The New, New Thing

The Holiday Inn Wall Street, which bills itself as “the most technologically sophisticated hotel in New York,” took a step in February that is likely to secure that moniker. The hotel has become a test site for Bluetooth, a wireless standard that allows communication among cellphones, PDAs, and notebook computers over short distances.

Here's the idea: Let's say you're one of the very few (at this point) people with a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone. When you book a room at the Holiday Inn Wall Street, the reservation agent takes down your mobile phone number and you create a four-digit PIN. On the day of check-in, Bluetooth radio transmitters in the hotel lobby send out signals “looking for” your phone. When you arrive, your phone picks up the signals, displaying a welcoming message that tells you your room number and the room rate. If all is well, you click on “yes,” type in your PIN, and head to the elevator.

Don't worry; you didn't forget your room key. That's the next Bluetooth moment. The lock on your guest room door is also sending out Bluetooth signals looking for your phone. When you get within about 10 feet of your room, your phone prompts you to enter your PIN. After you do, the door unlocks.

The service debuted on one floor of the 138-room property for the Internet World Wireless trade show in February. The hotel supplied Bluetooth-enabled Ericsson cellphones to willing customers. While that was just a nine-room test case, the service is still in place and will be ready when “a year or so from now, Bluetooth begins to take off,” says Frank Nicholas, area director for the Silicon Alley property.