At the Mandarin and other high-end hotels, new computer systems that connect individual rooms to network servers can now keep track of guests' preferences and change the room conditions automatically.

These "smart" systems can learn whether a frequent guest likes the lights dimmed, the curtains closed or the room toasty warm. They can also personalize the electronics in the room so that John Coltrane, for instance, greets jazz buffs when they enter their rooms. And sensors in refrigerators alert maids when the minibar is running low on soda.

While much of the underlying technology is not new, it is still rare in private homes because the equipment is expensive, especially the controllers that connect all the devices. But by incorporating such technology into their guest rooms, luxury hotels are starting to provide a glimpse of what networked homes may look like over the next decade.

The backbones of these smart rooms are the data networks that hotels are installing to carry phone calls, video and Internet connections. The networks, for example, make it possible to offer Internet television services that store programs on servers and let guests watch shows on demand (a guest from Chicago could watch a Cubs game in London or Tokyo).

The networks also allow hotels to connect the lights, air-conditioners and other room devices to a central computer so they can be remotely monitored or controlled.

Get the full story at The New York Times