HTNG In-Room Technology Group Sets Goals for First Phase Deliverables
Sunday, December 12, 2004
CHICAGO (December 12, 2004) -- Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG) announced today that the 21 leading hotel and technology vendors who are participating in its In-Room Technology Workgroup have completed their organizational phase, formed working teams, and established objectives for initial deliverables. These tasks were accomplished at the first face-to-face meeting, held on November 30 and December 1 in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The first-phase deliverables are targeted for introduction at HITEC 2005 (Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference) next June, and will include demonstration of the so called "Triple Play," in which telephony, entertainment systems, and guest Internet access are deployed on a common network infrastructure.
Infrastructure for Converged Guest-Room Network
The first requirement outlined by the workgroup was the need for a baseline infrastructure to deliver personalized technology to the guest room. This infrastructure would initially be installed in new-build hotels, and would ultimately be capable of replacing legacy networks in existing hotels. It would replace the current de facto architecture, with its multiple sets of cables – traditional twisted-pair telephone wire, coaxial cable, CAT-5 network cable, and low-voltage control wires – with a modern wired and wireless infrastructure based on a single "converged IP" network. It would also define the need for and characterize certain in-room devices that are needed to deliver the desired guest services. It would address the legacy migration, support, and business-model changes required in order to ensure technical and commercial feasibility.
This baseline infrastructure will include a network and common devices that hotels can build and install, and that technology vendors will be able to support. "The objective is to define a simplified, converged network that can deliver more and better services to the guest room, while costing less to install and to maintain," said Nick Price, Chief Technology Officer of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, who was elected as chair of the workgroup.
"A key advantage of the converged network is that it’s as 'future-proof' as you can get," said Douglas Rice, Executive Director of HTNG. "The Internet is the one technology platform that we can be certain will still be around in ten or fifteen years." The converged network infrastructure is based entirely on the same technical foundations as the Internet, which virtually every hospitality technology vendor can now support. Rice said, "There simply is no other infrastructure that we can count for the next 10 years. Equally important, the converged network allows hotels to 'layer on' additional service over time without buying new infrastructures."
By using Internet-based technologies, hotels will in many cases be able to leverage the scale of the Internet to drive down the price points of technologies and services that are used in both hotels and in other industries – such as PABXs, access control/locking systems, handheld devices, CCTV security systems, pagers, life safety, and building management systems.
The Infrastructure Team expects to deliver baseline recommendations, appropriate to different future planning time frames, in a prescriptive document by June 2005. At HITEC 2005, the workgroup will demonstrate how the team's recommendations can work, using products from current vendors. The infrastructure will be designed to accommodate anticipated changes to content and digital rights management (DRM) technologies over time.
The workgroup noted that telephony vendors are now building networking equipment, and networking companies are now building telephony equipment. Service integrators are just now learning how to support converged products and services. "The future designs of hotel networks must consider the same principles for implementation and support that are used for a carrier grade broadband system, yet the maturity of the applications and the support models for these newer technologies are still in their infancy," said Ken Martinez, Hospitality Market Solution Manager at Paradyne. The HTNG workgroup has an objective of identifying a set of fundamental hospitality feature sets for telephony, including both Voice-over-IP and other IP-based services, while fostering an open messaging approach that will enable hotels to develop and deploy value-added customer services on top of a baseline hospitality package.
While the next-generation infrastructure offers the potential for lower costs and new revenue streams, it will likely force hotels and technology providers to rethink many of the assumptions underlying today's business models. Most of these models were developed for standalone systems and some of them (such as telephones and high-speed Internet) are largely broken today.
Participating companies for the Infrastructure Team include Cisco Systems (chair), Datanamics Incorporated, The Ginn Company, Guest-Tek, IP3 Networks, LodgeNet Entertainment, Marriott International, Microsoft Corp., Mitel Networks, Paradyne Corporation, The Peninsula Hotel Group, and SolutionInc Limited.
Application and Device Integration
A second team, the Application and Device Integration Team, will address the integration of in-room applications and devices, in order to deliver a next-generation guest experience that can be customized to each guest's expressed preferences. This team will examine opportunities to integrate not only fixed devices provisioned to the room (such as entertainment systems, telephones, energy management systems, locking systems, and minibars), but also devices carried by the guest, such as notebook computers, mobile phones, PDAs, Portable Media Centers, iPODs, MP3 players, video cameras, and portable DVD players.
"Many of today's hotel guests, and even more of the next generation of guests, carry advanced telecommunication and entertainment capabilities in their briefcases," said Barry Shuler, Senior Vice President, Information Technology Strategy and Chief Technology Officer at Marriott International. "It's a generational trend that we are identifying ways to capitalize on and add value to. If a guest brings their own content on a device and we have a high-end audio-video system in the hotel room, it's only natural to let them watch or listen to their content on the devices in the room."
A key objective of the team will be to improve the choice of entertainment available in hotels. "Our goal must be to deliver an entertainment experience in the hotel room that is as good, if not better, than what our guests have in their homes," said Mandarin Oriental's Price. "The capabilities and choice of content in their homes are growing rapidly, and in ways that frequently cannot be supported with today's hotel infrastructure or under today's hotel content licensing agreements. Personal video recorders are not available at all in hotels, and high-definition programming and music choices tend to be much more limited, if they are available at all. As an industry, we are already far behind what many of our customers have in their homes, and without some major changes, we will soon be behind the average hotel guest – if we aren't already."
