Tricky business: Bringing guest content to the guestroom TV

A majority of hotel guests soon will have the ability to pull a video or movie up on their phone then watch it on their guestroom TV. The technology is out there, said Josh Rowe, general manager – commercial product management at DISH Network. The company recently began a trial of its new Evolve product, which gives guestroom TVs access to an advanced user interface, a multitude of apps and the ability to stream to the TV.

For Rowe, ease of use is paramount. All that is required from guests is to log onto the hotel’s Wi-Fi, open an app that works with Google Cast and select the “Cast” icon.

“The hotel and DVD release windows aren’t too far apart anymore, so guests can go into the Google Movie store and buy or rent movies, or bring their own content, which is what they want to do,” Rowe said.

Ran Grumer, chief technology officer at BeyondTV, a service provided by Hotel Internet Services, said there are still a number of markets where traditional video on demand can still be effective, particularly resort areas, but said that streaming and casting is a focus for the company in 2017. Despite this, he is aware of the challenges, including bandwidth limitations and security.

Guest-facing technology must exude simplicity or it risks being ignored.

“The doomsday scenario would a 1,000-room property with everyone casting at once having a security breach or malfunction, allowing any guest to access any streaming device in the hotel,” Grumer said. “People could potentially cast video into your room, either by mistake or intentionally, so this capability needs to be eliminated.”

Vanessa Ogle, CEO of Enseo, said a much larger limiting factor is licensing. At home, guests can pair devices with other devices they have purchased, but hotels are forced to create a solution that is one size fits all for an industry where competitors rarely play ball—the mobile market.

“In Asia, 99 percent of guests have Android or Microsoft-based devices. Casting works great for that, and it’s a reliable experience,” Ogle said. “In the U.S., the vast majority of devices are Apple based, but Android has a large share. Enseo doesn’t have the licensing from Apple to support casting with their devices, complicating the process.”

The good news is that if any party decides to start cooperating, casting will become simplified for everyone.

“There is no technology barrier for us casting to the hotel room,” Ogle said. “But we take licensing very seriously.”