in December, guests have predominantly come from the U.S., Singapore, Japan, Australia and Hong Kong.

Formal bookings for Aloft’s Touch rooms started on Feb. 8, and so far, the response has been positive, said Aloft Sukhumvit 11 general manager Brendan Daly. During early tests, which began in December, guests rated their Touch-room devices 9.33 (out of 10) on usability, 9.17 on excitement, 9.5 as a phone and 9 on reasonableness of price, according to Fingi survey data.

This is Fingi’s first partnership with a hotel, and there have been no announcements for future installs. However, the company has met with Starwood in New York and is discussing additional deals, according to Mark Nemeth, Fingi’s vice president of product innovation.

Usability has been a strong selling point. “Any user of a product doesn’t want an interface, they just want to go ‘voila’ and have something work,” said Mr. Nemeth.

“At first, I thought the idea was almost odd,” he added. “But it’s one of those things when you start to sit on it a little bit, you think, not only is it not odd, but why aren’t a million players doing it?”

Source: http://on.wsj.com/zpSOOv

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