By Apryl Lamberti – Almo Professional A/V

Technology Driven

Hoteliers are constantly challenged to keep up with the rapid pace of technology advancements and with the majority of U.S. hotels still running on coax infrastructures, most properties are still playing catch-up with the replacements of first generation flat panels to LED technology with limited or no IP-connectivity for over-the-top content for access to guest-provided media/sources.
Some might ask, “Why is having the latest technology so important in places where people are so transient?  Perception is everything and in a business where moments of interactions or scattered impressions can influence loyalty rates or return bookings (a key factor that hotel management is incentivized on by the way) the lasting imprint technology makes on hotel guests is more important than you might think.

What hoteliers are really in competition with is the technology that consumers are using day-in and day-out.  Since consumer electronics influence commercial solutions (both in professional A/V and hospitality), it is understandable that hoteliers may always be a few steps behind the latest and greatest consumer gizmo or gadget (and that’s ok) but the reality is that travelers simply expect technology in hotel properties to have a similar look & feel they’ve come to anticipate based on consumer-tech incorporated into their livesConsider touch screens, automated check-in kiosks or your favorite travel app and this concept comes to life.

Samsung, the leading brand in consumer electronics and professional display solutions has incorporated some of the top features of its award-winning consumer televisions into its commercial line of in-room hospitality solutions making it the most expansive lineup in the market with options ranging from 22-inch to 75-inch options and compatibility with nearly every content provider.

Technologies include: Embedded pro:idiom and non-pro:idiom Digital Rights Management technology (DRM), b-LAN, Smart, UHD (4K resolution) varieties.  In addition, Samsung’s 694 Series introduced last year can be deployed to achieve over-the-top (internet accessible (“think smart”)) content via coax vs. IP-protocols typically required; this can be especially useful for historic or luxury properties where new wiring infrastructure is practically out of the question or may be cost prohibitive however the hotelier still wants to deliver a premium in-room entertainment experience for their guests.

Control Content on Hundreds of Digital TVs at Once

Eliminate room-by-room visits to each guest room by using a single-location remote solution. The REACH Server delivers updated firmware and other settings to TVs through RF signals. Updates are simple and simultaneous, so there’s no need to go from room to room to update each display with USB cloning.  This way, your staff has more time to focus on other ways of improving the guest experience.

Samsung’s REACH Content Management Solution is another example of behind the scenes product with an interface that instantly modernizes the look and feel of in-room entertainment and the function of how guests engage with their TV, the centralized “hub” of the guestroom.  Using REACH, a property can customize the guest experience and welcome guests by name, share useful information like weather or essential news updates and even promote revenue generating amenities such as happy hour in the hotel lounge, weekend SPA services or local tours or nearby attractions creating entertainment opportunities for guests with added revenue-sharing opportunities for hoteliers; plus, including pictures of the hotels’ artwork, logos, images or other content is a cinch- no more generic content!  This is just scratching the surface when it comes to REACH- other components include centralized control for channel mapping configurations and labor savings for programming features like volume limiting and other energy savings options.

Add a Residential TV Experience

Bring a residential TV navigation experience to the guest rooms with the Interactive Program Guide (IPG). IPG data is provided through the subscription service by your content provider or system integrator.  The REACH device can then pull the necessary metadata from multiple sources in multiple formats. Guests can enjoy picture in picture viewing, detailed program information and a convenient channel grid.

Deliver Information to In-Room Guests Rapidly

Deliver information automatically with a headline-style scrolling ticker. The LYNK REACH ticker feature provides a crawl of data that’s of special interest to guests, such as local weather or event information. In addition, property managers can create and update targeted promotional content or marketing messages, while displaying an interface that seamlessly matches your property’s brand.

Optimize Total Cost of Ownership

This integrated solution uses existing infrastructure assets, lower labor and operating costs and eliminates the need for set-top boxes and other components.  For those establishments that have RF infrastructure currently in place, LYNK REACH is an ideal way to provide TV content more efficiently.

TeleAdapt’s Roomcast solution is an innovative technology powered by Google Chromecast that enables guests to stream their own content right from their mobile device (Pandora, Netflix, ESPN, etc.) directly to the guest room TV without having to download an app, enter a password or email address which eliminates any concerns for jeopardizing a guests’ private information or personal area network.  RoomCast is better than screen mirroring; it even allows guests to use their applications (like checking emails for example) at the same time as casting content from whatever the source (Netflix, etc.).  It’s no wonder live casting has already been named one of the hottest tech trends anticipated to change the hospitality industry over the next 10 years!

Strategic Partnerships

Hoteliers realize that they can get more screen size for their money these days, what most ownership groups are starting to realize is that television sets are not nearly as simple as they used to be and they need partnerships with resources to help get the job done right the first time.

Commercial (hospitality) televisions are no longer plug-and-play like their consumer cousins yet we often see that the decision makers like ownership groups and purchasing departments have had little to no regard to implementation and often assumed that TVs could simply be just another line item delegated to the on-site engineering team. However, the reality is that hospitality TV installations can be quite complex and involve integration between the end-device technology (television) and the content providers’ equipment (cable or satellite company) at minimum; they can also involve integration with the hotels’ POS system (point-of-sale) if a property is utilizing the television as an interface for guests to order room service, provide easy check-out or in-room entertainment (pay-per-view) or other services; finally, there are projects where content management solutions like REACH are deployed, and all of this requires programming, certification on a variety of manufacturer’s solutions, detailed project management and extensive experience.

In this case, the hotelier has more leverage when they bundle the purchase of television sets along with installation services, plus bundling stops finger-pointing between multiple trades or staff and vendors.

Although new construction projects can sometimes provide slightly more flexibility, typically by the time televisions are delivered, service providers are working against the clock of an opening date- this is when experience makes all the difference and management groups realize that hiring temporary workers or using the general contractor can mean that TVs get installed but they may be left scrambling with days to the finish line to locate a specialized service provider who can save the day (at premium expense) rather than planning ahead with a reseller partner who has capabilities for specialized hospitality installation services and can handle everything 100%.

Renovations are another area where the expertise of an installation partner can help minimize added stress to on-site management and engineering teams with little to no disruption to hotel guests.  In these cases, not only is new installation being managed, but the old product that’s being replaced/removed must also be coordinated and a good partner will often provide a complimentary service of recycling and liquidation search.  Storage can be another issue, many properties literally have every square foot of the hotel booked for meetings and events and there is no storage space available to hold units until they can be picked up from a liquidation company; all of this must be considered and planned for.  Surprisingly, specialized hospitality installation services are more cost effective than most think, but the benefits- peace-of-mind, proven track record in hospitality, no finger-pointing between trades, an engineering staff who can focus on the operations of the hotel and what they do best, finishing on-time and on a fixed-budget without the risk of lost revenues to rooms that can’t be sold- priceless.

Connected Togetherness.

Millennials are driving the evolution of the hospitality market. And what do they want most?  Connectivity! But we’re not just talking about internet service in the guest room- that’s a given.  They also want to stay connected in spaces throughout a property alongside other guests and hoteliers are taking notice and designers are already a few years into designing-to-suit this trend.  Think of airport lounges- multiple seating groups, no one making eye contact, just a cool environment and the buzz of social togetherness…

What does this mean for integrators?

You can count on more technology like larger size screens in common spaces- that’s for sure.  I recently visited a Renaissance property in Austin that had a 60” screen in the lobby with a gaming system setup for this exact purpose if you can believe it.  This could also be a great environment for a solution like Listen Wi-Fia streaming audio solution which enables hotel guests to listen any of a property’s TVs using their own iPhone or Android device.

Photo Credit: Almo Professional A/V

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