NORTH CANTON, OH—A fundamental rule of all hotel technology is that it must be functional. If the end user needs to waste time reading a confusing manual or futzing and fiddling with excessive tabs and applications, it’s not likely to be a solution they want to use. For Squirrels LLC, this was one of the drivers behind Ditto, a new screen-sharing service that connects computers to conference room TVs and projectors wirelessly and without software installations or end-user configuration.
Sidney Keith, partner at Squirrels LLC, noted that convention centers and conference/meeting hotels host all kinds of presenters, who use all sorts of devices and applications. “With any meeting space, there’s no universal way to share the content from that presenter’s laptop screen,” he said. “When presenters go in, they have no idea if they’re going to have the right cables or the right adapter, or if their computer will be compatible with the system. Ditto bridges that gap and allows everybody to get rid of that nagging question: Will my system work?”
“The need for Ditto came from the basic concept of needing to share what’s on your device with a broader group of people. There are legacy models of doing that, but those all have their deficiencies,” said Andrew Gould, COO/cofounder, Squirrels, noting that the company focuses on screen-mirroring technologies. “In the past, we focused on education and the business power user: The really tech-savvy person who wants to mirror to five things at once—the whiz-bang person. But there was a huge need still for the people who were less comfortable with technology, who just wanted to come in and, for lack of a better phrase, push a button and start mirroring the screen.”
Designed for any meeting space where presenters or speakers need to share their computer screens to Apple TV- and Chromecast-connected displays, Ditto assigns a unique code to each meeting space. When a meeting or presentation begins, anyone in the room can automatically share their Mac or PC screen by entering the Ditto room code at a designated website. In addition to working with Apple TV and Chromecast, Ditto also works with the company’s receptor software. “It works just like an Apple TV or Chromecast, but you can run it on a computer,” explained Gould. “If you have an existing conference room that already has a computer and you didn’t want to buy another hardware thing, you could run our complement software and get the whole package with your existing setup.”
Additionally, users can choose to share either the entire display or just a specific application. “We created a software solution that captures the contents of your screen or you could pick a specific application if you just wanted to mirror, say, Excel or Power Point,” said Gould.
“You select that and then each instance of Ditto is preconfigured for that room you’re mirroring to. You don’t get a big list of devices and you have to figure out if it’s Conference Room C or D; you get just the one and when you select what you want to mirror and you push start, it appears on that device,” explained Gould. “We’ve taken out all of the complexity of figuring out how to mirror your screen, which receiver you need to be connected to, which input you switch to. You can come into a room, enter in a conference code, get the application and start mirroring. A lot of times, the way the WiFi networks are set up, you’ll see every single device that could receive your screen at once. You might see a Chromecast plugged into a TV two floors up and on the other side of a building, which is obviously no use to you if you’re trying to mirror your screen.”
Gould noted that while the solution is easy for the end user, it’s also simple for the IT administrator at the hotel, requiring only a one-time pre-configuration. Adding a new conference room to the system can be done in minutes. “The IT administrator has his or her own portal to log into, and that’s where one sets up all of the technical things—the IP addresses, etc.,” said Gould.
“When you set up a room as an IT administrator, we create a little placard sheet you can print out so you can display that in the conference room,” he continued. “Go to [the website], enter the code ‘purple pineapple’ and that gets you to the launch page. We also have a custom desktop background with the room information on it. If you have a computer, you can make it so when they turn the screen or the TV on, it says go here, enter the code and mirror.” As with any cloud-based service, security is critical. These are some features of Ditto’s security: It does not store credit card data or track end-user information; it encrypts confidential user data before storing; it communicates with servers via industry-standard SSL technology; users can only share screens to their specified room; and it offers self-hosting for preconfigured end-user mirroring applications.
“The cool thing about Ditto is that the only thing that comes from our server is when you enter in the conference room code and receive that application,” said Gould. “Once you get that application, that’s where we stop our involvement with the cloud. From that point forward, everything you do is done locally. Nothing flows up to the cloud and back down to the receiver or anything like that. You get the binary from the cloud, but then it switches to a local network setup. And if you’re using compatible devices that support receiving an encrypted mirroring stream, then the actual stream itself is encrypted as well, so even if someone was to intercept that on the local network, they would then have to figure out how to decrypt that security.”
Gould concluded that Ditto is ideal for “anyone who wants a simple sharing environment. That’s the beauty of Ditto: How simple it is but also how powerful.” HB