Hotel oddity #11

What could be the purpose of a motion-detector inside a hotel room? Is this a new trend?

This one, in our room at the new Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona, blinked madly whenever we moved. It was a little creepy. I looked around for a hidden video camera.

When I asked reception staff, they explained that the motion sensor allowed them to determine occupancy in case of an emergency. This didn’t make sense to me; an occupant could be incapacitated, overcome by smoke in a fire, for example, or knocked unconscious in an earthquake.

I wrote the hotel, and its Director of Engineering & Loss Prevention replied promptly:

The motion sensor is part of the Inncom-Clipsal guestroom comfort system.
When the guest leaves the guestroom after 20 minutes inactivity the system goes to lighting off and A/C to set point.
When the guest enter in the guestroom the motion sensor activates all lighting memory scenario and A/C to last selected temperature.

That makes sense. And it explains my earlier post, too. In fact, I received two interesting explanations simultaneously. The Mandarin Oriental’s, and a comment from Tom. Tom has a different theory, but added “you’d probably hear claims of being able to report occupancy to firefighters, emergency responders, etc.” Which is exactly what I first heard.

Until they become commonplace (if they do), it’s probably not a bad idea for hotels using these gizmos to post a little note in the room explaining the purpose of them, given the intrusive sense of spying the observant but uninformed guest might feel. On the other hand, the proliferation of notes and commandments in hotel rooms has been irritating me lately. “Watch your step,” “test water temperature,” “towels on the floor,” even pictures of items not to be flushed.

The Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona is a spiffy joint, I might add, in an excellent location.

© Copyright 2008-2010 Bambi Vincent. All rights reserved.

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  • I saw this at the Sandman Hotel in Winnipeg. It was very nice room for the price but motion sensors creeped me out to the point I draped a facecloth over it while I slept. I figured they were for security ie motion in a room not rented out. Makes sense now after reading your post.

  • Yikes, Timothy! Have you really found hidden cameras in hotel rooms? As the owner of many hidden cameras (for our thiefhunting), I can attest that they’d be almost impossible to detect. I hate to imagine finding one in a hotel room!

  • I’m glad it was discussed and I looked into it because as an ex cop the first thing I thought was hidden camera for two reasons. One it blends in so good, most people probably don’t even realize it, but knowing that cameras are found all the time it’s the first thing I do when we get into a room or place we stay at not our own. Second, this particular one was next to a fire sprinkler control box locked by a key that can be picked so easy. Such a great and easy place to set a camera system in. It is always safe to check the places you stay at for cameras now days. Maybe I’m a little paranoid, but I have seen these first hand and it is more common than people think. Look at the smoke detectors, sprinkle areas, tv’s, clocks, and anything else that looks a little weird. If found go to the front desk and don’t be afraid to talk to a supervisor. It only takes about five minutes to scan, and peace of mind is free.

  • I first saw this in hotel rooms more than 20 years ago. (1990 or 1991)

    The hotel was the Residence Inn next to Washington Dulles Airport(IAD).

    I had a two-bedroom suite. The motion sensor was located in a corner, appx 5 feet from the floor. If a room was not occupied, the A/C or heater will default to its lowest setting to save power.(60-degrees in winter and 80-degrees in summer) Apparently a lot of guests(myself included) were just as paranoid about having in-room motion detectors and decided to cover up the detector. Guess what, housekeeping get a lot of calls about heater or AC not working. The hotel manager told me that in 100% of the cases, the AC / heater starts working immediately after housekeeping sent some one to remove the paper/plastic/etc that covered the motion detector.

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