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In-room Entertainment: Technology Simplified!

As the hospitality industry continues to expand, technology-driven in-room entertainment is increasingly becoming an important part of guests’ experiences. From iPads to Smart Phones and Netbooks, visitors want their gizmos to be well-connected during the stay. Preeti Swaminathan finds out how hotels make the connectivity process easy for their customers

Friday, October 5, 2012, 17:15 Hrs  [IST]


In today’s technology-driven arena, most guests look for an all-integrated system providing easy access through portable devices like iPads, tablets and Android-based smart devices, among others, in their rooms. Even hotel companies are acknowledging the fact that today, tech-savvy guests have specific tastes. Cashing on this behavioural aspect of decision-making to choose a hotel, more and more hoteliers are offering state-of-the-art, in-room entertainment systems to their guests.

Hoteliers are also well aware that providing innovative and functional in-room technology and entertainment-driven amenities can help them invite more business, increase the reputation of their brand and boost revenue.

051012_cs_2.jpgWhat is In-Room Entertainment?
Hotel properties are striving hard to provide guests with the most intelligent technology, ensuring maximum satisfaction, not just in rooms and suites, but everywhere in the hotel. High-speed internet connection, hands-free phone, LED lighting, in-room entertainment to digitalisation in the bathrooms have defined a new era of in-room technology. Use of bullet-proof glass in suites, sound security surveillance systems and scanners for cars and humans at critical entry points, ensure complete security and safety.

The shift in technology has seen the emergence of connectivity panels built in furniture, controls appearing in bathrooms and an attempt to recreate a home theatre experience. However, with so many gadgets in the market that allow guests to get online or use their iPod instead of using the facilities provided for them by the hotel, what should be on offer for clients? Is the cost of providing them justifiable if they are not being used?

The answer may well be to enhance the mobile and online devices that are already being carried by an increasing number of guests. Some hotels now provide customers with the chance to use/connect their own iPod, laptop or online content to the devices available in hotels. Whether a guest decides to watch a film they have previously downloaded, or play their own music, their own content has now been enabled for them to use in-room.

Introduction of interactive High-Definition (HD) Plasma TV and multimedia hub has changed the definition of in-room entertainment. However, the two key elements are display and sound. A full-HD display of an appropriate size and a sound dock/Hi-Fi system, coupled with options to connect guests own media to the two devices are becoming a standard requirement in guest rooms.

Technologies offering convergence of the variety of media platforms is a fast-growing trend in the hospitality industry. Hospitality sector has witnessed a tremendous influx of internet-enabled, flat-panel display TVs for providing in-room entertainment and media systems.  

One among them is Sony’s Bravia LED TVs, which are equipped with applications like free access to Sony Entertainment Network, exclusive Video on Demand entertainment option for full length movies across different languages and genres, and many more. “The Indian market is increasingly becoming global and tech-savvy. The consumer is updated about the latest trends in the market and is receptive to newer technologies,” said Amitabh Reu, National Head, Business Solution Sales, Sony India.

Television systems in hotels need extremely clear and entirely new operating concepts, which transform the process of operating devices and applications into a captivating experience. TV programming, internet content, personal pictures, videos and apps have to be integrated with ease. Loewe, a German in-room entertainment solutions, which is distributed in India by New Delhi-based Navshiv Retail, offers a professional solution for in-room entertainment that is optimally tailored to the requirements of the hotel. Dr Naveen Rao, CEO, Navshiv Retail Pvt Ltd, said, “The Loewe service package includes everything from the planning of the tailor-made entertainment solution for the entire property to the delivery and installation of in-room entertainment systems in every hotel room to maintenance and repair services. A personal account manager who works for the manufacturer will always be at the disposal of the hotel management.”

Rao added, “Loewe is not a mass market product. It is known for its superior German technology and quality. It has smart TVs, Android TVs and even the sound box is unique with docking station, radio, CD player slots attached to it.”

Similarly, Quadriga offers a range of TV and mobile communication platforms that provide easy-to-use internet solutions, network management, consultancy and delivery services and multimedia content for guests. They also provide a range of products such as Sensiq, SmoovieTV, Genesis, Digital signage QValet, QMenu, Qdelegate and others. Sensiq is an interactive TV communication and entertainment platform that provides tools and applications, which give information about the hotel, including local facilities, spa, restaurants, bars, promotions etc.

Kallol Ghosh, Director-Hospitality Services, MSR IT Solution Pvt Ltd, said, “Sensiq’s unique interface is designed to attract guests, to encourage them to browse, and to provide the most appealing HD viewing experience. Sensiq has intuitive design with the use of sliding menus and content viewed through lists or grids. A single stylish remote control provides all the elements needed for both simple navigation and internet browsing. The user can also use the wireless keyboard provided by us to browse internet on TV conveniently. The solution supports up to 25 languages for maximum guest-friendliness.”

Smart TV is the upcoming way in the technology arena, enabling hotels to differentiate themselves with new internet-based amenities. With a mainstream shift in communication and guest entertainment methods, hotels have to elevate their options to accommodate the new era of large screen view for online games, live streaming, radio, social networking sites, etc.

051012_cs_3.jpgHotels like The Leela Palace New Delhi are equipped with mirror TVs, which are specially-engineered mirror glass with an LCD TV behind the mirrored surface, offering guests a unique and cutting-edge experience to access information and enjoy world-class entertainment. Tamir Kobrin, General Manager, The Leela Palace New Delhi, said, “The Leela Palace New Delhi has a comprehensive in-room entertainment system called DigiValet, which is operated using the iPod and the iPad. iPads in rooms, popularly called iRemotes, allow browsing of TV channels, prioritising favourites from a choice of over 200 movies on demand, music on demand and internet browsing on in-room television.”

