In the hospitality industry, offering options for charging electronic devices is serious business. Beyond traditional wall outlets, the hotel space is rife with charging tools, ranging from electrical outlets installed directly into furniture or alarm clocks equipped with multi-prong charging options. The tools to recharge guests’ batteries are everywhere, so why shouldn’t such a ubiquitous item look good?
Enter Brandstand Products, a developer of devices for the hotel industry based in Richardson, Texas. The company was conceived as a subsidiary of TXS Industrial Design, and introduced its first product, the Brandstand Cable Holder, in 2005. Coincidentally, the company launched alongside the rise of the smart phone, matching demand with utility right out of the gate with its signature product, Cubie.
“Remarkably, we timed the market right,” said Kristin Kritz, chief business development officer for Brandstand Products. “By taking a strategic approach and by listening to stakeholders in the hospitality industry—brand leaders, hoteliers and guests—their needs were integrated into the design of deceptively simple products”
Because Brandstand was founded by an industrial-design firm, aesthetics and utility are core elements the company values. According to Kritz, hotel products must be instantly understandable, visually appealing, durable and useful in the long term. Designing around these specifications can be surprisingly difficult, especially when considering the rapid pace at which the smart phone and tablet markets continue to evolve.
For example, Kritz said one of Brandstand’s clients requested an alarm clock with 110-volt outlets and USB ports—a deceptively simple request, as no product existed in the marketplace to fill it. In response, Brandstand engineered an answer—the CubieTime product.
“At that time only clock-radios were available and there weren’t any clocks that incorporated power,” Kritz said. “We took a risk and designed a clock with charging and no radio. It became an immediate hit.”
In 2019, Kritz said Brandstand’s goal is to grow its business in the UK, Europe and Middle East through its line of 220-volt power products, which so far have found success in the United States. What most excites Kritz, however, is the growing market for wireless charging. Such charging has been prevalent in the residential market for several years, but the industry recently settled on a universal interface standard for the technology, opening it up to more commercial applications.
As usual, Brandstand is ready to pounce.
“With the adoption of Qi as the global wireless standard for mobile devices, the demand for wireless charging in the hotel guestroom and lobby space will continue to increase,” Kritz said. “We will continue to explore new products in this product category because we expect wireless charging will continue to grow for many years to come.”
Brandstand Products is equally excited about the potential opportunities for voice integration in the near future. The company currently is waiting for the consumer market to fully mature, allowing Brandstand to hone in on the changing needs and demands of hotel guests and design solutions around them.
According to Kritz, Brandstand has been eager to make the leap and adopt new technology in this manner, but as the company’s first successful product push proved, success is all about timing. This is particularly true for the hospitality market, and Krtiz said the company is consistently showing restraint as it tests the waters, looking for its next big opportunity.
“There is always the temptation to jump on the latest emerging trend,” Kritz said. “Samsung and LG introduced phones with wireless charging over three years ago, but for us the question was ‘What is Apple going to do?’ A large percentage of our hotel customers had the same question. From our perspective, the cool factor of new technologies and devices is negated when a hotel guest’s expectations are not met because the product doesn’t work with their device.”
Kritz’s desire to do what works—and only what works—has aided Brandstand Products since its inception. And while hospitality has seen its share of one-hit-wonders in technology, it's not something that impresses her. Coming to market with the right product at the right time is that something and she knows that's what will leave a lasting impression on the industry.
Logic In Logistics
In designing products for the hospitality space, Brandstand Products focuses on five elements: aesthetic design, liquid-spill testing, surge protection, cycle testing and power-plug efficiency. These are not devices that are made for the residential market; they need to be damage resistant, universally understandable and built to last. One element Brandstand included in Cubie during the rollout of the product was an additional “pass-through” electrical outlet built into the device to aid guestrooms lacking in wall outlets, but this addition required further safety testing.
“We understand the abuse products may experience in a hotel-room environment with continual use,” Kritz said. “Our products are in over one million hotel rooms and have been designed for durability and longevity. We conduct cycle testing on the 110 volt and USB connections. All of our products are safety-tested to meet UL standards. Although not a requirement, we exceed safety standards by incorporating tamper-resistant outlets into our products and by meeting the UL [Underwriters Laboratories, LLC] liquid-spill test.”
Clicking with Clients
Hotels are certainly investing more in technology these days, but sometimes finding the dollars for these investments can remain a challenge. Kritz said this problem is well understood by the Brandstand leadership, and working with hoteliers during the purchasing process is part of the company’s mission.
“Although our products are built and priced cost effectively, we understand purchasing a quantity of 70 to 100-plus products can be quite an investment. Hotel owners want a product that is durable and has longevity and it is important that we consider this during the design phase. Our conversations about new product ideas and concepts are lively and passionate but the discussion always circles back to the critical questions of the value proposition and return on investment: Is it easy for the guest to use? Is it simple for the hotel to install? Will the guest benefit by using the product? Does this product enhance the user experience? Does the product have longevity?"