CLEARWATER, FL—When guests stay in their hotel rooms, they want to have the same entertainment options they have at home.
Hotel Internet Services just made that easier with new enhancements to its BeyondTV platform to allow guests to wirelessly cast a variety of content from their personal smart devices.
“We have had a solution for some time, which started with apps on the set-top box so people could go to Hulu or Pandora or another service and log in their credentials and get to their subscribed content that way,” said Gary Patrick, CEO of Hotel Internet Services. “We found through our testing and surveys that people prefer to cast from their personal device. This allows them to not have to type in their information into the app that was on the set-top box. There were security concerns, of course, because you are putting information in the box. We handled the security concerns. In fact, we won the patent recently for security.”
The new BeyondTV platform has also added voice-control functionality via integration with Amazon’s Alexa, providing users with the ability to fully control all television functions using simple voice commands. This functionality also allows guests to control guestroom systems, such as thermostats and lighting, using only their voice, and make requests, such as room service or to find out specific hotel information. “Anything you can do by hand on the TV, you can do by voice,” said Patrick.
In addition to allowing hotel guests to access their own mobile and subscription-based streaming content on a larger screen, BeyondTV now offers the ability to rent streamed video content from a large and continuously updated online library. “Unlike traditional video-on-demand services, this new feature does not require an on-site server to operate and is far more cost-effective to implement,” he said.
“Having the voice, the casting, the advanced TV services and unfettered access to the internet, those are what hotel owners want to provide to their guests,” said Patrick. “It may sound trite, but it is providing that at-home experience while on the road. Everyone is striving to do that: ‘How do we present the technologies that we all take for granted at home: fast and easy access to the internet?’ If you have a voice-activated device at home, you know how to use it, so how do you integrate that with the hotel that makes it similar to home? We have just tried to put everything together into one platform that they can plug and play the pieces if they need it.”
Another newly added operational feature allows hoteliers to upload promotional videos, along with an enhanced management interface that ensures efficient and easy operation of the platform at all times. “Many hoteliers have introduction videos or videos of their property or certain amenities that they would like to promote,” he said. “We have made it available for them to insert those videos as barker channels that take over the screen. We make it available that they can schedule those at different periods of time or certain sections of the user interface.”
Through the management interface, hoteliers can choose the look of the interface that guests see. “We have many different backgrounds, so the system can match the decor,” said Patrick.
Management can also communicate with guests and track how the system is being used. “The hotel can send offers, messages and promos. It has all kinds of areas that they can do what they want with the system on their own,” he said. “More importantly, they have information on the system and the back end of it: how many people are online, what did they cast, revenue reports, the peak periods of usage, etc. It gives them insight into what people are doing on the whole.”
The interface also allows management to track usage of the voice-activated controls by guests. “It shows things like the staff minutes saved,” said Patrick. “Think about all of the calls that go to the front desk for things like additional towels or information requests—all of those calls can now be handled by the voice assistant. All of those are logged, and it tracks how long it would have taken for a staff member to handle that. If those things are automated, it saves time. The dashboard provides those statistics.” HB