Instead of controlling multiple devices like air-conditioners, television set, internet, in-room lighting, individually a hotel room should provide a user-friendly technology and gadget to its guests. Nilesh Patel, Regional IT Manager, Accor Hotels India, explained, “Self-service technology has the potential to revolutionise, allowing guests to check in/out, pay, and manage their stay from any web-enabled device including cell phone, PC, laptop, PDA, iPad. Most of the hotels, these days, provide docking station as hotel guests arrive with their own music and video selections stored on their laptop, MP3 Player, iPod or iPhone and they want to access them. Interactive television enabled with or compatible to feature digital HD/SD TV channels with additional infrastructural requirements like passive components, power requirements etc. Apart from a strong internet connection, TV channels with high definition, live streaming of channels of the guest choice through different media’s like Sling Box etc are gaining popularity.”

051012_cs_4.jpgInnovations in In-Room Technology
OneTouch is becoming the new mantra as customers look for an all-integrated system providing simple access. With a mainstream shift in communication and guest entertainment methods, even hotels have to elevate their options to accommodate the new era in the in-room entertainment category.

Digivalet by Paragon Business Solutions uses a convergence platform and interfaces with all three – the in-room + amenities, back end + services and the Hotel management services – and brings them on a common platform that offers a unified interface to the guests and hoteliers.

In its simplest version, Digivalet enables hotel guests to control all hotel services through an iPad dedicated to their room and personalised to them. .

Today guests wish to have GUI (Guest User Interface), which provides direct access to them to use, control, choose and collaborate any traditional or old school methods of technology in hotels. A technology like iPad is a perfect example of simple GUI, making guests feel more efficient and in-control of their surroundings and choices. Now, even iPads are equipped to work with customised applications.

Heena Srivastava, Director of Rooms, Courtyard By Marriott Pune City Centre, explained, “With more knowledge about technology, guests look for hassle-free connectivity as good as available at their home disposal. Smart TV definitely will be a way forward in the times to come.”

051012_cs_6.jpgWith the phenomenal growth in adoption of tablets and smartphones, mobile presence today is becoming as critical as the internet presence. While some of the systems utilised by the hotels are complicated IP TVs and non-standardised bedside devices, Blynk’s app runs on standard tablets and guests’ smartphones. Blynk is a tablet-based guest experience and marketing app for hotels. Their product offers guests the power of mobility, i.e. they can access the information, place orders/requests from anywhere through their devices, they do not need to be in their room and pick up the phone to order something. Blynk’s touch and mobile software products enable hotel business to revolutionise their customer experience and interaction. Their cutting-edge software and tablet technology is presented on intuitive and easy-to-use touch screen devices.

Sunny Goenka, Co-Founder, Blynk Systems Pvt Ltd, added, “Guests can now interact with the hotel in unique ways such as placing orders and service requests with a simple touch, and consume multimedia rich entertainment and informational content curated by the hotel, all from the same device. The key differentiator is that with Blynk, guests are 100 per cent connected with the hotel even when they are outside the hotel property. This is achieved by allowing access to our cloud servers through mobile networks. All guest requests made from within the hotel or from outside the hotel property, are logged and processed in our system seamlessly.”

The product is highly user-friendly and easy-to-use. Anybody who is conversant of using websites/email/social media sites and using smartphones can easily operate the product with absolute ease. Their app can run on tablets and iPads, iPhones, Android tablets, Android phones, Windows phones and other popular platforms. The app can be used by hotels to showcase hotel information, amenities, pictures and even videos. Blynk is also the recipient of ‘The Most Innovative Product’ award at TTF Ahmedabad and TTF’s 100th show at Mumbai.

Most of the hotels have now started deploying iPads/iPods in guest rooms to allow guests to control almost everything in the room from the device. Not only does it provide control for lighting, aircon etc., but also provides features like international newspapers, HD movies on demand, door video phone etc. Amandeep Sarna, Regional Director Information Technology, South Asia, Starwood Asia Pacific Hotels & Resorts Pte Ltd, revealed, “The biggest differentiator is the quality of personalisation available for our guests. We give our guests a completely unique and personalised experience at all our properties across the globe. For example, with help of the upcoming app the guest would be able to set his / her preferences such as their desired room temperature, their favourite TV channels etc. from their own smartphone and the same will be automatically set in the room before they check-in.

051012_cs_5.jpgCompanies like Blynk Systems Pvt Ltd help hotels curate online content by leveraging smartphones and tablets in unique way. They utilise cutting edge technologies such as cloud computing, HTML5, dynamic and responsive UI to provide hotels with the ability to engage guests and enhance guest experience while effectively increasing their RevPAR. Just as websites have brought information closer to masses, apps have ushered in another revolution of making hotel services accessible 24x7 in guests’ pockets.

As more and more hoteliers shift their focus to in-room entertainment amenities, it will be important to customise the in-room technology experience not only to reflect the brand, but also to personalise it for guests. A custom welcome message with the guest’s name is a simple and small way to acknowledge guests individually. Some in-room entertainment providers have the capability to put this personalisation on the TV screen when the guest enters the room.

Making the guest feel personally acknowledged goes a long way, and by attaching a brand to that experience would surely translate their positive feelings to a hotel.

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