It’s going to take a long time to dispel our belief that televisions are meant solely for a viewing experience while situated on a comfortable chair, sofa or bed, but the seeds are indeed already well-planted. The TV that is front and center in every guestroom is due for a ‘smart’ upgrade, but that’s not the becoming for how screens can serve to heighten the guest experience.
In fact, the future of screen technology is everywhere, pervading every point of interaction that a consumer has with your hotel. And the more you work to undo the antiquated notion that TVs are only for bedrooms, you will end up discovering new opportunities right under your nose to enhance the guest experience and drive revenues.
To help our grasp of what this future means for your hotel, I interviewed Fred Crespo, director of technology & business development at Samsung Electronics. Before we jumped in to any science fiction forecasts, we first discussed how smart televisions have now overtaken conventional TV sales and what that means for the evolution of the in-room viewing experience.
Smart TVs are more than just eliminating the top box and any other screen accessories. As a now democratized piece of technology, they can drastically improve a room’s functionality through the integration and automation of such things as lighting, the drapes, climate controls, alarms, room billing, streaming services and even the ‘do not disturb’ sign. Many of these will also help you eliminate paper and realize substantial energy consumption savings. One of the latest drives with smart TVs is to reduce forced obsolescence so you no longer must replace your sets every three years—a task accomplished with internal firmware that is adaptable to future content needs as well as the ever-increasing bandwidth requirements.
Lastly, automation and integration are working to drive down the cost of delivery of, for instance, in-room movie rentals so that they are more closely aligned with the consumer benchmark, thus leading to fewer perceptions of price gouging, heightened consumption and, ultimately, increased consumer satisfaction.
Moving away from the centerpiece screen but still staying with the guestroom, there are many other opportunities to enhance the guest experience through the clever deployment of electronic replacements. Imagine a small digital picture frame on the nightstand that syncs with an individual’s social media so that an image or slideshow of this person’s family can be on display to make the room feel that much more like home. Next, try to visualize yourself brushing your teeth in front of the bathroom mirror, only your Instagram feed was cycling through on the top row while the bottom row showed the weather and the news. There are now several ways to subtly layer these types of information over portrait mirrors without being intrusive, and they also present yet another vector by which to display some hotel messaging or showcase a few features that guests may enjoy.
Exiting the guestroom, there are numerous instances where digital signage can now be deployed in such a way that they are both bespoke to every individual guest and in sync with in-room activities or preferences. You need only think of every touch point from the time visitors arrive at a hotel to the time they leave.
Electronic signage can act as a sense of place enhancement via impressive art displays, to answer questions about check-in prior to talking directly with a clerk at the front desk or even to guide people from the elevator corridor to their specific rooms—this last one being particularly useful for buildings with massive floor plans. In essence, what we are seeing is a complete convergence of in-room screens with on-property signage, especially when you next throw into the mix outdoor patchwork screens that are extremely durable and cold to the touch. At the most recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (CES 2017), LG unveiled their ‘Wallpaper TVs’ which deliver reasonable resolution for large diameter screens that are only a few millimeters thick and are capable of being plastered onto glass surfaces or exterior cement.
This is but scratching the surface in terms of how you might go about upgrading your hotel with new devices that enhance the guest experience through augmented technological engagement—a trait that is in demand for the ever-budget-conscious millennials. What’s great about our industry in particular is that we have the CapEx budget for incremental installations of this nature—albeit spread over several years—so it would be wise to at least be receptive to what an arrangement of integrated screens and devices can do to continually improve your property over the long-term. Think of these multi-national conglomerates like Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Sony or Philips less so as low cost vendors and more so as premium tech partners, ensuring that you collectively arrive at the best solution to meet your hotel’s unique needs.
And in terms of what’s on the horizon for 2017, Fred wrapped up our chat by emphasizing that this year will see evolutionary steps but not revolutionary ones. While virtual reality—the current talk of the town—is still a decade away from universal applicability, smart TVs are now a mature product, meaning that everyone is focused on operational efficiency, mobile integration and user interface enhancements. Thus, don’t expect anything game-changing in the immediate future, so use this ‘lull’ to strategize about how the current slate of adaptive screen technologies can work for you.