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Avant Garde 

Why can’t I use my Netflix account on the TV?! One hotel is meeting the tech needs of millennials.

 
Story: Christopher Holder
Jazz Corner Hotel:
352 William St, Melbourne VIC
(03) 9454 9000 or www.jazzcornerhotel.com
 

In a world where hotels are doing their level best to exceed expectations it seems the hardest expectation to meet is the one delivered in the client’s living room. 

I’m regularly underwhelmed by a hotel’s tech. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve done a zombie walk around my room, smartphone in hand, sync cord dangling, trying to find a USB port before I completely run out of charge. I’ve had my phone hanging off the side of a TV’s USB port trying to eke out a few percent. I’ve gone to dock my phone into the hi-fi puck next to my bed only to find the connector is about four generations out of date. I’ve gone to use the TV that’s redundantly displaying my name (I know who I am, I don’t need a TV to tell me) but takes me about five button presses to find a TV station.

I have a modicum of sympathy for hotels. Trying to stay up to date technologically is like trying to wash your hands under a 2.5-star hotel’s water-saving tap. It evaporates before you feel anything. In other words, chances are your in-room entertainment experience will be inferior to what you enjoy everyday in your front room, where you think nothing of watching Netflix on demand and ‘mirror casting’ content from a device to your TV.

The Jazz Corner Hotel in Melbourne has taken a different approach that’s clicked with millennials. It’s combining a serviced apartments-style of accommodation with a serious technology backbone.

THAT’S JAZZ

Having already launched a world-class jazz club (Bird’s Basement) in the sub level of an adjoining premise, the hotel sees property developer Ubertas (helmed by jazz guitarist Albert Dadon) take over a commercial building in William Street, transforming it into a block of jazz-themed serviced apartments.

Each apartment generously features one Philips hotel TV in the lounge and one in the bedroom.

The Jazz Corner Hotel has invested in the IT/AV infrastructure that sees each room fully IP-connected. And, when complete, the hotel entertainment system will allow guests to use the in-room TVs to order food from any of the four house restaurants, book tickets to Bird’s Basement shows after being exposed to high-production-value club promotion video (think: Vegas casino hotels), live stream shows from the jazz club, and avail themselves of the latest entertainment opportunities.

HIGH EXPECTATIONS

High quality hotels have refined their offering over generations. Anticipating a guest’s every desire is a skill honed with a resolute attention to detail and commitment to their comfort and pleasure. So in recent times, technology has really been a ‘fly’ in the hotel’s satisfaction rating ‘ointment’. For the guest, plugging in a device, recharging, streaming, downloading… it’s all as natural as breathing. So why can’t my favourite hotel accommodate my needs?!

As we’ve heard from PSQ’s Ben Donaldson elsewhere this story, increasingly they can but it’s deceptively tricky. Products like Philips’ hotel TVs are certainly leading the way. Not necessarily because of the usual headline features such as resolutions, contrast, brightness, or bezel width. It’s in the display’s ability to integrate, update, monitor and control.  

NO. 1 COMPLAINT:
WHERE’S MY WI-FI?

Okay Ben, what’s the secret to complaint-free hotel wi-fi?

Ben Donaldson, PSQ Group: “We only use the wall-plate solutions in room. The hotels that still put access points in corridors are flirting with danger.

“What’s more, we only put in Cisco WAPs into an IP in-room environment. We don’t get calls from guests who can’t see the wi-fi… we might get three or four calls a year from the big hotels. Every room has a wallplate WAP. No one knows it’s there and it delivers signal into each room.

“The biggest issue with wi-fi is congestion. We recently did a site survey for a hotel in Darling Harbour — something we routinely do even when we’re installing wall plates into every room. The survey map showed 2500 other access points in that immediate vicinity. When it’s that congested you need a strong signal.

“From there it comes down to the link to your building. Jazz Club Hotel has Telstra fibre and the bandwidth into the room isn’t an issue. Instead you need to ensure you have a throttling control, so one guest can’t singlehandedly chew up all the bandwidth.”

HOW DO I DEPLOY NETFLIX?

One Perth-based AV integrator, the PSQ Group, is leading the way in closing the gap between guest expectations and hotel experiences, using Philips’ range of specialist hotel TVs to get us there. Ben Donaldson, Director of the PSQ Group explains the challenges unique to the hotels market:

“We work with around 40 hotels across Australia and the demands we hear are now almost always the same: hotels are looking to deploy Netflix and YouTube options so guests can easily procure their own in-room content.

“But mostly, no one has thought through the security and privacy issues. It’s great that I can use my hotel TV like I would my TV at home but I’d be horrified to learn that the next guest might see all my YouTube browsing history, or access my credit card details, or — as I’ve heard happen in certain hotels overseas — to think that I’m inadvertently streaming content to a screen in a neighbouring room!

“The best hotel TVs are from Samsung and Philips, and we work with both. They provide the flexible integration pieces you need to meet those challenges. For example, having the TV automatically reset to its factory configuration when a guest checks out, meaning the next guest can enter details without fear of their private information being retained or their browsing history shared.

“Those hotel TVs also allow us to design a system where guests can securely stream content from their device over wi-fi to the TV. It’s not news to be able to stream content to a TV, but as an integrator you need to ensure the wi-fi access point knows to only stream content

from the Mac address of the guest’s device and not the device in a room next door.

“All this can be a massive integration issue for hotel operators but it’s all now currently achievable to deliver that experience. Saying that, it does take the input of someone who knows how these things come together.”

PSQ Group: 1300 881 840 or www.psqgroup.com.au

ANDROID: A NEW GEN OF HOTEL TV

The unique feature of Philips hotel TVs is their Android operating system that runs natively on the display. Unlike traditional display networks where the operating system sits on a media server in a rack — which allows content to be pushed to the screen via an IP network — running the Android OS in the display means apps can be pushed to the hotel TV using Philips’ CMND Display Management Platform.

Ben Donaldson: “Pushing content, such as MPEG video or HTML5 isn’t new, but pushing full-blown apps out, and to have those apps come up as options when you boot up your TV or select a certain channel? That’s new. Because it’s an Android platform, if the content manager doesn’t have a certain feature natively, we can go to the Philips TV management platform and push applications out to the screens. Sky’s the limit. ‘What do you want written?’ You might want to add in-room lighting management, ‘okay, we’ll write that and push it out to the TVs’. For example, at the Jazz Corner Hotel, we can push a room service app to the TVs. That’s something new.”

Westan (Philips): 1300 963 963 or www.westan.com.au