What you need to know about tech demands of streaming content in hotels


Trade show season for the hospitality industry is underway, with several technology events on the horizon around the world.

As hoteliers prepare to see who has the latest in IP Streaming and other over-the-top (OTT) services for in-room entertainment (IRE), it’s important to know which solution is the right solution for their hotels.

NB: This is an analysis by Chris Dinallo, chief technology officer for the business TV division at ADB.

Enabling guests to stream their personal content and accounts such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Videos, Hulu, etc. from a mobile device to the TV should be a priority.

Guest surveys clearly show it’s becoming mainstream because travelers expect it – especially Millennials.

Therefore, it’s critical that the solution hoteliers select for their guests meets four specific goals:

  • It’s cost effective.
  • It’s easily deployable.
  • It’s user-friendly.
  • It’s future proof.

While most IRE providers are offering and supporting Internet Protocol Streaming (IP-streaming or simply “streaming”), not all solutions are the same, even though they may all use Internet-Protocol.

There are streaming apps that are native to the underlying hardware device (coded specifically to a given device); there are browser-based apps that allow a level of device independence; and there are purpose-built devices that cast the streaming functionality.

Each type has pros and cons that directly impact the four goals mentioned above.

To deliver the highest quality streaming experience, here are three important things hoteliers need to know:

1. Native streaming apps are NOT user-friendly or future proof

Solutions that implement native streaming OTT apps (e.g. Netflix, Hulu, etc.) usually offer excellent performance and tight integration with the IRE solution.

Think of it as another choice off of the main menu, or an item selectable from the interactive program guide (IPG) to start a streaming playback session.

Because hoteliers have no additional devices to purchase if the IRE device can support these apps, it meets both the cost-effective and easily deployable goals.

The guest, for example, will find and launch these apps easily on the menu or IPG.

Native Streaming Apps fail the user-friendly goal because guests must enter their personal account credentials to start the streaming session.

This is neither easy using a standard TV remote, nor does it leave a guest feeling confident about where his personal credentials are going.

In today’s environment of security breaches and personal identity theft, this should be considered a non-starter solution.

If that’s not enough to make you pause, by design, a native app is a one-off app specifically coded for a specific streaming service (OTT) on a specific device.

This is not a future proof solution. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite, requiring a newly developed app for each future OTT service for a given device.

2. Browser-based apps are NOT easily deployable or user-friendly

IRE solutions that incorporate web-based browser apps to perform the OTT streaming session offer a cost-effective approach much like native apps, as long as the IRE solution device can support a web-based browser.

As it turns out, this is still difficult for most of the deployed devices that exist today.

Even when the device does support a browser, many interoperability issues arise and performance is not stellar; sometimes performance is so bad that it’s unacceptable for a guest who just expects it to work.

So, while it’s cost-effective, it’s certainly NOT easily-deployable or user-friendly.

Being a web-based browser app, one could argue that IRE devices are becoming as powerful as personal computers; therefore, the future-proofing goal is met.

3. Casting meets ALL goal criteria

Casting technology is relatively new, and therefore, it’s just starting to become a known deployable solution for IRE.

Because there are so many different types of competing casting technologies, hoteliers need to be aware of their related pros and cons.

However, before we explore the types of casting technologies, let’s first determine if casting meets the four goals.

Cost-effectiveness has a glass-half-empty/half-full perspective that you’ll need to determine based on your needs.

Casting does require a separate device, so it comes at a cost. Yet, the cost provides an unparalleled function in meeting the goals – it is easily deployable by having the flexibility to be retrofitted to existing IRE devices or it can be tightly integrated into new IRE devices.

You may find that this flexibility is worth the minimal capital expense.

In the user-friendly goal category, the guest is not required to enter their personal credentials on the TV, but rather they initiate the streaming via their own mobile device – credentials never need to be shared with other “unknown” systems.

Guest will arguably cherish this feature with the added benefit of knowing they have exactly the OTT apps they enjoy.

To the point of user-friendliness, the guest projects (i.e. casts) the program stream to the TV by merely pressing a TV Remote Control button (or selecting a menu/IPG option).

Robust casting design should also include security mechanisms whereby a guest can only “cast” to his or her room, thereby preventing accidental or even intentional malicious casting to another room.

Be sure your casting solution has such prevention that again is user-friendly for the guest.

When it comes to future-proofing, other streaming designs just do not stand up over time like casting does. This is because casting is app-agnostic and IRE device agnostic, and only requires the use of standard wifi.

This approach ensures guest satisfaction for many years.

Conclusion

The saying is true: change is a constant, and therefore, performing due diligence in exploring all the streaming possibilities should not be taken lightly.

Yet, much like a shiny coin trying to grab your attention, it’s best to set your goals then make your determination against those goals.

NB: This is an analysis by Chris Dinallo, chief technology officer for the business TV division at ADB.



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