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By Chris Dinallo

Tradeshow season for the hospitality industry is underway, with several technology events on the horizon. 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. 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. With so many solutions on the market, it’s critical that the solution hoteliers select for their guests meets four specific goals: (1) It’s cost effective, (2) It’s easily deployable, (3) It’s user-friendly, and (4) 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 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 unparalleled function in meeting the goals -- it is easily deployable by having the flexibility to be retrofitted to existing IRE devices (as in the case of ADB’s vuCaster™) 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 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.
     

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.

Before adding the next-generation of iTV or in-room-entertainment at your hotel to meet the needs of today’s mobile-dependent guests, consult with an IRE provider that has highest expertise in deploying video technologies to help you make a wise purchasing decision. 

About Chris Dinallo

Chris Dinallo is the Chief Technology Officer for the Business TV division of ADB, a company delivering cloud-based iTV solutions for businesses across cable, satellite, IPTV and now over-the-top (OTT) services. ADB's hospitality solution is one of the top five most deployed hospitality interactive TV solutions globally and the second most deployed platform in the US. ADB technologies power TV content and services delivery in more than 250,000 US guestrooms, across the industry’s leading brands. See ADB at HITEC June

Mr. Dinallo has been in the software industry for more than 32 years. Since 2001, he has specialized in hardware and software solutions within the PayTV industry. This includes Cable, Satellite, and Telco providers around the globe as well as the global hospitality markets. Having a strong engineering background in the disciplines of Operating Systems, MPEG audio/video, telephony, silicon, Cable TV technologies, Internet and Cloud technologies, has enabled Chris to innovate creative, reliable solutions that also provide revenue-generating solutions for Providers and Hoteliers. Within these solutions, Chris currently holds 5 US and European patents and has published numerous white papers and articles. You can read many of Chris’s writings in pay–TV industry organizations and trade magazines such as SCTE, CED Magazine, and Communications Technology.

Contact: Barbara Worcester

barbw@PRPROCONSULTING.COM

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