With TVs, hotel guests want an at-home experience

LOS ANGELES—The Hollywood Roosevelt hotel here has a storied history with the entertainment industry, being the site of the first Academy Awards back in 1929. Today, the hotel is committed to guests having the best viewing experience when it comes to the movies that have received an Oscar or their TV show counterparts. In a move to enhance that experience, the property recently partnered with Nonius. Guestrooms now feature interactive televisions with casting ability, so guests can get information and stream their own content on the in-room TVs.

“Guests want a more at-home experience,” said Giuseppe Carpintieri, managing director for North America, Nonius. “They want to get into a guestroom and they want their technology to work simply, like it does at home. The problem of the past was that hotel technology was cumbersome with many login steps. People are busy; they just want to get to their room, connect and go. They want an experience that’s frictionless—otherwise they don’t use the technology… You should not have to be an IT guy to experience the best of technology in a hotel.”

And, he said, they bring their own content. “More and more, people are using over-the-top applications—Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Hulu, etc.,” Carpintieri said. “It’s almost mandatory. Everyone has a smartphone: Even if you don’t have a premium subscription like Netflix, you still have the ability to cast with most apps. It’s a little strange not to be able to have that capability when you spend several hundred dollars a night or more in any hotel.”

The nature of TV has changed, he said, and with it, hotels also have to change. “People don’t sit down at 8 p.m. to watch whatever is on at prime time; they watch when they have time,” he pointed out. “This is the direction entertainment is going.”

This was a driving force behind the hotel’s decision to add casting to its repertoire. “Previously, they had a more basic system. It was IP, but it didn’t provide the casting solution,” Carpintieri said. “In addition to that, we added things like EPG and hotel information, so we took this standard, free-to-guest offering and turned it into an information and marketing platform for the TV; on top of that, we added the casting component for it to be a better experience for the guests and more in line with how people use entertainment technology in the real world, outside of a hotel. Overall, it was an upgrade of what they had before.”

Amir Awad, the hotel’s IT manager, said Nonius was chosen because “it provides a flexible, robust, customizable and user-friendly interface.”

Awad added, “We love The Hollywood Roosevelt hotel and all our beloved guests; we wanted to create the best experience it can be. Nonius provides a very flexible and customizable system where we can add very user-friendly options in fancy-looking interface that tells our story. We can add Happening Now posts, share our social media input, and empower guests to stream their favorite applications—Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, HBO, Pandora, Spotify and many more.”

In order to cast, guests only need to be connected to the hotel guest WiFi. Carpintieri noted that Nonius enables casting one of two ways: In one solution, Nonius can enable casting via a pin code or a QR code. However, the Hollywood Roosevelt went for the more advanced setup.

“This works in conjunction with their HSIA system to automatically pair and onboard the guest once they sign in to the WiFi network, so the minute they have internet access on their smartphone, they’re ready to go cast to their television,” Carpintieri said. “The benefits of our casting solution is we have developed a middleware layer that makes the onboarding process simple for the guest, so that’s an improvement on guest experience; but from the operational perspective, because of that middleware layer, it also provides a dedicated connection in their room for casting content. It adds an extra layer of privacy because you as a user are not on the same network with traffic mixed up with other guests. It’s that one TV just for you, and it’s already configured with the casting device as you come in the room. That was the level of simplicity they wanted. To do that, it required collaboration between us and the HSIA vendor; together, we developed joint software for that integration.”

With regard to the streaming capabilities, Awad said, “The logic behind it is genius and highly secure.”

As part of the upgrade, the hotel was able to reuse some of its existing technology, which aided the cost effectiveness of the project.

“We utilized all our existing TVs and Cat6 cable runs,” Awad said. “As a result, this saved thousands of dollars running new cables and/or purchasing new TVs.”

“They actually had a mixed environment with TVs from two different vendors, so we were able to bridge that gap where they could use both LG and Samsung in room and still get the benefit of our platform,” Carpintieri said. “That was key for them; we could do the multi-vendor support, they could promote their branded image and it gave them new features.”

By reusing existing TVs, the hotel is able to better manage its TV replacement process. “The hotel can incrementally upgrade their older sets,” Carpintieri said, noting that it can replace the TVs when needed on a schedule that is both manageable and not disruptive to the property.

Of course, this did present some challenges. “You have TVs from two different vendors, which means from an interactive TV point of view, we needed our application running on two different platforms; you see small differences in how they perform, so you need to have your application run in a way that those differences are not impactful and so negligible that no one else notices,” Carpintieri said.

And, all in all, guests are happy with the end result. “Guests have loved the hotel TV experience, and were amazed that they can utilize their own streaming apps,” Awad said. HB