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Premier Inn begins rolling out app-controlled 'smart' rooms

The high-concept "hub by Premier Inn" hotel room comes with under-bed luggage storage, an en suite bathroom, free Wi-Fi, and a smartphone app to control it all.

The UK's largest hotel group, Whitbread PLC, has announced the launch of the country's first hotel rooms that allow guests to control their experience via a mobile phone.

Book a room and check in online, then pre-select the room temperature and light settings before arriving. Customers can even choose which TV or radio channel they want playing in the hotel room upon entrance. Can't find anything good on TV? Stream content from your phone or tablet directly to the room's television set.

"Premier Inn has played a leading role in shaping the budget hotel market and we believe 'hub' will do the same for a new generation of compact city centre hotels," Whitbread Hotels and Restaurants Managing Director Patrick Dempsey said in a statement.

The company has secured five sites — about 1,000 rooms — to open in the next three years, and is aiming to have about 40 "hub" hotels — 6,000 rooms — opened, or at least in the pipeline, by 2018. The first is slated to open on St. Martin's Lane in London next summer.

To test the "hub" hotel room, Whitbread installed five prototype rooms at the Premier Inn at King's Cross in June 2012, and has since received feedback from 1,825 guests about everything from having two showerheads (apparently to help avoid contact between water and hair) to high absorbency, fast-drying micro fibre towels.

The result: seven iterations of the "hub" experience that will fit all customer needs.

"'Hub' by Premier Inn' will reinforce the achievement of our 75,000 UK rooms milestone by 2018 and provide us with another exciting new growth platform," Whitbread CEO Andy Harrison said in a statement. "With substantial operating and commercial synergies from the Premier Inn network, we are confident that 'hub' will deliver good returns for our shareholders."

Following the first 167 beds opening next year, Whitbread is set to build "hub" hotels on Goodge Street, Great Tower Street, and Spitalfields in early 2015, as well as full accommodations at King's Cross in early 2016.

Each room fits a bed, bathroom, and work space, as well as a 40in TV and some nifty artwork into a space measuring only 123 square feet.