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Technology trends – hotel services and entertainment

Advances in mobile communications and ‘cloud-based’ systems are transforming AV in hotels. Locatel checks in to brings architects up to speed on the latest trends.

Advances in mobile communications and ‘cloud-based’ systems are transforming AV in hotels. Locatel checks in to brings architects up to speed on the latest trends. Advances in mobile communications and ‘cloud-based’ systems are two of the fastest growing areas in communications technologies. Hotels, particularly in the upscale and luxury categories, are learning to use these technologies to their advantage. Locatel, a leading provider of information and entertainment systems for hotels, follows trends in international hospitality closely and has been focusing much of its research and development efforts into these two areas of mobile communications and cloud-based systems. The revolution in mobile information and entertainment Besides its fixed-mobile convergent solutions which enable hotel guests to switch from viewing content from their hotel TV screen to their own mobile device and back, Locatel has recently released a new suite of mobile solutions and applications for hotels. The new Mobility range includes mobile apps that hotels can brand and build with appealing content detailing their hotel, its services and local information. This local information can include details of transport, upcoming events and third-party services ranging from restaurants to golf courses and even helicopter bookings. Bookings can be made directly through the app, driving revenues for hotel services and can be supplemented in the form of advertising revenues. Hotels can thus maintain direct relationships with their customers, past, present and future, wherever they are. By keeping them informed about their news and special offers with push feeds, the hotel is more likely to remain ‘front of mind’ with the customer. This has the added advantage of bringing the hotel more direct bookings and less reliance on third-party online booking platforms.
 The new mobility suite also includes tablets for used in the hotel’s guest rooms and public areas that come with the apps installed. Locatel’s Lobby Companion has been designed to liven up hotel lobbies, bars and business centres. Through an easy-to-use interface, guests can navigate a range of hotel and local tourist information, as well as browse the internet. The In Room Companion installed on tablets in guest rooms gives direct access to a large choice of innovative in-room services including room service, spa reservations, TV remote control, automatic control of curtains, room temperature adjustment and express check-out. All the applications in the Mobility suite can be quickly adapted to the needs of each hotel. As the platform is cloud-based, updates with new content can easily be made, via any computer. Although the new Mobility suite has only recently been launched, it has already been successfully used in pilot launches with hotels such as Hotel Le Péra in Paris.@page_break@Cloud-based TV offers unlimited choice and reduced overheadsHotels are continually looking to improve services while reducing overheads. It is not unusual for upscale hotel properties to broadcast over 100 TV channels in order to reply to guests’ viewing preferences, language needs and ever-increasing expectations. Until now, this typically required expensive, complex and cumbersome equipment on the premises including local head ends and feeds from multiple satellite dishes, cable systems and antennas.

Besides the high capital costs of installation, all of these require resources to be maintained in house. When hotels wish to change the channels subscribed to, for example for a foreign delegation of guests from a certain country, or to be able to broadcast a particular sporting event, costs are expensive and minimum subscriptions are required. In addition, changing or adding channels in such an environment often means disruption to services. Locatel has teamed up with Anevia, the creators of VLC media player, to reply to the growing need from hotels for choice and flexibility in TV services. Its new Eclipse Cloud TV solution is a service that allows hotels to add or change subscribed TV channels at the click of a button, anytime and as often as they like. All required TV content is collected and managed in a remote data centre before it is sent to the hotel through one single fibre optic cable. Anevia’s expertise in streaming technologies – especially adaptive bitrate delivery – means that internet bandwidth needs are optimised, further reducing costs for the hotel. This advanced streaming capacity also greatly improves quality, processing client requests for content much faster and eliminating jitters in picture quality due to lost packets of data. The first deployments of the cloud-based TV solution are already underway in Europe, with more to follow in the Middle East at the beginning of next year.

In order to keep pace with the rate at which hotel communications and information technologies are developing, hosted cloud-based solutions mean that hotels are not continually required to make capital investments in technologies. These flexible, hosted services also mean that hotels can easily update or enlarge their offerings. The commercial benefits of implementing these new solutions for hotels are multiple. Besides providing guests with better services and driving more ancillary revenues, hotels need to keep pace with the habits of their guests. Regular travellers use mobile devices for the majority of their communications and all hotel guests expect a world of choice in their entertainment content. Hotels that show that they are leading the way in the use of these solutions are thus creating a strong image around their brand and bringing the ‘better than at home’ experience to their guests.