Trendy CitizenM Hotel Surprises with iPad Automation, But Makes One Mistake

Hotel rooms feature elegant iPad-enabled automation with Philips Hue lighting, AV and temperature control, and motorized shades. But what was the fatal flaw?

Julie Jacobson
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I stayed for the first time at a CitizenM hotel, the ultra-cool place to stay these days if you’re traveling on the cheap, and on your own (trust me, you really don’t want to share an M room). Besides the contemporary design and modern vibe, the hotel gives you an elegant little home automation system.

I don’t know exactly what it is (no response from the folks at M), but a 2008 article suggests it comes from Beckhoff, a Netherlands-based provider of building automation systems. Makes sense. CitizenM started in Amsterdam, which is where I stayed for one night at the Schipol airport, with my husband, which is a bad idea if one of the roommates ever plans to relieve themselves.

On the night stand is an iPad Mini displaying a personalized welcome message urging guests to “swipe to enter.” I swiped. It provided options for ‘Media,’ ‘Room Controls’ and ‘Explore.’

I tried ‘Media’ and selected BBC. Lo and behold, the TV turned on and took me directly to the Beeb. I turned to my husband (also in the industry) and exclaimed, “Look, honey. You just press the channel and the TV takes you right there!”

Of course, being in this industry for 22 years, I knew you could do this with home automation. It’s just that I haven’t had a control system for at least a decade. And boy, was I excited to finally get one.

Moving on to ‘Room Controls,’ I clicked on ‘Movie’ and watched the lights dim and the motorized shades drop down. ‘Romance’ gave us some sexy red-light-district-worthy lighting (so my husband says he’s read about), thanks to integrated RGB Philips Hue bulbs.

The sexy factor was somewhat tempered by the fact that the red lights illuminated the toilet and shower pods.

The ‘Room Controls’ tab is also where you find the alarm. If you travel, you know how difficult it is to set a freaking alarm with those stupid hotel clocks. The CitizenM version lets you set a wake-up time with the ease of setting the clock on your own iPad.

Options for waking up ‘gently,’ ‘gradually,’ ‘wildly’ and ‘loudly’ let you blast the lights and sound, or tiptoe into wakeup.

You can ‘Explore’ Facebook, YouTube, Foursquare and Twitter from the tablet. You can also integrate your own iOS devices into the in-room ecosystem via AirPlay. The tablet tells you how. It’s a slick little system.

Only problem is that you don’t know it’s even there, let alone who makes it and where you can get one. As it happens, my husband and I were staying at CitizenM at the tail end of ISE 2015, along with an industry techy for whom “industry techy” is an understatement.

Well, this techy never even realized there was a home automation system in the room. In fact, he said that night, “I can’t figure out how to close the shades.”

Check out the photos of this hidden automation system.

When I explained the iPad-enabled system, he was mortified that he hadn’t figured it out himself. But CitizenM never tells you it’s there, and there’s really nothing on the iPad screen that suggests it does more than welcome you to the hotel. What a shame.

The bigger shame is this. What are travelers to do if they stay in the hotel and decide they want an automation system just like that? Heck, it worked for me. Indeed, I am finally inspired to get all my tech stuff working… and working together. Then again, I know exactly how to get it.

For everyone else, there’s no signage and no information anywhere about the system. You know how hotels tell you how to buy their fluffy pillows and plush robes? And they tell you the specs of their million-thread-count sheets?

Nada on the home automation at CitizenM.

And here we have a captive audience of business travelers who could have been your next smart home customer.