"Many of the devices available for use in hotel rooms today were designed to deliver entertainment, telephony, or other services in office buildings or apartments, not hotels," said Robert Bennett, Chief Information Officer of The Ginn Company, a developer of leisure lifestyle and resort communities. "This team will not only work to integrate existing devices and capabilities, but will establish requirements for guest-room devices that do not exist today, and that need to be built." For example, many hotel guests now have Personal Video Recorders (PVRs) in their homes, such as TiVo, and have become accustomed to being able to "time-shift" live broadcasts. But there is no such device that addresses the unique requirements of a hotel room, where the guest and his or her program preferences can change every night, and where the content the guest wants to view may have been aired while a prior guest was still occupying the room. Similarly, the workgroup noted the need for simple, elegant IP-capable telephones appropriate for a bedside or bathroom, which do not currently exist.
The workgroup also recognized the need to rethink existing licensing models for entertainment content, and expects to engage in discussions with major studios as part of its efforts. Preliminary discussions with one major studio have suggested a willingness, in the context of a broad lodging industry initiative, to re-evaluate restrictions on time-shifting live broadcasts, and to provide access to a broader variety of short-subject content, such as reruns of popular shows now in syndication.
The Integration Team, which is expected to further subdivide to focus on specific application and integration issues over time, includes Guest-Tek (chair), Cisco Systems, Datanamics Incorporated, General Dynamics Interactive, The Ginn Company, INNCOM International, IP3 Networks, The KOR Group, LodgeNet Entertainment, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Marriott International, Microsoft Corp., Mitel Networks, The Peninsula Hotel Group, Percipia Networks, Quadriga Worldwide, SolutionInc Limited, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Telephone Management Systems (Comtelco), and XM Satellite Radio.
A third team, the Future-Looking Team, was formed with the explicit goal of better understanding the hotel guest of the future, and the technologies of the future. "We are designing hotels and networks that need to be relevant in ten to fifteen years," said Fraser Hickox, General Manager of Research and Technology for The Peninsula Hotel Group. "Many of those future guests are teenagers or young adults today, and we need to better understand their expectations, and how they are likely to change over time. This isn't rocket science; the consumer electronics manufacturers spend a lot of time and money studying these trends, and hotels need to understand them too. The In-Room Technology Workgroup participants felt that they needed a team that was focused on painting the vision of future guest needs."
The workgroup agreed on the need to make more seamless the transition from a guest's home to a hotel room. "Over time, guests have come to expect the same experience or better in a hotel room as they would get in their own home," said Karen Webster, President of The Center for Marketing Effectiveness. "We need to understand the specifics of those expectations when it comes to guest-room technology, and also determine what guests are willing to pay for – whether as add-ons or in the price of their room."
Mandarin Oriental's Price agreed on the need to understand which services guests will value. "Just to keep up with changing guest expectations, we find we have to spend more and more money on guest-room technology every year," he said. "We can't continue to do this unless we find ways to generate more revenue – whether from usage fees, by commanding a higher room rate, or in some other manner. We can't install new and expensive technologies just because they exist – we have to listen to what the guests are willing to pay for."
Participants on this team include Center for Marketing Effectiveness (chair), Cisco Systems, General Dynamics Interactive, Guest-Tek, IP3 Networks, The KOR Group, Marriott International, Microsoft Corp., Mitel Networks, The Peninsula Hotel Group, Percipia Networks, SolutionInc Limited, and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.
About HTNG Workgroups
HTNG workgroups provide a forum for a small but representative group of customers to work with a cross-disciplinary set of vendors to solve problems. Highly focused and structured, the workgroups are charged with identifying and building specific solutions that will deliver value to hotels, that no one vendor can deliver on their own, and that can be accomplished in about six months. Because customers drive the requirements, vendors have a ready market for the things they build, and customers no longer have to buy multiple systems piecemeal and integrate everything themselves.
The workgroup size is limited to keep it manageable, focused, and productive. However, HTNG provides the opportunity for all dues-paying members to view the work product of each workgroup as it is developed and to provide structured feedback, and for member vendors to implement solutions in parallel with workgroup participants. HTNG also supports solution-set demonstrations, such as at HITEC 2004, that can include products from any HTNG member that adopts its specifications – whether a workgroup participant or not.
HTNG specifications are released to the public domain when the workgroup that produces them disbands, usually after no more than eighteen months. HTNG members, both hotels and technology vendors, can propose and sponsor new workgroups, and can apply to participate in workgroups sponsored by other members.
About Hotel Technology Next Generation
The premier technology solutions association in the hospitality industry, HTNG is a self-funded, non-profit organization with members from hotel and hospitality companies, technology vendors to hospitality, and other industry members including consultants, media, and academic experts. HTNG’s members participate in focused workgroups to bring open solution-sets addressing specific business problems to the hospitality market.
Membership in HTNG is open to hotel and hospitality companies, technology vendors to hospitality, consultants, academics, press and others. Currently more than 150 companies and individuals from across this spectrum are active HTNG members. Workgroup proceedings, drafts, and specifications are published for all HTNG members as soon as they are created, encouraging rapid and broad adoption. For more information, visit www.htng.org.