Getting Smart with the Guestroom TV

 

Seattle’s Hotel 1000
Seattle’s Hotel 1000 has its smart TVs display outdoor scenery to blend with the room.

 

Blank screens are unattractive. With all the effort hotels put into creating a well-designed guest space, letting a dark, blank piece of plastic loom over the whole experience can undermine the tone a designer is trying to set. Increasingly, smart TVs are offering designers a way around this problem by offering different approaches for presenting the screen when the guest is not using it.

For example, the hi-tech Seattle property Hotel 1000 has partnered with a company called The Window Channel to provide high-definition ambient footage of outdoor scenes.

“Instead of the television being a dark appliance, it’s showing you The Window Channel as an artwork,” said Chuck Marratt, Hotel 1000’s regional director of IT. The hotel leaves The Window Channel on by default once housekeeping has inspected the room so that when a guest walks in, a bucolic scene greets them.

Hans Galutera, co-founder and principal at BG Studio International, has used a similar approach when dealing with guestroom TVs.

“We had a project where the TVs were more like artwork,” Galutera said. “It was on a constant loop where the scene was moving very, very slightly. It’s not new, but it’s effective. We had a Van Gogh painting where the haystacks waved ever so slightly. It’s very subtle until you look at it closely and realize the picture is actually moving.”

Keeping the motion subtle was important, Galutera said, because otherwise the effect could become cartoonish.

Other approaches to dealing with darkened TVs include hiding it behind a two-way mirror, Galutera said. When the mirror is lit from behind while the TV is on, the mirror becomes transparent, allowing the TV image to shine through.

On the Celebrity Reflection, a smart TV is hidden behind the mirror.

“Just in case the TV fails, you don’t have a blank or blank screen,” Galutera said. “It’s just a mirror. That ensures that if there is a failure you’re looking at a reflection, so that’s what we try to convince our clients to do, as opposed to having a screen saver.”

A word of caution: This approach won’t work with 3-D TVs, Galutera says, because the mirror interferes with the 3-D effect.

Looking toward the future, Galutera is also using organic LEDs in certain situations, although he noted that this technology remains too expensive to be widely used in hospitality. “Philips has this system that uses organic LEDs programmed as a video screen that mirrors your image and then enlarges it to three times the scale,” Galutera said. “We’re planning to use it as an artwork installation, but at this point it’s just really, really expensive.”

Whether as a mirror or as a moving image, these technologies allow TVs to be more of an interactive design element than a means for the guest to passively consume video.

“Just the definition of content on the TV has changed dramatically,” said Bob Wagener, EVP of sales and marketing at Roomlinx. “Now, it’s really a 42-inch LCD monitor that can be leveraged by the hotel to give the guest whatever they want—movies, Internet, hotel services.”

Smart TVs can allow hotel designers and guest technology professionals multiple ways of personalizing the guest experience, Wagener said. For example, TVs can interact with the guest’s accounts on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu to deliver the guest’s own content on the guestroom screen. For MICE clients, digital signage systems can work with the TV to help guests find their way to events taking place on the property. Smart TVs can also interact with the property’s point of sale and property management systems to deliver personalized greetings and guest services.

These technologies allow hotel designers and technology professionals to let go of the conception of the TV as a video outlet. “The guestroom television just has to be viewed as another piece of glass in the room,” Wagener said. “There’s a lot of buzz around mobile apps on personal devices, and the reason is those devices tie into the Internet. The TV has to follow suit.”

This approach moves the TV to the center of the guest’s interaction with the environment of the room.

“Early on there was a battle for real estate in the guestroom,” Marratt said. “Phone systems wanted to be able to answer questions and have a display. Systems like minibars, the energy management system, they all wanted a piece of the real estate that controls the room. We’ve always envisioned that the guestroom television was the cornerstone of interacting with the hotel and the outside world.”

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